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Mandatory vaccinations

By Helen Lobato - posted Tuesday, 23 December 2008


This coming year may well see an end to my long period of employment as a nurse.

In 2009, the Victorian Department of Health Services will release their mandatory vaccination program for all health care workers. The compulsory program includes vaccines for diptheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, influenza and tuberculosis. Failure to comply will mean an end to one’s employment as nurse, doctor or allied health worker.

This draconian policy, has supposedly been developed, due to an unsubstantiated fear, that nurses will transmit these infectious diseases to their patients, in spite of the fact, that there have been no recorded incidents of unvaccinated nurses, passing on diseases in this way. There is currently a severe shortage of nurses and doctors, and such a policy might just make matters worse, with those not complying, no longer able to work in the health system.

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Upon the implementation of this policy, individual freedom to accept, or refuse a medical treatment is seriously at risk, as are the rights of workers who refuse vaccination to retain employment. It remains to be seen how many doctors, nurses and allied health workers will comply with this policy, which is already in use in New South Wales and Queensland. One NSW nurse who has refused vaccination is challenging the policy and her case is due to be heard in the courts within weeks.

The issue of compulsory vaccination has been discussed within the medical profession and by David Isaacs who, writing in the British Medical Journal, discusses whether it is ethical and good practice, to make immunisation mandatory.

The state sometimes exerts benign paternalism to coerce personal choice. Examples are the mandatory use of seat belts or of motorcycle helmets, where the infringement of autonomy is justified by the effect on public health, and where the intervention poses little or no harm to the individual and has been proved to save lives. But it is not clear that this applies to immunisation of healthcare workers. For mandatory immunisation to be acceptable it would have to be effective, not harmful, feasible, and have no alternative.

A professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead, NSW, David Isaacs concludes that mandatory immunisation of all healthcare workers, is an excessive infringement on autonomy, relative to its potential benefits. Isaacs states that for compulsory vaccination policy to be acceptable it has to be effective and cause no harm and must be indispensable.

In order to discuss whether vaccinations are effective, indispensable, and of no harm, we need to understand just what a vaccine is, and how it is supposed to work.

First, let’s look at what happens when we come in contact with a virus or bacteria. When we suffer a disease naturally, the virus or bacteria travels through the nose or mouth into the lungs, and into the circulatory and lymphatic systems, providing antibody protection. However when we vaccinate by injecting concentrated pathogenic micro organisms directly into the body, the natural defence system is bypassed and the immunity is very short lived.

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Vaccines can contain live viruses, and in fact, five out of these ten compulsory vaccines do contain live virus material. Live virus vaccines can sometimes infect the recipient, and even infect those in close contact such as immuno-compromised patients. For example, the MMR - the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine - contains live viruses. There have been reports of children presenting with fevers, a few days after vaccination with a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Measles virus was isolated in throat swabs taken four days after fever onset. This virus was then further genetically characterised as a vaccine-type virus. In the same way, the hospital patient could be at risk from a recently vaccinated staff member.

Regarding the safety of these mandated vaccines there are grave doubts. In fact, these vaccines have not been the subject of established medical scientific testing.

The gold standard of science, which is the double blind trial, where one group of people is given the drug or vaccine, and the other a placebo, has not been performed for vaccinations. Vaccines contain various toxic ingredients such as mercury, aluminium and formaldehyde. The fact that vaccines can cause harmful side effects has been acknowledged recently by the United States Federal Government, which conceded in 2000, that a 19-month-old child became autistic after being given his childhood vaccines.

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About the Author

Helen Lobato is an independent health researcher and radio broadcaster with community radio 3cr and at present is a co-producer of Food fight, a weekly program around food security issues. Helen has a background in critical care nursing.

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