Australia faces vaccine denials


By Nadia Khan and Muhammad Mashhood

Pakistan is not the only country struggling with problems of polio vaccination refusals , struggling debunking vaccination myths, specifically Polio.  Australia, one of the developed countries around the globe is facing the challenge of vaccine sceptics as well. Even though the vaccination myths and denials are thought to be more evident in lesser developed countries like Pakistan and Nigeria where debates on vaccination stir emotions.

In Pakistan, campaigning against Polio vaccination has been taken on mythological basis such as religious concerns, labelling it western agenda or as children sterilising agents to reduce population.  In Australia, the concerns are shifted to autism development due to vaccination, denying the science of vaccines and the public health value of vaccines. Some believes that vaccine is unsafe to use or it interferes with the children natural immunity.

According to the Australian National Health Performance Authority, every two out of 10 children are not vaccinated in some of the Melbourne wealthiest suburbs. These suburbs have been reported to have the lowest vaccination rates in Australia, which is considered as risk of potentially fatal disease outbreaks.

Higher rates of non-immunised babies in the wealthiest suburbs of Melbourne indicates that even the educated community dwelling in areas with comparatively higher socioeconomic levels are among the majority of vaccine disbelievers in state.  Conferring to National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Australia, immunisation rates of a community has to be 90 percent to achieve “social immunity”.Photo courtesy The Guardian

Currently, the Australian government has initiated “no-jab, no play” policy to convince parents to vaccinate their children. Under this policy, government can withhold family and childcare payments from parents who don’t vaccinate their children. The recent No jab No pay rule has promoted the vaccination rates among parents who denied to immunise their babies previously.

Kathy Scarboroug, President of Vaccination Information Serving Australia (VISA) and a Pharmacologist expressed, “I’ve chosen not to have my children vaccinated, and I wouldn’t have a vaccine, ever. I haven’t found a single shred of evidence that shows there’s any benefit to a vaccine, and there’s a lot of harm”.

VISA is an anti-vaccination group that actively discourages people from vaccinating themselves and their children.

Ms. Scarborough shared views that it has never been tested what happens when vaccines in the forms of virus, bacteria, additives and preservatives are ejected into the body.  We have a great protective barrier, being our mucous membranes and skin. Vaccines just breach all those barriers, and basically putting a whole bunch of chemicals and viruses in a way that the body can’t recognise except have a temporary reaction, there’s no long term immunity and then all of those chemicals have got access to your internal organs. And you get auto immune diseases.

When asked about risk of disease like Polio coming back to Australia if children are not vaccinated against it, Scarborough said that there is no chance of Polio, as the sanitation standards have risen.

It has in fact been shown that the drip polio vaccine can spread the polio virus, especially in developing countries where the sanitation standards are low.

“There was a case of this in Nigeria where 76 cases of polio were reported after someone had had the drip vaccine”, she added.

Jamie Pfeiffer, 61-year-old Australian Polio victim spoke about people who don’t want their children vaccinated in today’s era, “I think they’re absolutely ignorant and obviously haven’t had a personal experience of meeting someone with one of these diseases. They should speak to someone like myself to understand”.

Mr. Pfeiffer contracted polio when he was 18 months old in 1955. The first vaccine for polio came to Australia in 1956, making Jamie one of the last people in Australia to contract polio.

Australia was declared polio free by WHO (World Health Organisation) in 2000. In 2007, a 22-year-old man was diagnosed with a polio infection after his trip to Pakistan.  Health authorities spent next few weeks tracking down every passenger on the flight from Pakistan with him and issued a polio alert.Photo courtesy

Mr. Pfeiffer showed concern that there is still a risk of polio being contracted in Australia even though it has been eradicated for so long. Polio can also come back to life, even if they have recovered from an earlier infection of polio, it’s called post-polio syndrome.

“The negative points of these diseases are so horrendous and can only be prevented through vaccination. With polio now you just need to take a syrup and as far as I understand there are no reactions, no symptom”, he said.

Dr. Rowena McArthur, a general practicing Australian doctor commented that the side effects of the diseases they prevent are far greater than any usual side effects from vaccinations.

“I’m very pro vaccination. Why would you not prevent something that is preventable?”

Dr. McArthur said, in her 35 years of practicing as a doctor she has never seen anyone have serious adverse effects to a vaccine.

“I’ve seen what happens when people aren’t vaccinated, I’ve had patients die from easily preventable diseases as common as influenza.” “I had a young, fit and healthy 23-year-old male die from influenza, it was shocking to us all and could have been prevented if he had been vaccinated against it”, She added.

Dr. McArthur supports the new government initiatives to encourage people to have vaccinations such as “no-jab, no play”. She shared her views that it is to do with ‘herd immunity.’ ‘Herd immunity’ is the idea that enough people in a community are vaccinated from infectious diseases to stop them from spreading.

Reported with assistance of Euan Kelly and Olivia Calver from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

Photo courtesy: The Guardian &