Worry grows over safety of childhood jabs

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More than half of Australia's parents are worried about the safety of childhood vaccines, a survey has revealed, prompting concerns that a shift in support for vaccination could lead to reduced coverage rates and outbreaks of disease.


More than 1300 Australians, including 400 parents, gave their views in Australia's first national survey of attitudes to vaccination, commissioned to coincide with the release of a new television documentary on vaccines.

The survey, conducted by Australia Online Research, found that 53 per cent of parents had general concerns about vaccinating their children. Of those concerned parents, 45 per cent chose to vaccinate anyway, while 8 per cent withheld or delayed vaccines.

One in four parents were worried about a specific aspect of vaccination, with an increasing number of vaccines, ''inadequate safety testing'' and fears a child's immune system could be overloaded among the most common.

Survey adviser Associate Professor Julie Leask, of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance at the University of Sydney, said overseas research had shown that people with higher levels of education were more likely to oppose vaccination.

Written By: Kate Hagan
continue to source article at theage.com.au

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  1. No coincidence that the author of the odious ‘Melanie’s Marvellous Measles’ is Australian. What is surprising is that people with higher levels of education are more likely to be opposed to vaccination. I suppose it didn’t break it down into people with a scientific education. What it highlights is the need for the education system to include a knowledge of immunity, combined with an understanding of causal effects versus correlation and ability to evaluate statistics. We certainly do this in higher levels of Biology, but perhaps it should be universal in order to help people make informed choices rather than relying on people who want to sell books for their information.

    • I don’t suppose anyone will hold that author responsible when Australia experiences a big measles or pertussis epidemic and kids die. Sadly, a serious epidemic is probably what it will take to convince parents to start vaccinating again. For some reason, horror stories from the past don’t seem to make a big enough impression on this generation who have been sheltered from childhood diseases by their parents who vaccinated and were vaccinated themselves. They’ve never seen children suffer permanent disability or die from these diseases.

      In reply to #2 by TenderHooligan:

      No coincidence that the author of the odious ‘Melanie’s Marvellous Measles’ is Australian. What is surprising is that people with higher levels of education are more likely to be opposed to vaccination. I suppose it didn’t break it down into people with a scientific education. What it highlights is…

  2. I agree with TenderHooligan – although this is just a summary of the conclusions, phrases such as “overseas research had shown that people with higher levels of education were more likely to oppose vaccination.” is a red flag as to the survey’s accuracy.

    • In reply to #3 by stuhillman:

      I agree with TenderHooligan – although this is just a summary of the conclusions, phrases such as “overseas research had shown that people with higher levels of education were more likely to oppose vaccination.” is a red flag as to the survey’s accuracy.

      I suspect it is those highly-educated people (no sarcasm) who feel smart enough to ‘do their own research’ and come to a conclusion. As TenderHooligan says, what is not taught to everyone is scientific literacy and where to look for good research. Even those with a science background might come unstuck – Wakefield’s (now-discredited) 1998 paper that started the measles/inflammatory bowel disease/autism link was published in the Lancet FFS! Even when those with the nous to pick it apart did so, and Wakefield’s collaborators back-pedalled rapidly away from his crazy conclusions, still the veneer of scientific respectability shone to the public via a gullible (and moronically/criminally collusive) media.

      I admit, I was worried about another documentary on the vaccine ‘debate’ but it sounds like Sonya Pemberton is a very reasonable science journalist. Looking forward to watching Jabbed – televising a baby with whooping cough is going to make a lot of people appropriately uncomfortable and hopefully think again about not getting their child immunised.

  3. First of all: how many people were interviewed for this survey?
    Second: what is the ratio of people interviewed versus the people living in Australia?
    From that you can calculate the margin of error in the survey.

  4. I am Australian and I am concerned about childhood vaccines.

    That doesn’t put me into the ’causes autism’ category, I am concerned about various aspects of them.
    My child had his 6 week vaccine just 2 weeks ago and ended up with a 39.1 degree temperature that night and ended up in emergency overnight with blood tests and a needle in his spine if we hadn’t refused. So, vaccines do have negative side effects.

    Sure, getting the actual disease is a lot worse, but it is also less common, and in certain cases the disease isn’t really that bad for you. For instance in the UK you don’t vaccinate against measles, because it isn’t bad enough to warrant a vaccine, but in Australia you do… so there is certainly room for debate on the benefits/risks of various vaccines.

    • In reply to #5 by conmeo:
      Measles not serious enough for vaccination? Where are you getting -that- nonsense from? They bloody well do vaccinate for measles in the UK (MMR stands for measles, mumps & rubella). There are serious complications from measles ranging from blindness to death, depending on severity and availability of proper health care. In the developed world, about 1 in 1000 measles cases are fatal. In places with poor healthcare and/or malnutrition, the numbers climb into the 10-30% fatality range, depending on degree of complications.

      In short, measles is not a joke. Unless you or your child have an actual -medical- reason for not getting vaccinated (allergies & similar), get the damn vaccine. It’s unfortunate that your child had to endure a bad reaction, I sympathize with your situation, your concern is valid but adverse reactions to vaccines are comparatively easy to correct/control for and, of equal importance, don’t place others at risk the way refusing vaccination does. Herd immunity is vital for those who -can’t- be vaccinated.

      • Sorry Muljinn I meant Chicken pox.. no need to get angry

        In reply to #6 by Muljinn:

        In reply to #5 by conmeo:
        Measles not serious enough for vaccination? Where are you getting -that- nonsense from? They bloody well do vaccinate for measles in the UK (MMR stands for measles, mumps & rubella). There are serious complications from measles ranging from blindness to death, depending…

        • In reply to #11 by conmeo:

          Sorry Muljinn I meant Chicken pox.. no need to get angry

          conmeo, we do selectively immunise against chickenpox in the UK. Varicella (and its immunity) is so common here that we only routinely screen pregnant women and healthcare workers and immunise accordingly NHS Patient Info Site.

          The other reason we don’t routinely give the chickenpox jab to all children is that when you give a vaccine to the young you ‘push’ the average age of outbreak cases upwards, towards adulthood, where (in chickenpox’s case) complications are more common e.g. chickenpox pneumonia. So again it’s all about risk/benefit – more cases of childhood (usually mild) chickenpox with enough adult herd immunity to shield the really tiny (less than 1 month) babies, or, less but more severe teenage/adult cases NHS link.

          The choice for the UK is only to give to those at most risk but that doesn’t necessarily hold for elsewhere in the developed world. It all depends on the local epidemiology and health priorities. Does anyone out in Oz have any data to hand as to why they given it there routinely? I understand the programme started in 2005 but I can’t find pertinent Australian Dept. of Health data on their website.

    • In reply to #5 by conmeo:

      Hi conmeo, hope your child’s feeling better and hope I can answer a question or two…

      I am Australian and I am concerned about childhood vaccines…

      What are your concerns? I’m sure we, collectively, can provide some (referenced) answers.

      My child had his 6 week vaccine just 2 weeks ago and ended up with a 39.1 degree temperature that night and ended up in emergency overnight with blood tests and a needle in his spine if we hadn’t refused. So, vaccines do have negative side effects.

      Common side-effects (such as fever, grizzliness etc.) should have been explained and informed consent given by yourself. Of course these are not pleasant but are an indication that your child’s body was mounting an immune response – which is the idea. Whilst I do not wish to second-guess the medical staff you saw at the time, such rapid, high fever is not generally expected so soon after immunisation and at 6-8 weeks of age, any paediatrician is going to be playing it safe and check bloods and possibly ask for a lumbar puncture (which incidentally does not approach the spinal cord itself) to rule out true infection. Bad coincidences do happen and high fevers in that age group are something bad until proven otherwise. My only caveat is that I have no experience of the Rotavirus vaccine as I am in the UK. Could someone else enlighten me as to typical fever reactions to Rotarix/RotaTeq?

      Sure, getting the actual disease is a lot worse, but it is also less common, and in certain cases the disease isn’t really that bad for you.

      Certain bad diseases are only less common because vaccination has been so successful at hiding cases from the public consciousness. The diseases we vaccinate against all have significant risk of nasty effects in themselves, even if the majority of cases that do occur are ‘not that bad’. In public health circles, people are jumping up and down because there’s a Saudi-originated coronavirus (a ‘common cold’, similar to SARS virus) spreading that currently has a near 50% mortality rate in confirmed cases News link. Not too long ago, any experienced mother could spot measles at it peeked out from behind a kid’s ears at 30 paces. Now, younger doctors (who may have never even seen a case) can scratch their heads for a bit trying to decide.

      For instance in the UK you don’t vaccinate against measles, because it isn’t bad enough to warrant a vaccine

      Muljinn has already weighed in on this point but it bears repeating – we most absolutely do immunise against measles. After more than 10 years of Wakefield’s popular misinformation, we are just getting back to 1992-levels of MMR uptake. Now we’re currently seeing a measles epidemic in Swansea, Wales that broke 1,000 cases at the beginning of the month BBC Link. There’s been a massive push to play catch-up with one of the most easily transmitted viruses on the planet with 50,000 extra MMR vaccines given since the start of the outbreak – mainly to those kids whose parents back then thought to skip the vaccine ‘just in case, cos it ain’t that bad’ and are all now non-immune teenagers. We reap what we (don’t) sow…

      Vaccination, like any good medical practise, is about risk benefit – but sometimes it’s just so overwhelmingly a good idea that if you can have it, you really should get it – for yours and others’ sakes.

      • “such rapid, high fever is not generally expected so soon after immunisation and at 6-8 weeks of age, any paediatrician is going to be playing it safe and check bloods and possibly ask for a lumbar puncture (which incidentally does not approach the spinal cord itself) to rule out true infection.”

        I agree.. our child had a stronger than expected reaction, and I obviously wouldn’t let a single incident affect whether or not I vaccinate our child. I was merely making the point that vaccines are not risk free. And therefore there is some weighing up of risks involved. It is not a win-only situation. My example of measles (I actually meant chicken pox I think, I’ll need to look it up), was just backing up my point that there is a balance that doctors have make.
        The fact that many people unwisely avoid vaccines for irrational reasons should not stop us from looking at the negatives in addition to the positives.

        • In reply to #13 by conmeo:

          The fact that many people unwisely avoid vaccines for irrational reasons should not stop us from looking at the negatives in addition to the positives.

          I absolutely agree with you on this point. I do however wonder what changes peoples’ ideas on an ‘acceptable’ negative. Can I ask you a personal question relating to your child’s hospital visit?

          (Please feel free to refuse or shoot down my following supposition as I understand this is a personal decision made regarding your child in the heat of concern so you do not have to justify yourself to me in any way.)

          Why did you refuse the lumbar puncture on your child? In a tight situation, it provides useful data (ruling in/out meningitis) directly affecting your child’s treatment type and length and yet is extremely safe. My supposition is the ‘ick factor’ or what the perceived positives/negatives are – that is, you might be seeing something distressing being done to your child (lumbar puncture/immunisation) for a payoff that is either not needed (negative for infection/never get the infection in question) or not noticed (you still get antibiotics/vaccination works – no infection). Obviously, the lumbar puncture is the more viscerally upsetting (to me at least) but I wonder if the lack of fear of ‘old’ viruses is really what drives vaccine refusal. I’m guessing that given any risk of bacterial infection (even though it may be e.g. a vaccine reaction fever) not many would refuse antibiotics if they’re offered. Is it because they don’t need to ‘trust’ the doctor to know what might happen if they don’t take them, even if a bad outcome is really unlikely? What risk/benefit decision were you thinking about and what risk/benefit tally was put to you (and presumably your partner) at that time?

      • In reply to #9 by Docjitters:

        Hi Docjitters, this isn’t actually a reply to your comment, rather a question that I wanted to address to you specifically as I was particularly impressed with your comments (I don’t want to alienate anyone else though, all advice is welcome).

        My 2 month old daughter was due to get her BCG injection against TB today (she didn’t have it in the end as my partner and I wanted to think a little longer about it, and she had a slight fever today). We live in the borough of Camden in London, one of the places in the UK where the BCG is still given.

        We were having doubts about whether to give her the injection because of the (limited) reading we’d done into possible side effects, and because of the scary figures on the number of claims against, (and payments made by) the government for compensation to families of children who have become ‘severely disabled’ as a result of vaccinations – [Article] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4356027.stm)

        Also, my partner and I are moving out of London in around six months time (to an area in Yorkshire where the injection is not necessary). Given my concerns above, and the fact that we’re moving out of the area quite soon, we’re really torn as to whether to give her the injection or not.

        What would you recommend? What would you do?

    • In reply to #5 by conmeo:

      I am Australian and I am concerned about childhood vaccines.

      That doesn’t put me into the ’causes autism’ category, I am concerned about various aspects of them.
      My child had his 6 week vaccine just 2 weeks ago and ended up with a 39.1 degree temperature that night and ended up in emergency overnig…

      the inference here is your child’s illness was a result of the vaccination yet you’ve offered no evidence. i’m sure that in australia if an illness has been diagnosed a doctor would try to explain how it came about?

      maybe you’re new to this forum?

      • In reply to #18 by SaganTheCat:

        the inference here is your child’s illness was a result of the vaccination yet you’ve offered no evidence. i’m sure that in australia if an illness has been diagnosed a doctor would try to explain how it came about?
        maybe you’re new to this forum?

        I’m going to jump a little (presumptively, yes) to conmeo’s defence here: s/he may well have been told by the doctors it was the immunisation but not her/himself know what the evidence for this is. If the docs excluded serious bacterial infection that night (and at 6 weeks old, serious suspicion of infection plus refused lumbar puncture generally = immediate 5+ days of intravenous antibiotics see Section B1 here – which I suspect would have been mentioned) then however unusual, the next best explanation may well be an unusual reaction to the jab.

        conmeo, can you clarify this point?

    • Sorry to burst your bubble, but measles is a very serious disease. It is also a killer. It can cause deafness, blindness and brain damage. It can even kill years after a child has recovered from the initial infection; the virus can remain latent in the brain and cause SSPE (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis) – an invariably fatal degeneration of the brain. I personally know a family who lost an 8-yr.-old child to SSPE. He contracted measles as an infant before he himself was old enough to be vaccinated from an older child whose parents did not vaccinate. These parents thought the risk of vaccination outweighed the risk of disease. Although their own child survived, another child died because of their decision to ignore the real and deadly risks of measles in favor of the rare and usually mild risks of vaccination.
      In reply to #5 by conmeo:

      I am Australian and I am concerned about childhood vaccines.

      That doesn’t put me into the ’causes autism’ category, I am concerned about various aspects of them.
      My child had his 6 week vaccine just 2 weeks ago and ended up with a 39.1 degree temperature that night and ended up in emergency overnig…

  5. People worry most about things they do not understand. Perhaps what is required is a documentary explaining the cost/benefits and the bogosity of homeopathic immunisation. It can lampoon with Monty Pythonesque characters the various misconceptions.

    Don’t pretend there are NO drawbacks. That just makes people suspicious.

  6. Roedy, thankfully I’ve not (yet) come across anyone who has tried homeopathic immunisation. I’m not sure my poor heart could take it trying to explain to them!

    Were you thining something like this oldie-but-goodie Mitchell & Webb sketch? Homeopathic A&E

    I don’t think anyone is saying that there are no drawbacks to immunisation (that goes against informed consent for starters) but I do wonder: at what point is it (ever?) _un_ethical to discuss a terribly rare side effect because you know that even mentioning it will cause people to say no?

  7. I reacted badly to my measles inoculation, it set off a chain of complications resulting in emergency surgery (twice) and permanent hearing loss. However vaccines are a numbers game, there may be occasional disasters but the population as a whole is unquestionably healthier with them than without. I had all my other childhood vaccinations and as an adult still take any that are recommended.

  8. In reply to #23 by matthew111:

    My 2 month old daughter was due to get her BCG injection against TB today…We live in the borough of Camden in London, one of the places in the UK where the BCG is still given. We were having doubts about whether to give her the injection because of the (limited) reading we’d done into possible side effects, and because of the scary figures on the number of claims against, (and payments made by) the government for compensation to families of children who have become ‘severely disabled’ as a result of vaccinations – Article
    Also, my partner and I are moving out of London in around six months time (to an area in Yorkshire where the injection is not necessary). Given my concerns above, and the fact that we’re moving out of the area quite soon, we’re really torn as to whether to give her the injection or not. What would you recommend? What would you do?

    Hi Matthew111, I’m afraid I hadn’t checked this thread in a while so apologies for not replying sooner.

    Um, it’s not really appropriate to consider me any sort of authority, especially over the internet, and especially when I’ve never met your child in a medical capacity. The choice is up to you and your partner, given the evidence presented by your own GP/Community Clinic.

    I can say these things about the issues you’ve raised though:

    1) Side effects of BCG relate mainly to the skin reaction to the immunisation e.g. soreness, minor scarring, local abscess. The scary-scary side effect of widespread BCG infection occur at less than 1 per 1000000 (1 million) doses and have been reported in those children who had certain (undiagnosed) immune system deficiencies at the time (see this bit of a technical paper on vaccines given at birth).

    2) The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme is not a fault-awarded compensation scheme – it is a welfare payment to help with severe disability where immunisation was felt, on balance of probability, to have contributed. Given such things are already very rare, I’m guessing it’s to discourage people suing for compensation despite appropriate pre-immunisation counselling.

    3) The point of BCG as a baby is that it greatly reduces the rate of lung TB and TB meningitis when they are most vulnerable. As to whether it’d be a good idea in Yorkshire, you have to weigh the risk of exposure there with with that of the next 6 months while still in Camden. The other thing to think about is exposure from family, visitors from TB-endemic countries or if you’ll want to holiday as a family in a TB-prone area of some foreign clime in the near future.

    Have a look at the NHS leaflet – hope some of this is helpful. And congratulations on your new baby!

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