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Pauline Hanson's Comments About Immunisation Are Dangerous And Wrong

If you're going to criticise vaccinations, get your facts right.

07/03/2017 9:18 AM AEDT | Updated 07/03/2017 10:26 AM AEDT
ABC Insiders
Pauline Hanson discussed vaccinations on 'Insiders' on Sunday, saying parents should "do their own research" because immunisations can "have an effect on some children".

Immunisation has changed our society in many ways and Australia has led the world in the 20th and 21st centuries in developing a modern immunisation program.

People such as Sir Norman Gregg (an ophthalmologist who first described the congenital rubella syndrome) and Sir Macfarlane Burnet (immunologist), as well as modern medical heroes such as Professor Peter Doherty and Professor Ian Frazer have led the world in the science of immunisation including developing new immunisations that have led to Australians life expectancy becoming one of the longest in the world.

I am part of the last generation who, as children, were faced with the possibility of developing polio. One of the main reasons people have become a little unclear about the profound change that immunisation has caused is due to its very success.

Senator Pauline Hanson's repeated dismissive and unscientific statements about immunisation sometimes receive traction because people, including doctors, see very little of the infectious diseases that we are immunised against. This is because widespread immunisation has almost eradicated these diseases in Australia.

In my 40 years as a paediatrician I have seen many children and I worked at the Children's Hospital in Camperdown during the last great measles epidemic in Australia during the 1970s. I have seen children with polio, tetanus and whooping cough, chicken pox was very common and mumps was quite severe. I saw many children with bacterial meningitis, epiglottitis and meningococcal disease.

Some of those children died, some were severely damaged. These diseases are thankfully very rare now, due to immunisation. There is more work to be done and we should be very grateful for the expertise of our scientists and vaccine researchers.

The general public and many in the medical profession have become complacent -- because of our success, we now see very few of these illnesses out in the community. However it is etched in my mind the horrible picture of a child dying with measles encephalitis, or the child who died with haemophilus meningitis within six hours of becoming unwell.

It is infuriating that some people still believe that the benefits of immunisation are not there. These illnesses are now, thanks to immunisation, becoming very rare. I do not see children with a severe brain injury due to measles encephalitis or haemophilus influenza, type b meningitis.

The comments by Senator Hanson on 'Insiders' about immunisation are dangerous, unscientific and just plain wrong. I refute them entirely.

We know we will see many fewer women dying of cervical cancer due to the immunisation for HPV developed by Australian researcher Professor Ian Frazer, which will have benefits not just for Australian women but women around the world.

The comments by Senator Hanson on 'Insiders' about immunisation are dangerous, unscientific and just plain wrong. I refute them entirely.

The Australian Academy of Science has produced some excellent literature which I suggest Senator Hanson reads to ensure she gets the facts right.

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