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It might have only been a letter to the editor, but it introduced me to the paper and got my foot in the door for writing feature articles.
Oberon's safe children
A year ago I moved from Wentworth Falls to Oberon, a distance of 40 kilometres in a straight line or about 80k by road. Apart from fewer days with fog and more days with snow, there is a remarkable difference between the two towns - the rates of childhood vaccination.
Figures have been released this week by the National Health Performance Authority showing the rate of vaccination in postcodes across the country. The upper Blue Mountains has the third lowest rate in Australia (behind the North Coast of New South Wales and Parramatta). The percentage of fully immunised children in the Wentworth Falls postcode for 1, 2 and 5 year-olds was 78.9%, 80.6% and 86.8% respectively. Note that these are the figures for 2014 to 2015. The rates may improve following recent changes to legislation restricting access to childcare and certain government benefits for unvaccinated children.
The good news is that the rates for those three groups in Oberon are 93.1%, 92.7% and 93.0%. Parents of children in Oberon should be congratulated for the responsible way that they care for the health of their children, and for the health of children who for reasons of age or medical condition cannot be vaccinated.
It is always amazed me that there are people who deny the benefits of vaccination, which aside from refrigeration and the provision of clean water has saved more lives than any other invention in human history. The influence of vaccine deniers has been declining over the last few years, and the practice of media outlets eliciting comments from anti-vaccination campaigners on any vaccine related issue is almost extinct. Unfortunately, one outlet gave a voice to someone with an anti-vaccine agenda to comment on these new numbers. She was introduced as "mother of four vaccine damaged children" but she forgot to mention that she is also the president of Australia's most prominent and vociferous anti-vaccination organisation. Apparently this detail wasn't thought to be important. I hope I live to see the day when these people aren't simply ignored but are subjected to the ridicule that they deserve.
Again, congratulations to the parents of the children of Oberon. You are doing the right thing.
This letter was published in the Oberon Review on February 25, 2016
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