THE alarming spread of whooping cough across NSW contains a grim lesson for those who fail to immunise their babies: they are not just putting their own children at risk, they are endangering everybody’s.
The Daily Telegraph
May 25, 2009 12:00am
Like the recent spate of swine flu cases, the whooping-cough epidemic proves we can never afford to be complacent about public health.
The 14 swine flu cases in Australia – so far – emerged just after some commentators questioned concerns about a local infection.
In fact, it is now apparent that the swift and firm response of Australian health authorities was more than justified and has no doubt kept the number of cases to a minimum.
Paradoxically, the better job they do of containing the virus, the more open they are to inane claims that there’s nothing to worry about.
The whooping-cough outbreak starkly proves the idiocy of this careless attitude.
This is a disease that, in modern times, has been largely confined to the Third World. Yet in parts of NSW there has been a tenfold increase in the number of cases.
In southeast Sydney and the Illawarra, there were 1334 reported cases in the first three months of this year, compared with just 136 for the same period last year.
In western Sydney, the number was 943 compared with 138. Other increases across the state are just as alarming.
NSW Health director of communicable diseases Jeremy McAnulty puts it bluntly:
“It’s a really hard disease to battle. Unlike measles, where you have two shots and are protected for the rest of your life, with whooping cough we just don’t have a vaccination that gives you life-long immunity to bring the numbers down.
“At the moment, we just don’t have the technology to stop an epidemic like this.”
It’s a bleak warning. There is no panacea, no secret stockpile of serum, no instant cure.
Instead, what authorities have previously relied on to keep whooping-cough numbers down is the good sense and consideration of parents who immunise themselves and their children both for their own sakes and that of those around them.
It’s a modest enough expectation, one might think, but amazingly some people just don’t get it.
In NSW, three per cent of children are not vaccinated against whooping cough, be it because of laziness, neglect or some idiotic conviction.
Lest you think this is a negligible figure, this is 40,000 children who are all prone to a potentially fatal disease.
As if this number isn’t worrying enough, on the NSW North Coast a staggering 30 per cent of children are unvaccinated. This ought to defy belief but, sadly, it’s all too real.
Disturbingly, it appears it’s not that North Coast residents are 10 times lazier or more neglectful than those in the rest of the state. Rather, it seems to be because the North Coast is home to Australia’s anti-vaccination lobby.
Usually, even the silliest new age philosophical or spiritual movements at least have the advantage that they don’t impinge greatly on the outside world.
The anti-immunisation crowd, however, not only endanger their own children – who are obviously too young to defend themselves from their parents’ stupidity – but also every child they come into contact with.
And this is no abstract argument. A 2003 paper by Lennox Head GP Sue Page notes that as a result of the mindlessness of this stance, the North Coast has the state’s highest rate of vaccine-preventable diseases. These people are making their children, and other people’s children, sick and threatening people’s lives.
Dr Page, health authorities and medical experts desperately try to explain this to the anti-immunisation movement in an effort to protect them from themselves – not to mention others from them.
Despite their tireless exhortations, the immunisation rate in the area – cited as 76 to 80 per cent in 2000 – appears to have dropped in recent years.
Murwillumbah baby Dana Elizabeth McCaffery, who died from whooping cough when she was four weeks old, is the tragic result of this.
She was too young to be immunised – and there is no suggestion of any neglect on the part of her poor parents – but was the person she caught it from? And the person who gave it to them?
Diseases such as smallpox, polio and – until recently – whooping cough have been largely consigned to the past because of scientists, governments, doctors and citizens playing their part to eradicate them for all our sakes.
The efforts of a lunatic minority to bring this undone are almost homicidally idiotic.
Comment from Leslie
The following is the comment that I posted to the article – am waiting to see if it will be published.
To the Author: Whooping cough is a serious infectious disease and not to be taken lightly. However, in my humble opinion you are placing the the irresponsibility and blame on the parents who have become aware of the dangers of inoculating their children with “dirty” toxic vaccinations.
The burden of irresponsibility needs to be placed on the pharmaceutical companies – they are to blame for producing dangerous vaccines when the technology is there to produce safe vaccines.
In 2006, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, temporarily exempted children under three from receiving the flu vaccine because the state had run out of mercury -free vaccines mandated in 2004 for pregnant women as well. The Governor then turned around and wrote a letter to Sanofi Pasteur placing the burden of irresponsibility on the company for not producing enough of the mercury-free vaccine and endangering the lives of the children of the state of California.
This is responsible leadership and representation of a government for the people and by the people.
I ran out of character space and could not post the rest of my comment – however, if I could this is how I would have concluded my post:
This is the position that should be taken by the media. To do otherwise – at this point in time with all we know about the toxins in vaccinations- is irresponsible and unprofessional.