One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s assertion that the Government’s stance on vaccination was akin to dictatorship has drawn condemnation from the health sector
Ms Hanson told Insiders’ Barrie Cassidy that parents needed to make an “informed” decision about whether or not to vaccinate their children. She also went in to bat for employers over penalty rates.
“What I don’t like about it is the blackmailing that’s happening with the government,” she said regarding the Federal Government’s “no jab, no pay” policy.
“Don’t do that to people. That’s a dictatorship. I think people have a right to investigate themselves.”
President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Michael Gannon told the ABC’s World Today that as a serious player in Australian politics, Ms Hanson “can no longer make fringe statements that are dangerous to the health of the whole community”.
“We know in medical science that we’re never going to reach that 1 or 2% of rusted-on flat-earthers who don’t accept the science of vaccination,” he said.
“But what we worry about a lot about is that about 8% of the population are so-called vaccine-hesitant, and they’re looking for any information that might lead them away from what is, with the exception of clean water, probably the most significant health measure we’ve got.
“It is absolutely essential that we have accurate information, and this fatuous idea that parents can spend half an hour on Wikipedia and come to a greater understanding of the issues than their doctor and the accumulated wisdom of all the world’s medical scientists is ludicrous.”
Nicole Rogerson, head of Autism Awareness Australia, has demanded that Ms Hanson should retract her comments.
“There is no link between vaccinations and autism and any suggestion has long been discredited. But it still persists out there,” Ms Rogerson told the same program.
Medicines Australia chief executive Milton Catelin says that greater education and awareness about the contribution of innovative medicines and vaccines to preventive health is critical.
“Vaccines are one of the key reasons the death rates from infectious diseases have plummeted since the 1920s. The investment by medicines manufacturers in vaccines has helped save lives over several generations,” Mr Catelin says.
He cautions that one of the key reasons for vaccine refusal is lack of knowledge and understanding, leading to people believing disproven material claiming that vaccines cause illness.
Members of the Coalition Government waded in, with Health Minister Greg Hunt posting on Facebook that its policy on vaccination is working.
An outspoken member of the backbench also took credit for the policy…
I am proud to have brought in 'no jab, no pay'. Let's not play politics on vaccinations.
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) March 6, 2017
And Shadow Health Minister Catherine King has penned a piece for Fairfax Media in which she cited the number of deaths from diphtheria, pertussis and polio at the height of their outbreaks in Australia (4073, 2808 and 1013 respectively).
“One of the most naive things I hear from people talking about vaccination is that because there aren’t current outbreaks of diseases that were commonplace 100 years ago, their kids will be safe,” Ms King writes.
“Let me make this clear – that attitude is not only complete and utter rubbish, it completely threatens the ongoing success of our vaccination program.”
And Michael Vagg, clinical senior lecturer at Deakin University School of Medicine & Pain Specialist, Deakin University, wrote a column for academic website The Conversation begging parents not to “do their own research”.
“What Senator Hanson appears to mean is that she wants average people who find misinformation on the internet to be allowed to disagree with decades of rigorous, serious scientific effort,” he wrote.
“Unlike so many of my medical colleagues, I make an effort to keep up with goings-on in the antivax movement so I am grimly aware of the depths of hubris and folly that inform the ‘research’ that you so easily find when you innocently Google for vaccine information.
“The average person with high-school science knowledge and healthy faith in human decency has no chance.”
In the Insiders interview Ms Hanson also took aim at those protesting cuts to penalty rates, citing the misfortune of a Rockhampton pharmacy.
“They are talking about looking after the battlers. It is a big furphy. And what needs to be debated here—small business, Barrie, they’re struggling.
“If you can actually help them out with rising electricity costs, rent prices—I know of a chemist shop in Rockhampton $70,000 a month in rent.”