Michael Leunig is at it again.
This time he has published a ‘cartoon’ claiming vaccination is enforced “mass medication” and labeling pro-immunisation legislation a “Fascist epiphany”. The Victorian legislation, which he is commenting on, will require children to be fully immunised before they attend childcare or kindergarten. It exempts children who cannot be immunised for medical reasons (and there are very few who would qualify for that).
In previous ‘cartoons’, Leunig has implied that a mother’s instincts might protect her children against vaccination.
I have three children and have been a GP for over 30 years. Anyone who knows me is very aware that I have highly developed protective instincts for my family, my friends and for my patients.
I am also deeply involved in integrative medicine where I look at the evidence supporting medical and complementary therapies to assess what treatments are best and safest in healthcare. I am constantly looking at the available evidence for risks and benefits of immunisation and I unequivocally believe that the benefit outweighs any risk for individuals and for populations. That is pretty much unanimous amongst my medical colleagues, and the vast majority of Australian parents agree too. As of May 2015, 92.16% of Australian children at the age of five years are fully immunised.
These Leunig works may be framed as cartoons but they are not funny. Nor are they just benign amusement. The preventable diseases in the childhood immunisation schedule are highly contagious and very dangerous.
Childhood immunisation is not just about protecting the child who is being immunised either. If a child or a vulnerable adult catches a disease like measles or pertussis or diphtheria, they could die.
By keeping the number of children who are protected from these infections as high as possible, we are reducing the likelihood of the spread of those diseases.
My own grandparents lost their first child to a vaccine-preventable disease, so for as long as I can remember my family narrative has been one of appreciation for immunisation and a case of “if only it had been available back then…”.