The report on TV3 news on April 24 that health officials are using social media to promote vaccination to teenagers, and then vaccinate underage teenagers without their parents' consent, "should ring serious alarm bells", says Katherine Smith, spokeswoman for No Forced Vaccines.
"Parents make decisions about vaccination with the best interests of their child at heart, taking into account issues such as family history and lifestyle factors that may make some people more or less likely to develop particular illnesses" Smith says, adding that parents' decisions regarding their children's health "need to be respected."
In contrast, Smith says: "Someone whose job it is to promote vaccination through social media will not know the child's or family medical history that may indicate that a teenager they are targeting may be at a higher risk than normal of having an adverse reaction to a vaccine."
Moreover, she adds that if underage teenagers are vaccinated by someone other than their family doctor or practice nurse, the health professsional who gives the vaccination is unlikely to have enough information about the child's personal or family history to know whether or not the child is a good candidate for vaccination.
"If parents have decided not to allow their child to have a certain vaccine because he or she had an adverse reaction to a previous vaccination as a baby or toddler, they might not necessarily have shared that with their teenager - or if they did, their teenager may have forgotten."
In the event that an underage teenager is vaccinated without their parents' consent and suffers serious side effects, "it is the teenager and their parents who will have to live with the problems," Smith says.
"We expect parents to love and protect their children and take responsibility for their children's health and development by ensuring they eat a nutritious diet, get enough exercise and sleep, and expect parents support their children to succeed in school and often extra curricular activities as well." Smith continues, adding that "when parents neglect or abuse their children, the public is understandably outraged."
"That the decision of responsible, caring parents not to allow a child to have one or more vaccinations out of concern that the vaccination could cause serious side effects is now being so grossly undermined by our public health authorities should be a matter of national shame."
Until such a policy has abandoned, Smith says, parents who have chosen for their children not to have a particular vaccine because of concern about its potential health risks, or for any other reason "should talk to their children and explain why they made that decision."
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