Do you believe in immunisation?
IS IT just me or has everyone never really given much thought to diphtheria?
I googled it yesterday after a 27 year old Far North Queensland man died of the highly contagious disease in a Brisbane hospital.
Once called Strangulation Disease, diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes a thick film to develop in the throat, ultimately strangling the patient to death.
In the early 1900’s diphtheria was the leading cause of death by disease in Australia, but thanks to immunisation it has been almost completely eradicated.
The 27 year old man who died this week had never been vaccinated.
In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths every year. It’s still one of the biggest killers of kids globally.
In Australia, where the vaccine is free and freely available, parents increasingly turn away.
Conscientious objection is nothing new, I know heaps of people who have chosen not to vaccinate but I didn’t hesitate.
When Jemima was almost two she contracted measles and it was over after a night of vomiting. The rash appeared and disappeared in less than 24 hours. Her immunisation saved us a lot of heartache. Quite possibly it saved her life.
Australians resist being told what to think or do and anyone with a computer can find a community to support a dissenting theory. But disease isn’t a theory and vaccinations are one of the greatest triumphs of modern science.
Immunisation has made previously lethal illness disappear from society. It’s only fault perhaps is that it is too effective.
Our collective memory is too short and people who have never seen a child hobbling around in callipers after being struck down by polio, blinded by measles or slowly strangled by diphtheria just don’t appreciate the risk.
Did you know some of Australia’s anti-vax sentiment was actually born in Queensland?
In 1928, 21Bundaberg children who had been injected with the diphtheria vaccine of the time fell ill and 12 of them died. The Robinson family lost all three of its children, Thomas, William and Mervyn.
A royal commission found the local GP had allowed his bottle of vaccine to become contaminated in the heat. Memories of that tragedy resulted in historically lower rates of vaccination in Queensland than any other state.
It’s true that some people have an adverse reaction to immunisation. We don’t ban peanuts because some kids have allergies and we shouldn’t ban vaccination either.
People who choose not to vaccinate rely on herd immunity to keep their children safe. In Australia, in the past 10 years, that has worked very well for objectors.
But when their unvaccinated offspring choose to travel to impoverished countries, where 195,000 children still die of whooping cough every year, or they work with a bloke who contracts diphtheria, I wonder if they’ll have a different view of the jab.