Vaccination wars: Vaccinating the Anti-vax bug

Every year in March or April a notice goes at on the notice board at work telling I and my colleagues that our employer is providing free influenza vaccinations. A sheet next to it with provision for name, work roster hours and allocated time slot is put up next to it – after a week or so the sheet is handed to a registered vaccine provider to provide the shots.

I normally visit my local medical centre and get a nurse to do it. I accept that for a few unlucky people there will be the risk of a reaction to flu vaccinations. I know that they happen because I get a slightly heavy arm after each flu vaccination, but just as the nurse administering the vaccination says each time, wait 20 minutes to see if there is going to be a reaction. The heavy arm sensation recedes within 36-48 hours.

Since 2016 vaccinations have declined in New Zealand after reaching a peak in 2012. This has concerned health officials following the start of the current measles outbreak in New Zealand. Measles had been eradicated in New Zealand in 2012. But in 2019 there have thus far been 723 known cases resulting in people being admitted to hospital.

Not all of my colleagues believe in vaccination, and as a person who has a long term medical condition, that has led me to be more wary in terms of monitoring my own symptoms. Various reasons have been given for not trusting vaccination – one or two do not believe in the science, another doesn’t vaccinate for reason of personal beliefs. With hypertension and having mild asthma that can be aggravated by cold or dusty condition, I have to be more careful about the working environment in the rental car yard wash bay that I work in.

Whilst respecting individual beliefs, I believe that anyone with a child should at the very least because of their highly contagious nature get vaccinated against Measles Mumps and Rubella. They should until they reach age 18 be required to get a flu vaccination as well. My brother had mumps in 1989 before we were vaccinated – the timing was fantastically bad since I had just days earlier been diagnosed with hypertension. Parents who fail to should be made to declare with any school their children are attending that they have not been vaccinated.

As the global human population explosion – 200 years ago it was just over 1 billion, having taken 200,000 years to get that far and reached 7.75 billion this year – and continuing growth in air travel combine to ensure the need for vaccinations was never greater, the resistance to vaccinations seems to be growing. As a plane can move hundreds of people around halfway around the world in 12 hours, and hundreds of flights taking off and landing all the time, the potential for someone with a contagious bug to slip through undetected is very real. Influenza and M.M.R. are just a few. Those in tropical countries where mosquito borne viruses such as Malaria are also countries with poor socio-economic situations where education about hygiene and disease prevention, coupled with low investment in health and rapid population growth, are particularly prone.

M.M.R. is one that has had a controversial history with opponents of vaccinations claiming it has been linked to autism, despite the link being disproven by multiple pieces of research. It continues to be controversial in the United States partially as a result of a disgraced British doctor named Andrew Wakefield who authored a thoroughly discredited paper against vaccination. Mr Wakefield visited the United States just as parents of Somali Americans refused to vaccinate their children claiming it was linked to autism.

I think a New Zealand wide education campaign with the facts inserted into full page adverts in the major newspapers is necessary to make clear that getting vaccinated and making sure ones children are vaccinated is necessary. If the Government has to dip into the coffers to fund the advertisements then so be it. But the idea that

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