Family Court continues to defend vaccination

While ever the child remains unvaccinated, he remains at risk of contracting these diseases

– Justice Jenny Hogan: Family Court of Australia. July 17, 2015 –

“I’ve done my research”.

So goes the inaccurate claim of the anti-vaccine convert. As I’ve noted before this claim should be questioned as to what independent evaluation took place to discern the quality of such “research”. I realise this isn’t very user-friendly. Thus it’s a way of underscoring the inappropriateness of mums and dads using the term to defend their ignorance of vaccine efficacy and safety.

Perhaps this “research” should be compared to the advice and conclusions published by reputable health authorities. Perhaps the most simple approach is to run up a tally of reputable source information vs that from woo and quackery public health menaces. Ideally parents will see that ample research has already been done and their role is to seek advice from a GP.

Yet we know in a number of cases that won’t happen and anti-vaccine fear mongering and deception will be eagerly devoured and believed by some. Many will continue this “research” to varying degrees, perhaps joining forums, Facebook pages and YouTube channels, sinking ever deeper into hive mentality.

A July 17 Family Court of Australia finding provided a glimpse of the harm such forays into the dark and absurd realms of the Internet can potentially cause. In this case of “Arranzio and Moss” before Justice Jenny Hogan, Ms. Moss had told the court she intended to;

…never consent to the child being vaccinated [because she] has a conscientious objection to vaccination on the basis of her research.

Moss was seeking an injunction that would prevent her six year old son (who has never been immunised) being taken by his father for immunisation, “without her written permission”. She believes vaccines may cause cancer and “other health problems”, and believes her son suffers from “a range of allergies to different foods”.

Both parents had witnesses appear on their behalf.

The mother’s doctor, known as Dr J, told Justice Hogan that she had previously held ‘anti-vaccination views’ but now believed that vaccination was sometimes appropriate for children who were, for example, not breastfed.

[…]

Justice Hogan said that “no weight could sensibly” be given to Dr J’s views on the case at hand, because Dr J had not even seen the child when she decided that he had an “underlying immune shift” that might make vaccination problematic for him.

Dr. G, appearing for the father had studied at the Mayo Clinic and is a specialist in childhood allergies. He commented on the uselessness of “tests” Dr. J suggested the child was in need of, describing them as “total nonsense”. He went on to reject the claim that the chicken pox vaccine causes shingles as “bunkum” and noted that allergic reactions to vaccines are so rare he had “only one or two people referred to him over the years”.

The injunction was not granted. The finding quite firmly highlights the risk of contracting disease due to being unvaccinated, as opposed to the fallacious beliefs of the anti-vaccine lobby:

Justice Hogan said “the consequences for the child of contracting a disease weighed significantly against the grant of an injunction” – meaning the father should not be banned from having the child vaccinated because harm from potential diseases posed unacceptable risks.

“While ever the child remains unvaccinated, he remains at risk of contracting these diseases,” she said.

“Having regard to the above, I am not persuaded that an order restraining the father from having the child vaccinated is appropriate for the child’s welfare or in his best interests.”

What is immediately apparent with respect to these cases is that the so-called “evidence” that makes up the body of anti-vaccination “research” is presented in a law court in opposition to genuine evidence provided by qualified medical professionals. Family Court findings uphold the best interests and welfare of children.

In these cases the efficacy and safety of vaccines are themselves arguably on trial.

When the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network reacted to the announcement that Family Tax Benefits would be denied on the basis of vaccine conscientious objection they posted a Facebook meme likening vaccination to rape. This was the second time this group has used that comparison to vaccination.

On January 15, 2011 Meryl Dorey (then steering the group under its old name: Australian Vaccination Network) reacted to the first Family Court case of this type. In this instance the Court favoured the father’s wish to have his five year old daughter vaccinated. Dorey exploded on Facebook:

Court orders rape of a child. Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. This is assault without consent and with full penetration too. If we as a society allow this crime to take place, we are every bit as guilty as the judge who made the order and the doctor who carries it out. If anyone knows this family, please put them in touch with me – xx xxxx xxxx – I would like to see if there is anything the AVN can do.
MD

In this case the witness for the anti-vaccine mother was chiropractor Warren Sipser. It was reported:

The mother produced opposing evidence that the vaccinations were unnecessary, but was criticised in the judgment for submitting evidence from an “immunisation sceptic”, who made what the magistrate described as “outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence”.

Chiropractic Association of Australia (CAA) member Warren Sipser quite recklessly described the outcome as “dangerous”. Sipser is unsurprisingly also a past professional member of the AVN (2004 – 2011), and a board member of CAA Victoria. He is also Secretary of CAA Victoria. The important thing is this “paediatric chiropractor” was comfortable with “outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence”, being put forth to advance his client’s case.

In an October 19, 2012 Family Court ruling Justice Victoria Bennett rejected a Victorian mother’s claim that living a simple lifestyle, avoiding toxins and eating organic and unprocessed foods would develop the immune system of her eight year old daughter. A senior paediatrician from the Royal Children’s Hospital advised Justice Bennett that the homeopathic methods used by the mother had no basis in evidence.

In this case the child’s father had remarried and it was reported his daughter;

…was immunised for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, polio, HIB, measles, mumps, rubella and meningococcal C.

The father told the court he hoped to continue to “secretly vaccinate” her because he did not want to play “Russian roulette with her health”. He said he wanted to protect her from infectious diseases, and he was also concerned the child of his new wife, who is now pregnant, could contract a disease from an unvaccinated child.

In a convoluted and drawn out Family Court case that ended in April 2014 a Sydney father won the right to have his children – who turned 12 and 14 last year – vaccinated. Justice Garry Foster quite rightly observed that the 42 year old mother was narrowly focused with vaccination “perhaps to the point where the best interests of her children have been subsumed”.

As other matters of separation between Mr. Randall and Ms. Duke-Randall continued the court restrained either parent from vaccinating either child until a three day hearing into vaccination took place. The mother kept the children on a low-salicylate and low-amine diet, and was apparently wasting court time in an attempt to obtain evidence that the children would be adversely effected by vaccination. However:

Justice Foster [found] the mother had been deliberately delaying proceedings and ignoring directions, which led to the ”strong inference that she has done so to suit her own end that the issue as to vaccination be delayed for as long as possible”.

[…]

Justice Foster accepted evidence from a senior consultant in immunology, given the pseudonym Professor K, that both children are healthy and do not have any allergies or any other contraindications to vaccination.

This case was particularly concerning in that the children’s mother sought to have immunisation declared a “special medical procedure”. [Family Court: March 11, 2013. July 18, 3013]. This would have placed vaccination in the same category as gender reassignment or sterilisation of intellectually disabled girls. Her quest to convince the Family Court her children would suffer adversely from vaccination included collection of blood, urine and faecal matter.

It is fortunate the Family Court found in favour of the children’s father.

Similar trends are documented in the USA, the UK and other developed nations where an anti-vaccine lobby seeks to spread deception and misinformation. It would appear these cases may well become more frequent. Thanks to the work of groups who tackle the anti-vaccination lobby the public is becomming increasingly aware of the extent of harm “anti-vaxxers” have on their children.

As I mentioned above, these Family Court cases are in many ways a legal challenge to, or opportunity for, anti-vaccination beliefs.

Fortunately in the Family Court of Australia, the anti-vaccination lobby has had no success at all.

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The man who draws ducks draws a long bow against vaccine science

Michael Leunig was a guest on ABC News Breakfast to chat about his new book Musings From The Inner Duck, his role as a cartoonist and the impact of his commentary both political and social.

It wasn’t long at all before discourse turned from reflections on the Leunig duck to Leunig’s support of quackery. Particularly his April 15th cartoon in response to Scott Morrison’s removal of up to $15,000 in tax payer funds to parents who seek to claim “conscientious objection” to vaccinating their children.

The awful piece of nonsense from our 1999 National Living Treasure firmly ran the ignorant antivaccinationist banner up Leunig’s flagpole. One doesn’t say so lightly, but the cartoon and subsequent interview ticked all the worst of the anti-vaccine boxes. I’ve also no doubt Leunig would have kept digging had he more time. Headed Some mothers do ‘ave ’em the piece continued;

They have maternal instincts
That contradict what science thinks.
They stand up to the state:
A mother’s love may be as great
As any new vaccine
That man has ever seen

Leunig_April15_2015Problems with Leunig’s thinking come across in the text.

Mothers have maternal instincts that contradicts what science “thinks”. I realise a rhyme is important here but there’s no reason why mothers can’t have maternal moods that contradict what science concludes. Because science must not drift off into thinking or feeling or musing. It follows a strict set of processes designed to invite replication and strident attempts at falsification. This doesn’t involve just one, two or a handful of variables. Multiple factors help form hypotheses in this process until a scientific consensus is formed. In the face of new evidence and conclusion a new consensus is formed in the same way.

Nor is this a matter for the famous Leunig “whimsy”. If we honestly made way for this new antivaccinationist insistence of maternal instinct ruling over what science “thinks” (because ‘science always changes its mind’) we would be beset with tragedy. Recent revelations about the conduct of midwife Gaye Demanuele give valuable insight as to what is at stake when ignorance and/or defiance clashes with evidence based health practice as recommended by national health experts.

Speaking of “the state”, Leunig tells us these mothers (who let’s face it are either part of, or misinformed by the anti-science in medicine chapter) also “stand up to the state”. Perhaps he’s referring to the reckless and abusive decisions they make in denying their children the protection of vaccination. He winds up letting readers know a mother’s love can apparently create antibodies and/or protect from vaccine preventable disease as well as any vaccine.

Underneath the text is a plainly shocking cartoon. A mother sprinting, baby in pram, away from giant flying syringes. It seems like the cartoon version of those Photoshopped images favoured by Natural News, Mercola, Age of Autism and other junk sites that depict lines of crying children or babies jabbed with multiple syringes.

“It does seem to be an odd thing to assert Michael Leunig, that a mother’s love may be more beneficial for a child than a vaccine”, offered Virginia Trioli.

Leunig tries to dodge this claiming he is “not taking a position publicly”… but is concerned that the maternal instinct is being asked to step aside and accept what the state is saying. Virginia challenges his claim of not taking a public position. Leunig works his way around to asking “…if we should sweep aside those mothers who in great conscience, intelligence and research feel they just can’t go ahead with this. Should we demonise them? Should we criminalise them? Should the whole society make them feel a pariah? That the traditional work of the cartoonist is to stand up for the improbable, the minority which seems to be of true heart and sincerity”.

“Isn’t it an issue about science?”, Virginia asks.

“Well science is… it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

“Most people do”, offers Michael Rowlands.

“Well they did when they had Thalidomide…”, Leunig replies bizarrely with confidence, probably blissfully unaware what a cruel and ignorant fool on this topic he has just revealed himself to be. Dragging out the Thalidomide card in this instance is thunderously immoral. All antivaccine champions ignore the fact that drug trials and testing were forever changed for the better.

Virginia baulks at this nonsense and pulls the cartoonist up. “Ooh, that’s a difficult comparison, because there was a concerted cover-up about that for many, many years, and such corporate malfeasance that it’s probably unparalleled in medical history, so you’re not asserting something similar to that are you?”

And then it happens. The man who draws ducks proclaims, “There is a science against vaccines also”, masterfully ignoring that he just informed us that “…it depends on whether you believe science is the final say on everything”.

As Michael Rowland observes at this point, “It’s not science Michael”.

Leunig denies upholding “a lot of evidence (against vaccination safety)” and warns beware the crowd. He contends that science is not complete [yawn] then just to prove he’s reading lots of antivaccine dreck, poses “… and what is this impulse that’s universal, it’s not freakish but I’ve seen a lot of very intelligent women and parents hold a really grave concern… and there are really bad consequences of some vaccinations…”. He thinks the science is incomplete. Disagrees with the finding Wakefield is a fraud.

Delightfully, with the feel of a eulogy, Virginia’s next sentence is “But as someone who has been much loved as a cartoonist can I just show you one response to your cartoon”?

It’s a tweet from Hannah Gadsby (@Hannahgadsby) and reads;

After years of enduring Leunig staring at her, the duck finally spoke “I can’t give you the benefit of whimsy today. You’re a dickhead”.

HannahGadsby_tweet

Leunig is now worried that this means “so we don’t tolerate the outsider voice that says the improbable. That’s what my job is, it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”. He suggests Virginia and Michael should be getting fired up about criticism of the antivaccination lobby.

“What is this fierce anti anti-vaccination… why so emotional…?”.

“It’s called public health Michael”, Michael Rowland cuts of the rant.

Dismissively, the man who draws ducks reckons “If we cared about public health we wouldn’t design cities like this, …terrible television, dreadful media. Public health is in disarray at so many levels and all we’re worrying about is this little needle”.

You know that little needle – perhaps the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. Virginia tries to see him off.

“But I’m not standing against vaccination”, Leunig lies as all antivaccinationists do. “It’s this thing as a matter of conscience”.

He was a C.O. to the Vietnam war so knows what he’s talking about he finishes.

The biggest problem – or a very big problem – with Leunig is that he’s had a long time to work his way through the science around Wakefield’s fraud. Indeed, vaccine science in total. This was Leunig on January 29th 1997;

Leunig_Jan29_1997

This cartoon pushes the old and rather pointless defence of pseudoscience that argues “science doesn’t know everything”. Or rather, it’s that defence on steroids. Unapologetically we’re asked to believe a cruel and arrogant medico has jettisoned any capacity to be humane or understand the whole person as a patient and reacts aggressively to the mother. Nothing could be further from the truth, and no reaction could better impede the aim of vaccinating the mother’s baby. In fact it’s quite silly in that any medico so dangerously constrained by medical science would point out the heart is a pump and emotions, superstitions are seated in the brain. But the point is taken. Doctors and medical science are pathologically removed from understanding emotion, preferring to belittle human nature as some primitive throwback to be “immunised” against. “It is a disease in itself”. This nasty, inaccurate and combative message, dreamt up by opponents of medical science, is entirely without merit.

Thirteen months later Wakefield’s infamous fraud was published and public health has suffered immensely ever since. Largely thanks to fools and egos like Michael Leunig. To sit there and say “there is a science against vaccination also” and that he has detected “a universal impulse” and is standing up for intelligent people who have researched and hold “grave concerns”. These poor people treated as pariahs or criminals and pushed about by the state. The softly spoken champion for the maternal instinct. He’s not antivaccine – nooo – but just doing his job. What was it? Oh yes, “it’s not to march entirely with science it’s to be the improbable”.

Well I find it improbable in the extreme that Leunig had such views 18 1/2 years ago and just happens to have them again today because it’s “his job” to worry about one of the most dangerous and most cruel antiscience and antimedicine cults at the present time. Leunig is an antivaxxer, cut from the same mold of them all.

His duck will now be remembered for its quackery.

David Hawkes on the fake anti-vaccine “church”

Dr. David Hawkes chats with Jon Faine on radio ABC 774 about the bogus “church” set up to allow anti-vaccine devotees to plead religious exemption.


It was reported in The Age today the loophole would be exploited to bypass the “no jab, no play” legislation emerging in Australia. This legislation aims to ensure children not fully immunised will be:

…unable to enrol in childcare unless their parents declare they have a medical reason or personal, philosophical or religious objection.

The recent and ongoing outbreak of measles in California is a firm example of the ticking time bomb unvaccinated children pose. Regrettably vaccine refusers have been misled on even the most basic facts pertaining to vaccination. As such their understanding of what vaccination seeks to achieve is misguided to the point of being ludicrous.

In this respect basic notions such as herd immunity or poor immune response to a vaccine are seen as false claims or evidence that vaccines are 100% ineffective. A perfect example of this is indeed the Disneyland measles outbreak in which vaccinated individuals were infected (<100% efficacy) but the outbreak itself is due to the zero immunity of the unvaccinated (low herd immunity in an area of high vaccine refusal).

Despite this reality the antivaccine lobby will continue to falsely insist only the vaccinated are infected, the unvaccinated enjoy robust disease free health and that safe vaccines are in fact riddled with disease and “toxins”.

The only answer to managing what are lethal and disabling diseases is presently vaccination.

Greg Beattie misleads Health and Community Services Committee

Vaccination is an invasive medical procedure carrying unquantifiable risk and dubious benefit

♠ Greg Beattie, August 19th 2013 ♠

On Monday August 19th the Health and Community Services Committee (QLD) held a public hearing.

Entitled The Inquiry Into The Public Health (exclusion of unvaccinated children from childcare) Amendment Bill 2013 the transcript can be found here.

As reported in Brisbane Times the Committee rejected the amendment which would have seen unvaccinated children banned from accessing Child Care centres in QLD. Yet the same Committee specified in it’s report that it has not rejected supporting a bill with allowance for medical constraints or conscientious objection against immunisation. Despite the wide ranging abuse of the conscientious objection loophole to vaccination, such a bill is now in place for daycare in NSW.

In his opening address on August 19th, Committee Chair, Mr. T. J. Ruthenberg M.P. stated in part:

Witnesses are not required to give evidence under oath, but I remind witnesses that intentionally misleading the committee is a serious offence.

I remind those present that these proceedings are similar to parliament and are subject to the Legislative Assembly’s standing rules and orders. [Copy here]

The first speaker, President of the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network, Mr. Greg Beattie began misleading the Committee immediately. This included:

The Australian Vaccination Network was formed to assist people in their search for information on this issue and to protect their right to make choices freely.

We support debate, because we recognise that it is through discussion that the truth is permitted to bubble to the surface.

Such noble sounding words. Soon we were back to the Beattie Aussies more readily identify with (Bold mine):

Vaccines are aggressively marketed. In fact, possibly no commercial product or service in the history of mankind has been so vigorously and thoroughly marketed. The backdrop of the campaign is fear – fear that your child, if not vaccinated, may suffer and ultimately die from an illness.

The fundamental slogan ‘Vaccines save lives’ expands into a story of how children frequently died from these illnesses until vaccination arrived and changed everything. Ironically, one of the few things we know without doubt is that this story is false. All who care to look for themselves find that vaccines played no significant role in the great fall in deaths.

The deaths did fall dramatically but, as can be seen in the appendices to our submission, it had nothing or little to do with vaccination.

He continues on. Empirical evidence is in stark dissonance to the “fundamental slogan” of vaccine manufacturers. Thus, parents are questioning “the integrity of the whole marketing campaign”. Er, are they? But why? Beattie lies with sophisticated aplomb:

For example, promoters claim that there is a scientific consensus that vaccination is safe. However, consumers are aware that countless studies have been published in the scientific literature indicating a relationship between vaccines and a host of serious conditions, including anaphylaxis, encephalopathy, lupus, type 1 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, Bell’s palsy, arthritis, autism, asthma, seizures and many more.

Courts have repeatedly decided in favour of some of these relationships, including autism, and huge amounts of money have been paid out for death and serious injury. Still, the promoters deny their existence, saying they are not proven.

Beattie uses the fact that up to 75% of pertussis notifications have received the vaccine at some time, to generalise against all vaccines. Finding this out parents begin to wonder what benefit there is he warns. A perfect segue into this outright lie: Vaccination is an invasive medical procedure carrying unquantifiable risk and dubious benefit.

Beattie seems intent on annoying Committee member Dr. Alex Douglas. When the Committee comes to ask questions Dr. Douglas begins:

I would like to start with Mr. Beattie. I thought that was an extraordinary presentation based on the fact that last month the Health Care Complaints Commission in New South Wales made some pretty damning statements about your organisation.

In view of the fact that you have made a presentation which is incredibly similar to what was stated as certainly being reprehensible — I could use a variety of words — I would like to know what you have done since then to actually reappraise your position in view of what you have just stated today?

Beattie wants to know where his abomination and that to the HCCC “tie together”. Dr. Douglas refuses to be drawn in, informing Beattie “Basically, you are restating the same argument. It is the same argument”. He then asks if Beattie is aware of what Steve Hambleton had said about, “your continuing statements which are of the same ilk as presented here today?”.

Of course Beattie claims to have no idea, so Dr. Douglas enlightens him:

He said that your repeated presentations bring you great discredit and are, in fact, not helping the nation at all.

In summary form, the results of what you are doing are doing irreparable harm to the communities across Australia and are, in fact, driving down getting our immunisation rate above the magical number of 93 per cent.

Beattie replies, “That is because Steve Hambleton is a promoter of vaccination. Our organisation is a promoter of free choice. At the moment our organisation is under severe attack from all who those who would want to promote vaccination…”.

He also insists vaccination uptake is rising a treat thanks very much, choosing to ignore the reality of complacency or refusal, wherever and for whatever reason.

All up it was a predictable scheme of lies and deceit from Greg Beattie, made all the worse in view of the organisation he was representing. The fact the bill was not passed had nothing to do with the rubbish he put forward. The AVN Inc. are well exposed as a self-serving untrustworthy gang for whom truth and evidence mean nothing.

Submissions to the Inquiry can be read here.

Measles Goddess’ Wrath Hits Victoria

Victorian Chief Health Minister, Rosemary Lester offers 30 seconds of wisdom concerning the present measles outbreak in Victoria:

Or download MP3 here

As an outbreak of measles reaches 10 cases in Victoria we can be certain of one thing.

The misinformation peddled by antivaccinationists over the years will be underscored as just that. Misinformation. From ridiculous to dangerous these snippets of so-called wisdom have included claiming “measles” means “a gift from a goddess” in ancient Sanskrit, to measles being the cause of the growth spurt that happens to correlate with the most common age for childhood infection.

In the first instance a check of the link to Sitala Mataji – originally the smallpox goddess worshipped in Pakistan, Northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh – shows the divine influence to be malignant. Just as Sitala was burned by a carelessly forgotten stove, she randomly picks children in anger and burns them from within to punish the mortal.

Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network argues that as just one of the diseases that have “beneficial aspects… prevention may not necessarily be in the best interests of the child”.

Dorey would tell her audience using large slides:

Called “gift from a goddess” in Sanskrit measles can help to mature the immune system, may help to prevent auto-immune illnesses such as cancer, asthma and allergies later in life

In reality the Sanskrit word, “masuurikaa” translates variously as smallpox, measles, eruption of lentil shaped pustules, lentil, and procuress (female procurer). There is absolutely no evidence that infection with wild measles primes the immune system against cancers or allergies. Such claims belong firmly alongside the lie that certain potentially fatal and disabling diseases are “rights of passage”. Regarding pertussis and measles Dorey famously informed a national T.V. audience:

My mother used to put me with all the neighbourhood kids when they got these diseases so we would get them and get them over with and be immune. And there was no fear, there was no worry about it. We just got them, and we were supposed to get them and we did, and we were healthier for them. Now we have a medical community that’s saying if you get measles, if you get whooping cough you’re going to die from it. Well, where is the information from that? You didn’t die from it thirty years ago and you’re not going to die from it today.

In fact with measles the risk of encephalitis is at least 1,000 times greater from measles infection than from vaccination. Prior to the success of mass vaccination:

Measles was once a common childhood disease in Australia, and medical practitioners were well acquainted with the “fever, generalised maculopapular rash, cough and conjunctivitis” syndrome that equated to a measles diagnosis. Measles complications, particularly bronchopneumonia and otitis media in children, were commonplace. With so many cases in the community, relatively uncommon severe complications, including acute encephalitis (1 in 2000 cases), subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (1 in 25 000 cases), and death, were also encountered.

There is nothing “marvellous” about measles as suggested by a despicably misleading book. Aside from the sliding scale of disability cruelly dealt by encephalitis one or two fatalities per thousand infections is normal.

The overwhelmingly positive impact of mass vaccination can be seen in the catch up programme documented here as The Australian Measles Control Campaign, 1998. There are no conflicts of interest declared by the 12 authors.

The Abstract reads:

The 1998 Australian Measles Campaign had as it’s aim improved immunization coverage among children aged 1-12 years and, in the longer term, prevention of measles epidemics. The campaign included mass school based measles-mumps-rubella vaccination of children aged 5-12 years and a catchup program for preschool children. More than 1.33 million children aged 5-12 years were vaccinated at school: serological monitoring showed that 94% of such children were protected after the campaign, whereas only 84% had been protected previously.

Among preschool children aged 1-3.5 years the corresponding levels of protection were 89% and 82%. During the six months following the campaign there was a marked reduction in the number of measles cases in children in targetted age groups.

Six pages in on page 887 of the Bulletin of The World Health Organisation 2001, 79 (9), we find this table:

Notifications_preandpostOzControlCampaignThe authors note that whilst there was no immediate reduction in the number of cases in the six months following the campaign, there was a notable reduction in the age groups targetted by the campaign. Following 1.7 million MMR doses during the campaign, there were 89 Adverse Events Following Immunisation. 80 children followed up recovered without sequelae. Nine could not be followed up due to confidentiality restraints associated with ADRAC. The benefits were not seen in “untargetted” 12-18 year olds.

As one of the largest initiatives in Australia’s immunisation history, the MCC was deemed demonstrably effective. The authors wrote:

Each of the studies in this evaluation confirmed that the campaign was highly successful, particularly among preschool and primary-school children.

Graphed data including the impact of the MCC can also be seen here (Victoria 1962 – 2004) and here (Australia 1991 – 2011). The profound impact of the introduction of a second dose in 1994 is also clear in the second graph.

The two clusters in Victoria currently reflect one distinct arrival from overseas and a source traced to a domestic flight. A disturbing case in S.A. in August 2011 resulted in two distinct warnings stemming from just one overseas arrival. The only reliable defence against jet-setting viruses and wide scale outbreaks is herd immunity.

The need for ensuring oneself is vaccinated against measles goes without saying. Particularly as exposure to someone emigrating or returning from a part of the world where measles is poorly controlled is quite simply a matter of chance. In Measles Immunity in Young Australian Adults, Gidding and Gilbert write in Conclusion:

Based on the most recent national serosurvey data available, there are 2 cohorts with levels of immunity below 90 per cent — those aged under 6 years in 1999 (born in 1994-1999) and those aged 18-22 years in 1996-98 (born in 1974-1980). Only persons aged 30 years and over in 1996-98 (ie born before measles vaccine was available) had immunity levels above 95 per cent.
These results indicate the ongoing need to improve vaccine uptake in infants and suggest that a vaccination campaign targeting young adults would be beneficial.

If we wish to attenuate measles outbreaks to state level – indeed Victoria itself – we can examine a 2005 review by Becker et al. Monitoring measles elimination in Victoria, brings into sharp focus how damaging a drop in herd immunity can be, given that outbreaks – including this one – begin with importation of the virus.

The University of QLD authors sought to use “evidence from outbreak data that Victoria has achieved, and is maintaining, elimination of measles”. They wrote:

Conclusions: The data provide strong evidence that Victoria has maintained elimination of measles over the period 1998 to mid-2003. There is scope to improve the immunisation coverage. It is not clear how much outbreak intervention is contributing to the success in achieving apparent elimination.

Implications: To prevent importations from causing a major epidemic of measles, Victoria must maintain its immunisation coverage and outbreak control at current levels, or better. It is important to monitor the control of measles even when elimination is achieved.

Time and again we see the need to maintain herd immunity via mass vaccination. Lyn Gilbert wrote in June 2011 that researchers have presented evidence that measles has been “effectively eliminated” from Australia, “as well as from Finland, the United States, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Cuba”.

Elimination of measles is a viable goal for a number of developed nations. The stability of elimination has slipped further from our grasp for reasons including increased importation, socioeconomic realities and the feverish efforts of antivaccinationists. Measles is a potentially fatal and entirely preventable disease that also leaves many sufferers with lifelong disability.

It’s a public health disgrace that the measles virus can arrive in Australia to meet willing hosts who have been misled into risking their own or their children’s quality of life. That this is compounded by a demographic that experiences poverty and social trauma is a negative dynamic that health authorities should strive to rectify.

It is important that a calm measured approach is taken in educating the community about the dangers of measles and effectiveness of MMR immunisation. Also, strict and lasting penalties need to be dealt to homeopaths and chiropractors (to name just a few peddlers of alternatives to medicine) who profit from risking the lives of innocent Aussies.

The wrath of the goddess Sitala Mataji is something Aussies can do without.