Vaccination — Does Pauline Hanson have a basis for her comments?

Recently, Pauline Hanson was hijacked by Barry Cassidy on the ABC insiders program when she was put on the spot about her opinion regarding vaccination. Up until now she has been riding high in the polls, in my opinion, more from the poor performance of her opponents. Her recent ill-informed and ignorant comments unfortunately do represent the views of a minority of the population.

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A recent survey suggested that around 95% of the population have their children vaccinated but a third are still suspicious around the dangers of this practice. The anti-vaxxers are still trotting out the nonsense that there is a link between vaccination and autism. This issue was first raised by a now totally discredited researcher by the name of Andrew Wakefield where it has been demonstrated that his research is fraudulent. There has never been one, non-fraudulent study demonstrating any link between vaccination and autism. The anti-vaxxers carry on about the mercury in vaccinations in the form of thiomersal, as a potential cause of autism. These ignorant people do not realise that thiomersal has not been used in vaccinations in children for decades.

The reason why this entire argument around vaccination and autism continues is that the MMR vaccine is given at around 18 months which is when a child’s speech starts to develop beyond monosyllables. Regardless of vaccination, if the child is autistic, the signs of poor speech and the other manifestations of autism become clearer around this time. But, parents who have to endure this difficult diagnosis are always looking for something to blame and vaccinations are an easy target, despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever.

Another interesting comment by Ms Hanson was the test to see if the child was allergic to vaccinations. I’m not sure what this test is, but it is certainly not in the medical arena.

A recent study published in AIMS Public Health has clearly shown that between the years of 1963 to 2015, vaccination has prevented around 200 million cases of polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies and hepatitis A with the estimated prevention of 450,000 deaths. In 1962, Prof Leonard Hayflick from the University of California in San Francisco developed a normal human cell strain which is able to safely grow viruses and subsequently produce vaccines against more than 10 diseases.

In recent interview, Prof Hayflick was quoted as saying,

Vaccination is a particularly important issue to think about now, given the rise of the anti-vaccine movement that has the potential to reverse the health gains achieved through one of the most powerful interventions in medical history. The anti-vaccination movement endangers the health of an entire generation of children.

The problem I see is that the new generation of parents have no idea about the incredible dangers that were seen in the last century from the diseases now almost totally prevented by vaccination. Smallpox has been completely eliminated from the face of the earth through vaccination. People are no longer suffering the severe debilitating neurologic problems from polio. Preventing measles helps stop the dreadful intellectual impairment seen with the condition known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.

Unfortunately, we are now seeing re-emergence of whooping cough which certainly can kill young children. This is clearly because people are refusing to the vaccinate their children.

If a person such as Ms Hanson chooses to be in public life and clearly is gaining traction as a political force in Australia, it would be wise for her to choose her words carefully and be more educated around subjects that are clearly outside her area of expertise.