Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm a hippy and I vaccinate

There are alot of diseases out there that are distinctly un-freakin'-funny. One that is particularly not-cute is whooping cough. Australia has been weathering one of the worst whooping cough epidemics on record. Theres something like 24,000 cases now and counting.

Whooping cough epidemic reignites immunisation debate

It is the feeling amongst the profession (but you'll have to wait on the epidemiologists to back me up in a few months time when they inevitably publish on this) that the massive number of cases has been due to less than optimal vaccination of children.

Of the kids born in 2003, around 80% were fully immunised by the age of 5. Thats pretty crap.

Some of the hardest hit areas such as far north Queensland and northern New South Wales have some of the lowest immunisation rates in the country. There goes herd immunity out the window. (Whereby, if most people are immunised, you don't have a reservoir of disease in the community and so those who aren't or can't be immunised aren't exposed.)

Not every kid should be immunised, there are medically relevant reasons for this, thats why we depend on herd immunity to keep them safe.

I have many friends who didn't immunise their kids, and sorry to say this, but I wouldn't call many of them true conscientious objectors. If challenged they couldn't really give you a good reason why they chose not to vaccinate, beyond the fact that everyone's not vaccinating and it seemed like a good idea at the time. (I have two friends who have good reasons - one has a child who is anaphylactically allergic to everything and the paediatrician scared her by saying if they vaccinated they would have to a have a resusc team on standby, and the other had a son who went into convulsions after having the old (OLD!) whooping cough vaccine. This last friend had two subsequent babies and was too scared to have them vaccinated after the first bad experience. This is a real shame, because the old pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine was a live-attenuated vaccine and adverse reaction were more common with that (but still statistically low), and the vaccine used now has an exceedingly low rate of adverse reactions because its acellular. However, the other 20-odd un-vaccinated kids running around in my kids peer groups do not have such a good excuse. And, yes. They all got whooping cough.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will tell you how terrible immunisation is, how dangerous. Trust me, there are much worse things that can happen than your kid crying for 5 minutes.

When I had my first child, a family friend helpfully dropped off a bunch of information on why I shouldn't vaccinate. It was kind of akin to the misinformation being spouted by the Australian Vaccination Network, who should be tied up and beaten with a rubber hose just for co-opting that official sounding name, amongst other things. They are also freaking people out that not only will vaccinations do insidiously evil things to their children, but that the government is going to force compulsory vaccinations on them. Oh, puh-lease. If compulsory vaccinations were a viable option we wouldn't have the whooping cough epidemic, now would we?

(If only they knew that the government-medical complex is going to enforce compulsory vaccinations on them so they can secretly microchip them in the process, mwah ha ha ha - Ed.)

Anyway, all kidding aside. I just had a look at their no-vaccination blog, and they are also telling everyone that H1N1 was fine and dandy and a storm in a teacup. As someone who was completely floored with pig-pox, I'm choosing to take this entirely personally (it really was swine flu, too. I got swabbed and everything and now the infectious diseases lab keeps stalking me to take part in some study). I swear to freakin' god that if we had had the H1N1 outbreak in an era before modern pharmaceuticals and medical interventions, it might have been getting towards Spanish Flu badness. We put pregnant women on bypass in induced comas because they were so sick with it. BYPASS! Thats an order of sickness way above and beyond "go home and take two paracetamols".

Note to self - people to hate:

- Doctors for the environment.
- Matt Damon.

And now:

- The Australian Vaccination Network.

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