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Programme shows importance of informed vaccination decisions

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Programme shows importance of informed vaccination decisions

Ian Sinclair's story on this week's Sunday programme "highlights the importance of New Zealand parents being able to make free and informed decisions about vaccination" says Katherine Smith. Smith is the spokeswoman for No Forced Vaccines, an organisation set up to oppose coerced or forced vaccinations.

"Most children manage to cope with the routine vaccination schedule without suffering any discernible long term effects," Smith says. "Unfortunately, as the Sunday programme story vividly illustrated, the health of a small minority of children can be severely damaged by vaccinations."

Cases like that of Brittany Collins who had a severe reaction after being vaccinated against whooping cough and is now brain damaged and confined to a wheelchair demonstrate the importance of parents being properly informed about the risks of vaccinations so that they can make an informed choice about this medical procedure, Smith asserts.

"Unfortunately," Smith continues, "While ACC has compensated children because they have suffered terrible vaccine damage, Ministry of Health publications for parents such as the booklet 'Immunisation Choices' omits most of the risks of the vaccines that are recommended for NZ children."

According to Smith it is "impossible" for parents to make an informed choice regarding vaccination if they rely on Ministry of Health produced information materials alone. When asked what sort of information sources she would recommend to parents who want to make an informed decision she said:

"I suggest to parents that a good start is to read the manufacturer's datasheet for any vaccine that they are considering for their children. These are available on Medsafe's website and list the adverse effects that may occur within a short time frame following vaccination."

She cautions that longer term adverse effects that are linked to some vaccines, such as autism or diabetes are not acknowledged by vaccine manufacturers, making it desirable to do further reading and research about controversial topics.

"It's important to be discerning when using the internet as a resource for vaccination information," Smith adds. "While some sites have excellent quality, well referenced information, others are factually incorrect or have dubious claims." Bias can also be a problem with certain sites, Smith warns, even those that are maintained by government-funded organisations.

"The website of the Immunisation Advisory Centre which receives funding from the Ministry of Health and also acknowledges funding from 'private industry' is often recommended to New Zealand parents as a good source of information about vaccination." Smith says. "However, information its site (<a href="http://www.immune.org.nz">www.immune.org.nz</a>) intended for parents omits most side effects of the vaccines, so it is not a good resource for parents who want to make an informed choice about vaccinations for their children."

Problems with getting accurate information about vaccine benefits and risks pale compared to the challenges potentially facing parents in the future, if the government accepts recommendations in the Report of the Health Select Committee following its Inquiry into how to improve vaccination completion rates, Smith adds.

"Currently New Zealand parents have complete freedom of choice regarding vaccinations," Smith explains. "They can choose for their children to have all, some or none of the vaccinations recommended by the Ministry of Health. Given that it is parents and their children who have to live with the consequences if anything goes horribly wrong after vaccination, this is as it should be."

Recommendations in the Report of the Health Select Committee, Smith warns, could change this, as the report recommends that the Ministry of Health investigate the possibility of linking vaccination to "existing parental benefits" and the government is considering changing the requirement for parents to supply vaccination information for children when enrolling them at an early childhood centre or school.

The Report of the Health Select Committee states that the "required immunisation information should consist of either a certificate demonstrating that the child has received all the appropriate vaccinations, or a written statement that the parents have declined to immunise their child."

According to Smith, this appears to be designed to force parents to make an "all or nothing" choice between either their children having all recommended vaccinations or none in order to supply the documentation necessary to enroll a child in a preschool or school.

"It's important that parents are able to keep the best interests of their children's health foremost in their minds when making vaccination decisions," Smith says. "Parents shouldn't have to worry about whether or not the decisions they make regarding vaccinations might cause difficulties enrolling their children at a preschool or school - and vaccinations certainly shouldn't be linked to any government benefits as no parents should suffer financial hardship as a result of making vaccinations decisions for their children that they believe are in their children's best interests."

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