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Response to 'No Forced Vaccines' press release

‘No Forced Vaccines’ media release (Friday, 10 June 2011) perpetuates a number of anti-vaccination myths, potentially putting more children’s lives at risk and increasing the burden on our already stretched health system.

Immunisation is a free choice in New Zealand, with such decisions requiring a good understanding of both the disease and the vaccine. The press release from ‘No Forced Vaccines’ does not help in either regard, glossing over the real risks of measles by describing it as ‘usually benign’, ‘posing little risk’ and ‘a normal childhood illness’.

Measles was a ‘normal childhood illness’ before the moon landing in 1969. ‘Normal’ does not translate to ‘posing little risk’. It claimed on average ten lives a year in NZ prior to 1969, with a similar amount of children left with long term ongoing problems such as brain damage. Polio was also a ‘normal’ illness in the mid 20th Century that claimed thousands of lives. I doubt the two families whose children are currently hospitalised would agree measles is ‘usually benign’. Thirty percent of those with measles experience complications including diarrhoea, ear infections and pneumonia.

I also doubt that most families are happy to take a 1 in 1,000 gamble that their child will die should they contract measles. As recently as 1991, a measles epidemic of 7000 cases claimed 7 lives in New Zealand.

Keeping non-immune children away from school is one way of reducing the spread of this highly contagious illness. Auckland Regional Public Health provide clear guidelines to keep children at home and away from ALL social, sporting, cultural groups or events.

Claiming that such a policy is based upon ‘corporate profit’ is tired conspiracy theory drivel. If no such measures were taken and measles was allowed to spread, the resulting illness, disability and death would not be seen as acceptable. There is very clear evidence of this in many international examples.

No Forced Vaccines claim that IMAC is somehow in the pharmaceutical industry’s pocket is incorrect and insulting. We have strong relationships with all those involved in immunisation and child health, that includes Well Child, Midwives, health professionals, Plunket and of course all vaccine manufacturers. The vast bulk of our funding comes from the Ministry of Health and non-pharma research grants such as the Health Research Council. On occasions for specific events , research projects or specific materials IMAC does accepts financial assistance from industry, but with clearly defined ethical guidelines and specific limitations on how that funding is used . Examples include sponsorship for conferences and research projects related to comparing different vaccine performance. There is absolutely no way that our fact sheets or web site content is in anyway moderated by the pharmaceutical industry: Insinuating that potential side effects are ‘omitted’ based upon this, is untrue. Our fact sheets are written with a lay audience in mind, and in the case of vaccines we provide the most common and most serious known potential side effects. IMAC also ensures it has Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting System (TAPS) approval for all material intend for parents or caregivers. This demonstrates honest, ethical and responsible use of medical information. Ms Smith is welcome to provide her own personal opinions regarding the use of paracetamol and vitamins. However we would strongly recommend that parents take the advice of health professionals concerning the care of their sick children, based on clear medical evidence.

Her final assertions that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism has so thoroughly been disproven, that we hope refuting such claims is no longer required.

It is salutary to remember that every credible international organisation and every country in the world recommends a measles vaccination programme for their children. The weight of the evidence is somewhat overwhelming!

Theo Brandt
Communications Manager
Immunisation Advisory Centre
The University of Auckland


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