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Parents Putting Children at Risk Just to Fit In

By Siriol Dafydd on July 25, 2018 in News

You won’t find many anti-vaxxers in Africa, by Andrew Wakefield

Earlier this year, a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that some of Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs had the worst levels of child vaccinations across the country. While the overall numbers are on the rise across Australia, some idiots – sorry, I mean parents – are still flat-out refusing to properly immunise their children for the pettiest of reasons.

The data, released in March this year, revealed that 93.5 per cent of all children aged five across the country were fully immunised in 2016-2017. It also revealed that all Primary Health Network areas achieved an immunisation rate of 90 per cent or above.

Of the primary health network areas listed in the report, Western NSW tops the chart with 96 per cent of five year-olds, 93 per cent of two year-olds and 95.3 per cent of one year-olds fully immunised in 2016-2017.

Sadly, some of Sydney’s more affluent areas featured towards the bottom of the list, with Northern
Sydney having 91.1 per cent of five year-olds, 89 per cent of two year-olds and 93.4 per cent of one year-olds fully immunised.

Central and Eastern Sydney had similar stats with 92 per cent of five year-olds, 89.1 per cent of two year-olds and 92.9 per cent of one year-olds fully immunised. These might all seem like decent enough percentages, but according to the report this leaves 4,726 children in the Central and Eastern Sydney area alone without proper immunisation in 2016-2017.

Immunisation is proven to be a safe and effective way of reducing the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases in the community. It protects individuals against potentially serious health problems and reduces the risk of outbreaks of serious diseases. The government has invested millions in awareness and education campaigns regarding immunisation and its benefits. So why are some parents still resisting?

Though I don’t personally agree, I understand the concern of some parents regarding the potential complications of immunisations. Reports that vaccines cause autism have been widely discredited and the odds of a child having a severe allergic reaction or experiencing seizures or encephalitis are apparently one in a million. That said, I appreciate that even with such slim odds the overwhelming and primal urge to protect your infant child could cause you to at least think about the slightest hint of risk before jabbing a needle in their arm.

However, a study by the University of Western Australia published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in May revealed that for many people the decision to vaccinate their children is largely influenced by their social networks.

The researchers, who interviewed parents from two Australian locations with low vaccination rates – Fremantle in WA, and particular postcodes in Adelaide – found that parents either feltmarginalised or validated within their communities depending on their social circle’s view on vaccinations.

So basically what we are talking about here is peer pressure. The very same thing that made you try a ciggie for the first time behind the dunnies at school (before immediately and secretly vomiting in your mouth) is apparently what’s causing grown adults to prevent their children from receiving proper immunisation.

“What our study really drew out was how the sociality of vaccine questioning and refusal reflects
a certain stage of life where new parents are making new friends,” said Dr Katie Attwell from UWA’s School of Social Science.

“They don’t want to risk social criticism when they are seeking acceptance.”

If this is indeed the case in the Eastern Suburbs, perhaps the amendment to the Public Health Act 2010 introduced in January 2018 will significantly raise the number of children fully immunised in the area. As parents can no longer enrol their children in childcare unless they are fully immunised, uber-rich yummy mummies across the east will likely abandon their apparent objections and immediately drop their fully immunised kids off with the hired help – because principles are one thing, but missing that morning yoga class and the subsequent coffee with the other local WAGs could really affect your social standing!

At the end of the day, if you’ve done your research and you still seriously object to the idea of immunisation because of religious beliefs or genuine medical concerns, then good for you – stick to your guns. Despite what I or anybody else thinks, it is ultimately your choice. But if you don’t have the scientific data to back it up, don’t blindly risk your kid’s health just because Susie McSnottybitch from the tennis club told you to. You have a child, so you’re officially too old to secretly vomit in your mouth in order to make friends.