If ever there was an area where freedom of choice was a fundamental right, its when it comes to our children’s health. Parents are free to choose what their children eat, what their children are exposed to on TV and a myriad of other issues which, as the main caregiver for that child, they are entitled to decide upon.
However, at present in Australia, there is one significant area (some might argue the most significant aspect of child welfare) that parents have little control over – and that’s the issue of childhood immunisation.
I immigrated to Australia from the UK a year ago and now have a five week old baby. I had assumed that when the time came to make a decision about vaccinating my child, I would have options available (the same options that are available in the UK and America). Horrifyingly, I have discovered in the past few days that I don’t have a choice at all – its an all or nothing approach that parents are forced to take. This is because there’s currently no provision for individual vaccines – rather, the only option on offer is bundled jabs where infants as young as eight weeks receive six viruses in one injection.
Worse still, this lack of choice is preceded by a lack of information and an unwillingness to have an open debate about the subject. It was only because I researched the area that I began to get a larger picture than that being put forward by the government and GPs. Had I simply bought into everything the hospital literature told me, Id have continued to believe that vaccination was the holy grail of disease control. In fact, before researching the topic, I was, if anything, pro-vaccine – and, having read widely, I’m still not anti-vaccine. Certain vaccines, given individually and at an age-appropriate interval, can be beneficial. What I am opposed to is the current vaccine-heavy schedule and lack of singular vaccines – especially in the face of increasing evidence that this over-burdens a baby’s developing immune system.
I had made an informed decision to have my child immunised against certain diseases that were both gender-appropriate and, also, at staggered intervals. However, I made the incorrect assumption that I would be able to do what friends in the UK have done and pay to have separate vaccines. Disturbingly, this option isn’t open to me here. I either have to opt for the Infanrix Hexa (six-in-one) jab or forgo my daughters right to have any protection at all against some of the diseases this vaccine covers. Both of these choices, to my mind, are unconscionable – but I have to make a decision one way or another and, like many parents, Im going to opt out. After all, despite the acclaimed ??success of vaccinations, we are still in the middle of a whooping cough outbreak (incidentally, something that very young babies are most at risk of but are too young to vaccinate against).
To make matters worse, parents who decide not to vaccinate are then made to feel like pariahs – bad parents, socially irresponsible, alarmist, ignorant, paranoid, conspiracy-theorists. Rather than asking why many parents are taking this course (including those in the medical industry) and confronting the topic head-on, the pro-vaccine lobby simply attacks to defend. They hit us where it hurts, questioning our ability to parent. Nobody acknowledges that maybe were right to ask why were in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak if vaccines are so successful and the un-vaccinated are in the selfish minority. Nor are we entitled to question why were seeing unexplained increases in disorders such as autism, ADHD, learning disability, autoimmune disorders etc which appear to be concurrent with the introduction of bundled vaccines such as MMR (or why there have been significant pay outs to families whose children have been injured by such vaccines).
There was a time when GPs believed Thalidomide was safe – so even if there’s a remote chance bundled jabs may be contributing to the rise in other disorders, why wont the authorities allow parents to play it safe and have single jabs, rather than putting us between a rock and hard place? Could it be a money issue? Or is it really a duplicitous way of actually ensuring we don’t have a choice? After all, if they believe in the success of vaccines so much, then surely they can see that having some is better than having none.
Maybe I am ignorant, selfish and alarmist but I will not allow my child to contribute towards a herd immunity at the risk of her future health – and I’m not alone – but, in so doing, I’m being forced to take another type of gamble. However, given that this current, vaccine-heavy generation is (for some reason) facing more health issues than kids of my generation did, until there are other options open to me, its a risk Ill have to take.