By Maise Cunningham
A Primary Health Network (PHN) spokesman has raised concerns about the merit of the anti-vaccination movement, suggesting it is based on “anecdotal evidence” and not “scientific fact”.
Dr Jon Harper, GP liaison for the Sunshine Coast, said the medical community has struggled to counter the “rise in anti-vaccination commentary”.
“We’ve had to work quite hard to demonstrate to the community that vaccinations are rigorously tested and that they’re safe and they’re important,” he said.
“Unless we vaccinate at least 90, 95 per cent of the community then we won’t get that herd immunity which we require, and then that sort of puts everyone at risk.”
However, president of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN), Tasha David, said immunisations can have adverse effects on individuals.
“I personally have six vaccine-injured kids and it feels like my children don’t exist in this country,” she said.
“I’m not saying it’s an issue for everyone else’s children, but obviously if it’s for mine, then there may be other families out there that have issues too.”
Dr Harper agreed that some individuals have medical or allergic reasons which prevent them from being vaccinated, but said these people were a small minority.
He also said there was no evidence of long-term, vaccine-related health concerns, like autism.
“There might be some reactions that might be stronger than others, but when we’ve looked at the large data… there hasn’t really been any evidence to suggest that,” he said.
“The benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh any risks, and the benefits as a community certainly outweigh the risks as an individual.”
The recent debate about the safety of vaccinations has developed in response to tougher “no jab, no pay” rules proposed by the government earlier this month.
Currently, parents who receive certain government benefits are denied an end-of-year supplement if they refuse to vaccinate their children, but new laws will mean their welfare payments are cut by $38 a fortnight instead.
Ms David has called the proposed laws “financial coercion”.
“These policies that the government are putting through are not protecting children, it’s not about children,” she said.
“They’re using financial means to attack parents… by taking away free and informed consent.”
Despite resistance from some members of the anti-vaccination movement, immunisation rates have risen since the original “no jab, no pay” laws were introduced in January 2016, according to Social Services Minister Christian Porter.