Lorna Subritzky: Elected officials should not push anti-vax agenda

Lorna Subritzky,
Publish Date
Sunday, 31 March 2019, 10:33AM
Hamilton city councillor Siggi Henry on Friday night wore an anti-vaccine shirt to an autism event. (Photo / File)

A medical researcher says it's a good idea to keep unvaccinated children away from school as 37 cases of measles have been identified in Canterbury.

Sir David Skegg said children who haven't been vaccinated shouldn't be going to school.

"I think it would be wise if [unvaccinated children] didn't go to school in Christchurch, because it does look as if there's considerable spread occurring."

More than 30,000 doses of the MMR vaccine have been distributed in a bid to get on top of the outbreak.

However, Sir David says it's a bottom of the cliff approach.

Now unvaccinated children are not a problem limited solely to NZ. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pinpointed "vaccine hesitancy" as one of the 10 biggest global health threats for 2019.

An unvaccinated French boy is suspected of reintroducing measles to Costa Rica after the Central American country had been free of the disease for five years. 

Earlier this month, Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in the UK, blamed "fake news" by so-called anti-vaxxers on social media for fuelling a tripling in measles cases, with 913 infections recorded in England between January and October last year, compared with 259 in all of 2017.

Despite all this, the anti-vax movement is still thriving. Any quick Google search and you’ll find a multitude of pseudo-scientific vindications for disgraced British former doctor Andrew Wakefield's bogus links between the MMR jab and autism in children, to hashtags such as #vaccineskill.

However a new Danish study, the largest of its kind conducted studying more than half a million children, has found that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination does not trigger or increase the risk of autism in children. 

Which makes Siggi Henry’s actions all the more ill-conceived. She’s the Hamilton City Councillor who wore an anti-vaccine t-shirt to an autism awareness event on Friday night. Now Ms Henry says she didn't mean to cause offence – but she is defending her anti-vaccination views, saying many parents are too accepting of medical advice.

Now I’m a firm believer in respecting others opinions, as long as they’re not rammed down my throat as facts. But when you are representing ratepayers in an official capacity, this kind of grandstanding IS offensive, no matter what the councillor’s intentions. It’s a slap in the face for parents of autistic children, a slap in the face for scientists and medical experts, and a slap in the face for all New Zealanders given the current measles outbreak which is not yet contained.

Believe whatever nonsense you like, Ms Henry, wear the T-shirt in your spare time - but don’t use your elected position to insult the vast majority of us who accept the science and are wanting to do the best, not just for our children but for our society. I firmly believe the Hamilton City Council should officially censure Ms Henry for her actions on Friday night.

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