Another day, another rash of articles breathlessly reporting the results of a newsworthy scientific study. This week it’s a meta-study by the University of Sydney that discovered no link between vaccines and autism.
This shouldn’t be newsworthy. After all, the scientific study that sparked this whole anti-vax controversy has been declared a fraud by the BMJ and withdrawn by the Lancet who originally published it. The scientist and medical practitioner who published the study was disbarred from practicing medicine and his career lies in ruins. His motivation for this fraud? A lawsuit that stood to make millions from the pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines. He was also developing his own measles vaccine in competition with the accused one. Here’s a more detailed overview of Andrew Wakefield and his work.
It’s great that we question the ingredients of vaccines and in fact I welcome any consumer education movement that encourages the public to ask themselves whether they truly need this or that medicine and encourages the drop of prevention that tends to be more effective than a bucketload of cure. However, vaccinating our kids, and indeed ourselves, is one of the most important preventative steps we can ever take.
Frankly, I’m disappointed that when I mention having a rough time at the vaccine clinic, I feel like I’m making a bold pro-vax statement whereas ten little years ago parents would simply commiserate each other on this unavoidable part of good parenting.
It’s very hip and lucrative to write books and websites making all kinds of random health claims. There are some great natural health resources around helping us to keep ourselves naturally healthy by educating about nutrition and minimising exposure to toxins but there are also plenty of books providing plausible wishful thinking. For example eating a raw vegan diet is good for you, but it’s wishful thinking to conclude that it will “cure arthritis, fatigue, irritable bowel, reflux, chronic allergies, eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, depression, attention deficit disorder, and occasionally even autism and that it could help you lose weight quickly and easily without cravings.”
But homeopathy doesn’t do a thing (with the possible exception of very mild dilution homeopathy used for allergy since being given minute amounts of the allergen is the standard treatment anyway) and “homeoprophalaxis” gives parents a false sense of security by making them think they’ve given a child a natural treatment instead of a sugar pill and some wishful thinking.
Homeopaths and homeopathy enthusiasts claim that vaccines are a multi-billion dollar business, run only to benefit drug companies, that vaccines can cause side-effects and that their sugar pills don’t cause any side-effects.
But homeopathy is now also a multi-billion dollar industry and there is plenty of incentive for practitioners to frighten new customers away from conventional treatments and onto their magic pills.
The natural health industry can do a lot to help us keep healthy. A healthy diet, exercise and effective* herbal treatments can all help keep us from taking medicines we don’t need. Organic farming or switching to a more plant based diet can help us avoid harming the planet with herbicides, pesticides, with antibiotics and hormones being fed to animals causing antibiotic resistance and hormone influenced cancers. But vaccines should be counted among the wonderful cornucopia of preventative treatments available to us.
* By “effective” I mean the subset of herbal treatments that have been proven effective such as ginger for nausea or valerian to help you relax and sleep.
Vaccines are provided to all Australians at no upfront cost because the small risk of side-effects is far preferable to the terrible risk of complications such as meningitis, permanent paralysis and inability to breathe should these dangerous “childhood diseases” be permitted to spread through the community.
Children under 5 years can receive their free vaccines at the Child Immunisation Clinics. Phone (02) 6207 9977 between 8am and 5pm weekdays and don’t forget to bring your blue book to your appointment.
Teenagers get their free vaccines given to them at school by an ACT Health nurse. If you missed your vaccine day you can make it up for free within 12 months by letting them know as soon as possible so you can catch the next round of vaccines the next time the nurse comes around.
If you are behind, see your GP or MACH nurse about catching up as soon as possible. In some cases the catch-up option is built into the schedule so it may still be free.