16 Mar 2017

Mother who lost baby pleads for 'no jab, no play' laws

From Checkpoint, 6:26 pm on 16 March 2017

Catherine Hughes' baby died from whooping cough at an age when he was too young to be vaccinated. She is now among those pushing hard for Australia to go ahead with a plan to ban unvaccinated children from all childcare centres and pre-schools.
   
Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria already require children to be immunised, or on an approved catch-up programme, to enrol in childcare centres, but the proposal would take the policy nation-wide.

Unvaccinated children can currently enrol in childcare centres in Northern Territory, ACT, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

An Australian Child Health Poll survey of nearly 2000 parents showed 5 percent of children were not fully vaccinated.

Ms Hughes' baby boy, Riley, died aged 32 days. Their older daughter was fully vaccinated and Riley would have been too, she said.

"Riley was due for his vaccines at six weeks, but unfortunately he was in that really vulnerable window when babies don't receive any vaccines and he contracted whooping cough and passed away before he had a chance to be protected."

She said children should not be dying from diseases that could be so easily prevented by a needle

"These kids deserve protection, they have a right to a healthy, long life, so I'll do anything whether it's fund-raising or raising awareness through social media or speaking politicians, anything I can to really encourage parents to vaccinate."

Ms Hughes said there were a range of reasons why parents chose not to vaccinate. The main way to encourage those opposed or indifferent to vaccines was to share stories with them, to let them know what could happen, she said.

She also sometimes put parents in touch with experts who could answer more difficult questions about vaccination.

"But then you've got the vaccine objectors, the ones that just completely refuse to vaccinate, usually based on all sorts of misinformation that they've been fed from a whole range of alternative health industries."

It was more difficult to deal with that, which was where the Australian nation-wide proposal came in, Ms Hughes said.

She hoped the policy would protect vulnerable babies in childcare who had not yet completed their scheduled vaccinations, as well as motivating other parents to get their child vaccinated.

Vaccines can cause adverse reactions in a small number of people, like many medicines, but the accepted science is that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Ms Hughes said she had been abused by those who were against vaccination for speaking out in their favour.

"A vaccine-preventable disease is not something that sits very comfortably with them because it goes against the whole concept of their belief that vaccines are more dangerous than the disease."

At present, just over 93 percent of New Zealand children are fully immunised at the age of eight months.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little has said he believes it is worth considering banning unvaccinated children from childcare centres, but Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has said the government has no plans to change its policy.