Wellbeing of all put at risk

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Parents who take the Russian roulette approach to vaccination are extremely selfish. It's not just the wellbeing of their own youngsters at risk, it's also the wellbeing of the community,  parenting columnist Ian Munro says.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

I'm currently waiting for the flu vaccine to become available before I head to the United Kingdom. Six years ago, in similar circumstances, I had a whooping cough vaccination update before visiting our young grandchildren.


I was surprised by the recommendation to have it as I'd thought that whooping cough had disappeared; and it might well have, I was told, if it wasn't for those parents who won't have their children immunised.

At that time, I'd also read about a 7-year-old who'd picked up tetanus. It was his father's story about the excruciating pain that required his son to be put into an induced coma and the gut-wrenching agony of watching his fight to live, knowing that he and his wife had created the situation by deciding against all vaccination.

And here we are again, six years on. This time it's measles making a resurgence after having been eliminated from this country and, sadly, an almost similar news item about an unvaccinated 6-year-old in Oregon who was hospitalised for two months with tetanus.

There are two sorts of ignorance around this: the genuine ignorance of those who don't appreciate the value of vaccinations and the implications of non-immunisation against a range of diseases that, for centuries, cut swathes through families. The world's burial grounds bear testimony to the millions of children who died.

Then there's the ignorance of the parents taken in by those who preach a perverse course of action based mostly on conspiracy theories arising from an initial lie rather than on mainstream, peer-reviewed science and real statistics. And you don't have to dig very deeply to find this out. Six years on the misinformation is reinforced in the social media echo chambers that have given it a whole new lease of life.

American teenager Ethan Lindenberger, having given some thought to both sides of the debate, recently defied his "anti-vaxxer'' parents by getting fully vaccinated.

He'd been raised to believe that vaccines cause brain damage, autism and other developmental issues but, as he neared the end of high school, he began to question this and started doing some research. His parents stood their ground, leaving him little option but to go it alone.

Those parents who take the Russian roulette approach to vaccination are extremely selfish. It's not just the wellbeing of their own youngsters at risk, it's also the wellbeing of those in our community who either cannot be vaccinated or with immunity issues.

No New Zealand child has died from a vaccination; but children have died from not being vaccinated, or have suffered complications they've had to cope with for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps we need another national day of action by our teenagers.


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