Friday, September 25, 2009

Vaccination in the news

An article in this morning's broadsheet about complaints to the TGA over homeopathic immunisation claims caught my attention. I know many people who subscribe to a belief in homeopathic treatments without really understanding how they work.

The fear of vaccination, like the fear of dentists, is irrational and unjustified. As Dr Ken Harvey is quoted as saying in the article, "overall [vaccinations] have been one of the most powerful health interventions we've had to eliminate infectious diseases". I will not claim that there are never any adverse reactions to vaccinations, just as I can't promise that it won't hurt when the dentist needs to drill your tooth, but the fear of the risk seems to be out of all proportion to its actual chance of occurrence.

Immunisation is not foolproof: two children I know and love have both suffered from whooping cough in the epidemic of the past year. Both were fully vaccinated, but were immune-compromised because of other chronic illnesses, and the lowered herd immunity that arises from people turning to things like homeopathy instead of proven medical treatments must take part of the blame for their illness, as it must in the case of the tragic death of Dana McCaffery in February this year.

In the same issue of the newspaper was a story on a new vaccine against HIV. Its effect, of preventing around a third of infections, is not a complete cure or a total preventive, but it would be a shame if people's irrational fears of vaccination did not allow the vaccine to be further developed and offered to people at risk.

I was never more appreciative of the efficacy of modern vaccinations than the day that I took the Dude for one of his early immunisations. Ms ND, who was about 10 years old, asked what the vaccinations were for: "Diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus", I replied, "and polio". She asked, "What's polio?" That's how you know vaccination works!


Prue said...

Homeopathic immunisation??

This is surely like attempting to deflect a raging lion by pointing out the lovely red shoes you're wearing.

Herbal medicine is just as misunderstood. So many people think it is a nice safe alternative to those nasty chemically drugs. Huh? Those herbal medicines have chemicals in them too! When I was pregnant and was illustrating a flower that was known to be an abortifacient (even though I was extremely careful and ONLY handled it with industrial grade gloves) I had spotting and cramping.

beche-la-mer said...

Looks like the Bad Astronomer agrees with me.