* This post has been updated, 18th July 2014.

Each week I get asked to join Seven’s Sunrise panel to discuss various topical issues of the morning. This morning I was asked to comment on a news item that reported parents in Sydney’s wealthy suburbs were putting their kids’ lives at risk by choosing not to get them vaccinated. I went on air shortly after 8:30…

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In the notes handed to me a little before I went on air, I was told Kochie would be asking me about the basis of the anti-vax movement’s argument. What was their premise? On air Kochie referred to the news item, mentioning that one of the reasons for the phenomenon was that wealthy parents miss the vaccination schedule due to being on holidays, and he asked for my thoughts. And so it was I waded into quite the storm.

Sarah Wilson creates controversy after she appears to back anti-vaccine movement

I felt I should respond to some of the claims being made and answer the questions being asked on Twitter.

I’m going to be frank, however. I’m pushed for time today. And I’m not very well. Plus, it’s a topic that I’m not an expert in, nor does it touch me directly. And so I haven’t researched it as far as I might another topic that I would normally elect to speak out on.

But I don’t like leaving issues hanging, and I’d like to stamp out any confusion that could certainly be causing some parents upset. Below I share whether I would vaccinate my kids. But first…

* I was called on to share the reasons why some parent’s don’t vax their kids.

I managed to do some quick Googling before going on set to see if there had been any studies on this in Australia. It strikes me as really odd that parents would skip something as important as vaccinations simply because they were on holidays that day. And, surely, given it’s such an important topic, with so much parental engagement, I’d have thought schools would have contingency plans in place for parents who miss the schedule (if they aren’t actively anti-vax). Ergo, I displayed skepticism and shared some thoughts I’d come across online that suggested there were a number of other reasons for the phenomenon. An Australian study (albeit an old one) found that: “Older, highly educated parents form the basis of the [sic] anti-immunisation lobby”. More here, here and here. I shared this on air, in answer to the question.

* Do I have kids? No.

I say this upfront before discussing any topic like this, and did so this morning, too. I don’t want anyone to think I fully understand the challenges parents face with these kind of decisions. I’ll be frank.

I have an immune disease that means I can’t have kids. Very sadly.

* Am I personally anti-vax? No.

As I said this morning, “I’m not going to take a stance on this myself because I don’t know fully”.  It’s a topic I’m not wholly abreast of. It’s a complex one.

 I don’t like professing to “know” if I simply do not. I won’t speak out on it. Instead I engage in the debate and absorb, absorb, absorb.

If I could have kids, I’d probably look into the topic further.

And I’ll stress what I clarified this morning on air: “I’m just putting it from the perspective of the anti-vaccination movement’s perspective.” As asked.

* Full disclosure: the anti-vax argument does has some relevance to me.

One of the arguments put forward by anti-vax parents is that there is no conclusive proof that vaccinations don’t cause their own set of ills – both short and longterm. Indeed, in the US there is a vaccine injury compensation fund that has paid out millions of dollars to the vaccine-damaged. There have been links made between vaccinations and immune dysfunction, particularly autism, however, the original science that many people refer to has been significantly debunked recently.

I’m alive to these factors in the debate due to my own immune disorder. I live every day with a debilitating condition which, I’ve been told, could be linked to exposure to a range of modern toxins and stressors. Nobody knows for sure and adequate testing of various suspected factors is not possible due to funding and control factors. I live with the doubt hanging over my head.

I personally choose to focus on managing my health as best as I can, rather than looking for conclusive answers and reasons.

I share this, possibly to explain why I have an interest in looking into the other side of the debate. Engaging, questioning.

I also have a friend whose child had an extreme immune reaction to one lot of vaccinations.

Interestingly, in New York a family made news today for not vaccinating their daughter because doing so would risk killing her baby sister. Another layer to the debate.

My friend – a doctor – and I have discussed the issue a few times. Some of the stuff raised in these chats:

Are there particularly vulnerable groups (i.e. those with atopic genes, compromised immune systems etc) who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of vaccines, that should not be vaccinated?

Is the current spacing of vaccines (i.e. a lot at once) the right approach?

Do we need to know more about how to get the widespread benefits of vaccines without putting ourselves and our children at risk?

All good questions and points that are worthy of a full discussion given it’s such an important topic to us all.

* The science stuff

Without a doubt, 100 per cent conclusive (double blind, crossover, placebo etc)  evidence that vaxing is completely safe doesn’t exist. It can’t. I made this point on air. It would be unethical to conduct such a trial. But once again, this is what anti-vax parents question and raise.

Yes, there are countless studies showing that vaccinations control diseases and outbreaks that can kill children. And there are countless studies that point to outbreaks of infections in communities where a high proportion of kids were vaccinated (eg: the whooping cough outbreak in South Australia – 87% of those who contracted it were vaccinated). And there are countless counterpoints to this phenomenon, too.

* Bottomline… should kids be vaccinated?

I’ll cut to it. The factor that really strikes me as key here is that I live in a society where most parents vaccinate their kids. They do so because it’s commonly held that the more kids vaccinated, the safer our community. Vaccinations only really work if everyone does it. One in, all in. I respect that. To this end, I’d vaccinate.

I’m happy for anyone to comment below. I just ask that things be kept respectful, gentle and balanced. And that assumptions are not made. Cool?




Have your say, leave a comment.

  • TrickyK2

    I have lupus (another autoimmune disease) and I can’t have kids. It’s because the body produces antibodies against itself and sees the fetus as a foreign body. I’m not allowed to have IVF either as I also have a clotting disorder – Antiphospolipid syndrome. And I had a brain haemorrhage because of it too. I’d have loved kids, many. I’m a midwife and baby whisperer. I have a blog at loopylena.blogspot.com where you can read all about it.

  • Jen

    Just recently stumbled across the clip of you from this episode of Sunrise, and wanted to say thank you. Given you don’t have a personal connection with the issue (though potentially the immune disease), it was very kind and brave of you to point out that people who don’t vaccinate might have reasons other than holidays, and to highlight what those reasons might be. You did a great job. My loved one is severely brain damaged from an adverse reaction when he was a toddler, and now as an adult, he still functions at the level of a toddler. His reaction was what’s referred to as a ‘table injury’ in the U.S. for their government vaccine injury compensation program, meaning it is a known and acknowledged reaction. The only debate is how rare it is. Those who don’t vaccinate often think that disability or death by measles is less likely than disability or death by vaccine. Many who do vaccinate believe that the diseases pose a greater risk, but they know there are some risks with the vaccines. Many rampant pro-vaccine individuals refuse to acknowledge the harm of any child, even those compensated by other governments, or court cases. We could debate all day how rare the reactions are, but at the end of the day, every doctor and scientist (and lawyer and politician) worth there money are aware of the medical and scientific fact that some minority are harmed by vaccination. For those individuals, and those of us around them, it brings such a warmth to us to hear anyone speak up in any capacity, when others try to pretend we don’t exist, or sum up our loved ones suffering into “well they don’t vaccinate because they’re on a holiday.”

    I won’t vaccinate my future kids because every mainstream doctor and medical establishment spends more of their time denying the adverse reactions than counting them up to give me the actual risk/benefit analysis of vaccinating. I would bring my own vaccinations up to date, and vaccinate my future kids in a heartbeat if I was presented with fully independent and high quality science, that isn’t rebuked in 30 other independent and high quality studies, that showed the benefits outweigh the risks.

  • sciencebehindthephoto
  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    Perhaps you would change your mind if you knew that vaccines caused your own immune deficiency. Perhaps you would change your mind if you knew that Dr Andrew Wakefield’s work was NOT debunked, and years later (after his life was turned upside down of course) pharma is now creating an “autism vaccine” to help ease the gastrointestinal issues associated with ASD patients. Sound familiar? Exactly what Wakefield found. He was never antivax back then. He wanted to go back to the safer alternative which was not using the combo MMR shot, but rather separating it. They blackballed him because parents were requesting the safer alternative for their kids (rightfully so) and it costs more to eliminate the dangerous combo shot. So instead of taking parents concerns, and the concerns of educated, experienced doctors they took the option to separate the MMR off the table, and kicked Wakefield out of medical practice and out of his own country. Perhaps you would change your mind if you took the time to research these diseases (Measles, smallpox, chickenpox, polio, mumps, rubella, tetanus, etc) and realize that a) none of these diseases were eradicated from the world due to vaccine use. b) NONE of these diseases posed a threat to society as a whole. In fact Measles less than 1% (0.01% to be more accurate) were ever harmed in the prevaccine era. Polio in 95-99% of cases were ASYMPTOMATIC which means, people got it, didn’t even know they had it and got over it without harm. In the 1-5% that DID experience paralysis most got full movement back and had no ill affect thereafter. Tetanus, is not contagious so to say that we NEED to vaccinate against this to protect others is rubbish. It’s also VERY difficult to contract tetanus even in the most accommodating of circumstances. IF you contract it, there is a very readily accessible medical treatment with a very high success rate available. When it comes to this, and whooping cough and flu….if you don’t gain life long immunity from the natural disease exposure therefore logic tells you that it’s impossible to gain immunity from a vaccine either. I won’t even touch on chickenpox, mumps or rubella…I mean common sense shows you this along with Measles were COMMON normal childhood BENIGN disease that we all got as kids and lived to tell about it. Again, the chances of being harmed by any one of these diseases are far less than the chance of being harmed or killed by vaccines. Ever wonder, in this day and age with all the technological advances, we have answers to just about anything EXCEPT for vaccine induced injuries and deaths? Anytime you have something happen within hours/days of vaccines it will always been deemed as “unexplained” SIDS (unexplained death) Autism (unexplained) ADHD (unexplained) Teens dropping dead or becoming paralyzed (a mysterious disease) Even shaken baby syndrome….this occurrence has skyrocketed over the last few decades. The triad of symptoms in legit SBS cases also show in vaccine induced SBS cases (bleeding behind the eyes, brain swelling, hemorrhaging, even fractures can all be scientifically explained by being caused by vaccines) is THAT a risk worth taking? Everyone is provax until they are personally affected. Collateral damage is always acceptable until it’s YOUR CHILD-then you become educated and the whole world turns on you. This isn’t new…..parents have been opposing vaccines since it’s inception when it killed and harmed their children back then too. Look up Ragdedy Ann and how shes connected to the antivax movement. Perhaps you will change your mind once you dig a little further! Good luck

  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    Side effect of MMR vaccine:

    Body as a Whole
    Panniculitis; atypical measles; fever; syncope; headache; dizziness; malaise; irritability.

    Cardiovascular System

    Digestive System
    Pancreatitis; diarrhea; vomiting; parotitis; nausea.

    Endocrine System
    Diabetes mellitus.

    Hemic and Lymphatic System
    Thrombocytopenia, purpura; regional lymphadenopathy;

    Immune System
    Anaphylaxis and anaphylactoid reactions have been reported as well as related phenomena such as
    angioneurotic edema (including peripheral or facial edema) and bronchial spasm

    Musculoskeletal System

    Arthritis; arthralgia; myalgia.
    Arthralgia and/or arthritis (usually transient and rarely chronic), and polyneuritis have also been reported following administration of MERUVAX II. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE); Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS);
    acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM); transverse myelitis; febrile convulsions; afebrile
    convulsions or seizures; ataxia; polyneuritis; polyneuropathy; ocular palsies; paresthesia.

    Respiratory System
    Pneumonia; pneumonitis, sore throat; cough; rhinitis.

    Stevens-Johnson syndrome; erythema multiforme; urticaria; rash; measles-like rash; pruritis.

    Local reactions including burning/stinging at injection site; wheal and flare; redness (erythema);
    swelling; induration; tenderness; vesiculation at injection site.

    Special Senses — Ear
    Nerve deafness; otitis media.

    Special Senses — Eye
    Retinitis; optic neuritis; papillitis; retrobulbar neuritis; conjunctivitis.

    Urogenital System
    Epididymitis; orchitis.

    Deaths have been reported following
    vaccination with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines.


    • Guest

      It’s not a valid point if it’s not validated with facts.

  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    So what you just wrote says, vaccines aren’t working. They need to look at a different approach. Therefore outbreaks are NOT the fault of the unvaccinated. Cheryl was right!

  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    You said your friend has other children, how many and what ages?

  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    I hope after 2yrs your wife is still thriving! Now it being 2yrs after you posted this, and seeing many years after Wakefield told the truth about his observations and link between autism and gastrointestinal issues after receiving the MMR vaccine, pharma is now creating an “autism vaccine” to help ease the gastrointestinal issues associated with ASD patients….does this not make you mad? That how many years ago were we warned, and instead of putting this fine doctor on a pedestal, they instead silenced him, took his medical license away, kicked him out of his own country…..did a fine job (as you so elegantly put it) at “debunking” him…..to now admit he was right, but instead of apologizing and giving his life back, in turn make a very profitable vaccine to treat what vaccines caused in the first place? Please tell me this makes you mad as hell!

  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    Which unvaccinated child gave you the mumps? Why were you not educated enough (or told by your trusted medical doctor) that ALL your shots wear off after 5-7yrs? Would you not had rather got mumps as a child when it’s NORMAL and benign? Would you not had rather not gone through a CHILDHOOD disease when you were an adult? Why are you mad at antivaxxers that are pushing to have all these childhood diseases brought back to where they belong and are less dangerous- IN CHILDHOOD! You should be made at a) your stupid provax parents who weren’t educated enough to know mumps is benign in childhood and took that right away from you. b) yourself for following in your stupid parents footsteps and now have this false sense of security that it’s not that we need to be vaccinated….it’s that we need to keep REvaccinating ourselves our whole lives instead of getting a disease ONCE during a time that is less dangerous. I mean to you hear yourself? and c) your doctor, government and society as a whole who are so dumb downed by being so over vaccinated that you cannot think logically for yourself. Good luck with all your shots, lets hope you are smart enough to quarantine yourself after each live virus vaccine (look them up as I’m sure you haven’t a clue which ones those are) for at least 21-28 days as you are the one who are walking around as disease vectors through a little thing called SHEDDING!!

  • Melissa NoVax Warrior

    HAHAHA try actually looking at 3rd world countries right now. Those parents are refusing vaccines too, do you know why? BECAUSE BILL GATES HAS CAUSED 40K CASES OF PARALYSIS/DEATHS in just ONE YEAR!

  • Oliver

    Easy when you don’t have them(progeny) isn’t it. Must say you ducked and wove without damning yourself one way or the other so good on you. One of the biggest issues we as a society are grappling with here is a lack of logical/rational thinking ability and understanding of the aspects of science on which consensus has been reached. Very hard to have a rational debate when so many of us absorb our knowledge from the mass media soundbite. “The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.” – Thomas Huxley

  • Oliver

    Gender based responses will be overlooked

  • Oliver

    at least there’s some thought and effort in that direction
    being shown. Very positive imo

  • Oliver

    I could bombard you with science but I’ve got to say, listen to your heart. If you’re in tune with it making a wrong decision is harder

  • Oliver

    I would suggest catechism.

  • Faina Dobrenko

    In third world countries children die from everything. Rotovirus is a death sentence, because they don’t have clean water, good food or reliable shelter. And they are often overpopulated. In first world countries, however, things like measles have been successfully treated for 100 years. Something like 90% of kids under 5 have had a confirmed case of rotovirus, with no deaths. Your argument is the perfect example of the fear mongering that is being used to tell people how dangerous these diseases are.