The mum behind Light for Riley asks: is Pauline Hanson's apology too little, too late?

Catherine Hughes is the director of The Immunisation Foundation Australia and founder of Light for Riley, an awareness campaign launched in memory of her newborn son who died of whooping cough in 2015. He was just 32 days old.

After widespread condemnation from health experts and advocates around the country, Senator Pauline Hanson has today apologised for her remarks on vaccination.

While it takes courage to admit when you’ve made a mistake, I wonder about the damage that her statements may have already caused.

pauline hanson apology for vaccination comments
Catherine and Riley in one of the only photographs they have together. Image: Facebook.

Vaccine-hesitant parents are sensitive to the concerns spread about vaccination by people in respected positions.

Is her apology a case of too little, too late?

A quick refresher of Senator Hanson’s stance on vaccination: Within the last year or so, she has highlighted her concerns that vaccines might be linked with autism (a theory that has been thoroughly studied, and found to be entirely untrue).

She has said she would “think twice” about vaccinating her own children, and has encouraged parents to do their “own research” on the issue.

She labelled the ‘No Jab No Policy’ as blackmail, and likened the situation to a “dictatorship”.

I can tell you this without any seed of doubt: Senator Hanson has been targeted. She has been bombarded with emails and letters, social media comments and phone calls from anti-vaccine lobby groups.

Pauline Hanson on ABC Insiders. (Image via ABC.)

Aware she might have a sympathetic ear to their dangerous cause, they have fed her a mixture of lies, deceit, and some genuinely confused parental concern.

Here lies the problem with “doing your own research”: it can cause you to jump to all the wrong conclusions.

Doing "your own research” on vaccination must not just involve listening to other parents (including me). It must not consist of Googling, or reading the easy-to-read sections of cherry-picked studies.

In Hanson’s case, doing her “own research” on vaccination should not have involved putting unwarranted trust in the (mis)information she’s received from the anti-vaccine lobby.

As Hanson admitted today, if you really want to do your own research you should speak to a doctor. That is what she should have done, and this is what she must continue to do in the future.

perth couple lost baby to whooping cough
Catherine and her husband say goodbye to Riley. Via Facebook.

I am not sure yet whether her apology is the real deal, or simply damage control before an upcoming state election; I guess only time will tell.

Will she now choose to engage with real vaccination experts instead of the anti-vaccination lobby?

I certainly hope so – because perpetuating anti-vaccination myths could ultimately cost lives.

What do you think - is Pauline Hanson's apology too little, too late?