opinion

Anti–vaxxers are organising vaccine-free parties in public places. Should we be worried?

If you were planning on visiting Melbourne Zoo this Wednesday you might want to re-think your visit after a group of anti-vaxxers have arranged a “meet-up” of unvaccinated children.

The zoo meeting comes a month after a Brisbane mother was slammed for advertising a chickenpox party on Facebook.

She asked other other anti-vaccination parents to gather at the zoo on Wednesday.

A Melbourne mother advertised the event on a Facebook group on Saturday, inviting other anti-vaccination parents to gather at the zoo on Wednesday.

She proposed that the event be moved to next weekend — when hundreds of families are likely to pack the zoo — if too many parents were working.

“Out of bad things great things happen,” the post said.

“I so want to put this on council websites as an event for anti-vaccine Moms (sic) and bubs catch up.”

Others are trying to use social media to warn parents with young children of the potential for danger is they visit the zoo.

“Hi there. Just a heads up, a major anti vaccination group are discussing holding a meet at your Melbourne Zoo this coming Wednesday 13th or the following Sat. This is the same group that discussed and planned the 'chicken pox party'. Please be aware that this will be a large group of unvaccinated people who could cause a huge health concern.”

In a statement on their Facebook page Melbourne Zoo said: “The zoo is a public facility and open to everyone wishing to come to enjoy our wonderful wildlife”.

Watch a reminder from comedians Penn and Teller about how important getting vaccinated is. Post continues after video.

Video via UltraMiraculous
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But Acting Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told The Herald Sun said it was “completely irresponsible” for parents to fail to vaccinate.

In 2014 a large measles breakout that affected more than 100 people, and spread across the US, Canada and Mexico, was linked to a similar public facility - Disneyland.

While some doctors have said that the dangers for patrons are limited others have pointed out that in 2014 a large measles breakout that affected more than 100 people, and spread across the US, Canada and Mexico, was linked to a similar public facility - Disneyland.

The outbreak saw 147 people in the U.S fall ill. The highly contagious disease surfaced at Disney theme parks and spread to a half-dozen U.S. states, Mexico and Canada.

Many who fell ill in the Disneyland episode were not immunised against measles. Some cited personal reasons for refusing vaccinations.

While the number of anti-vaxxers is actually declining since the government announced the No Jab, No Play rules – that came into effect on January 1 – there are still concerning levels of vaccine deniers in Melbourne.

There are still concerning levels of vaccine deniers in Melbourne.

In September it was revealed that even before the policy came into affect it was a success with the number of conscientious objectors falling by over 5,000 since December 2014 to 34,063 to a new low.

The laws mean that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids will be denied up to $15,000 a year in childcare rebates and welfare and the ‘‘conscientious ­objector’’ loophole will be closed. Previously this allowed parents with an objection to vaccination to opt out. The rules will not apply when there is a proven medical reason for not vaccinating.

Parents who fail to immunise their children will no longer be paid the $200-a-week childcare benefit, the $7500-a-year childcare rebate or the $726 Family Tax Benefit A annual supplement.

It’s only fair that the public who do the responsible thing and vaccinate their children are warned of the potential risks.

But despite hitting the anti-vaxxers where it hurts, data from the National Health Performance Authority reveals a cluster of bayside and inner-south suburbs, including South Yarra, Toorak, Brighton, Elwood, Prahran, St Kilda and Hampton, where as many as two in 10 children are not immunised.

If this week’s “anti-vaxxer” party at the zoo goes ahead it could be a potential health risk should any of the children attending carry dangerous diseases like chickenpox or measles.

It’s only fair that the public who do the responsible thing and vaccinate their children are warned of the potential risks.