The Future


The future

Many Governments around the world have implemented different measures to increase vaccination rates. As stated earlier, countries such as Australia and America have applied measures that withdraw certain privileges should parents choose not to vaccinate their children, through the “No Jab, No Pay” program and the Californian Senate Bill 277. Other countries have applied similar tactics; Slovenia’s current policy requires mandatory vaccination for nine diseases, and Malaysia implements mass vaccination at most public schools. Though these methods have been effective in increasing vaccination rates, they can also take away one of our most basic ethical rights, the right to autonomy; that is, the right to make our own decisions.

Other countries employ different methods. Places such as Germany, France and South Africa do not force vaccinations by withdrawing privileges. They do however, recommend that parents chose to vaccinate their child, whilst also allowing them the freedom to opt out for whatever reason. Whilst this does allow parents some autonomy, it also increases the likelihood that some parents will choose not to vaccinate their children for whatever reason. This leads to herd immunity thresholds not being met and then outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases occurring.

Therefore, we suggest several possible ideas that allow both autonomy for individual parents as well as increasing rates of vaccination in order to protect the community as a whole from the devastation that these diseases can cause.

At in individual level

  • If you are already pro-vaccination, ensure that you are up to date with all your vaccines. It is always good to ensure that you are protected against these illnesses, whilst also protecting those around you. To go a step further, have an open constructive discussion with someone who is on the fence or even anti-vaccination. Don’t dismiss their opinions, listen to them and discuss you side of the argument. This helps everyone clarify facts
  • If you are sitting on the fence, go to your local medical practitioner- they are there to help! Talk about your concerns, discuss all the risks and benefits of both sides and make sure you are fully informed to make your own decision and the decision for your children.



At a community level

  • Ensure schools, day cares, community centres, doctor’s surgeries and other public places provide education to all on the risks and benefits of vaccines. This can be done through pamphlets, more in depth studies and research, and educational seminars. This information must include all evidence showing risks, adverse reactions and side effects, as well as benefits and risks from not vaccinating.



At a national level

  • Governments should work in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies to ensure full transparency of the risks vs. benefits of the vaccines they produce. This information should be widely available, along with accurate information on the risks vs. benefits of not vaccinating. This decreases the publics mistrust in the pharmaceutical industry and allows parents to make correctly informed decisions on their own.
  • Ensure that vaccines are easily accessible and at low cost to the whole community, including those in rural and remote areas. This may sound expensive for the government to cover, however more money will be saved as less people will have to access the health care system due to catching a vaccine preventable disease.



Please leave any comments below if you have any further ideas or suggestions!


The Story of Riley

One of the most common arguments brought forward by the anti-vaccination movement is, “If your vaccinations are so effective, why do you need herd immunity, aren’t you protected from the disease?”, So why is herd immunity so important?. Statistically, herd immunity is defined as when 95% or more of a population is vaccinated, why is this important? Herd immunity stops the spread of disease, due to high immunity levels within a population, herd immunity doesn’t have much of an impact on you if you are vaccinated, unfortunately the impact of the lack of herd immunity is seen on the vulnerable individuals within our society. Most often, children who are not yet able to vaccinate because the are too young. This brings us to a very sad case of death because of a lack of herd immunity, in a baby who was not yet old enough to receive his vaccination – Riley Hughes.

Riley Hughes was born on the 13th of February 2015 in Perth. This healthy and happy little boy started to display cold like symptoms and an occasional cough at the tender age of 3 weeks old, after being told he was fine by a locum doctor, his parents however knew something was not right. The next morning they took him to Princess Margaret Hospital, where his was admitted. The doctors suspected that he may have pertussis (whooping cough) and started the treatment process. On his fourth day of hospitalization, he was taken to PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) with pneumonia, with his swab tests having confirmed that he indeed had whooping cough. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff at PMH, Riley Hughes passed away in his parents arms, at just 32 days old.


Riley Hughes

His life had barely started, yet it had already come to a tragic end. There were many unfortunate factors that contributed to the death of this beautiful young boy. The first being that at the time when Catherine Hughes was pregnant with Riley, there was no booster program in place for the pertussis vaccine in Australia, programs which have seen a reduction in infant deaths by pertussis by more than 90% in the UK. The pertussis vaccine when given to pregnant mother in the third trimester, allows the transfer of precious antibodies against pertussis from the mother to the infant (before and after birth). A vaccine program that now, because of the efforts of the Hughes family have been implemented across Australia, with mothers now being given a free Pertussis booster vaccination in their third trimester of pregnancy.

The second factor that played a role in this tragic loss of life is the lack of herd immunity. This lack of herd immunity is not only caused by the anti-vaccination movement, but also the low rate of booster vaccinations. Many individuals believe that once they are vaccinated, they are protected against a disease for life, however this is not the case. Many vaccines, including pertussis, tetanus and hepatitis B require booster vaccinations periodically to maintain antibodies at a high enough level to allow immunity against the disease.

Thus vaccination is not only an individual responsibility, but a responsibility that is held towards the wider community. Our actions in whether we choose to vaccinate or not, not only impacts us but also those most vulnerable in your community.

We would like to thank Riley’s parents for allowing us to use his story to help raise awareness for the importance of vaccination in Australia. To find out more about Riley’s Story and the continuing work that his family is doing to reduce deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases at the Light for Riley Facebook page or at their website The Immunisation Foundation of Australia

If you would like to find out if you and your family are up to date with vaccinations please consult the National Immunisation Program Schedule



Vaccine Preventable Diseases

The discovery of vaccines has gone down as one of the greatest advancements of human health in history. They have dramatically reduced the incidences and mortality rates of vaccine preventable diseases for people all across the world. A hundred years ago, it was not uncommon to die from diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), measles and even the flu. Nowadays, if you are fortunate enough to live in a country that provides you with easy access to vaccines, it is highly unlikely that you will even contract these diseases.

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Figure 1: Effect of vaccines on vaccine preventable diseases. Available from:


However, this is proving to have some consequences. Much of the population in countries with high vaccination rates have not experienced the horror that these diseases can cause. Because of this, it is common for parents to only factor in the often rare adverse reactions that some of the vaccines can cause, when deciding whether to vaccinate their children. Furthermore there is an abundance of fraudulent studies and poorly conducted research available, stating various claims such as “the MMR vaccine causes Autism”, “the DTP vaccine cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” and “giving children and infants multiple vaccines will overload their immune system and increase the risk of harmful side effects”. All these factors make it easy for parents to assume that not vaccinating their child is the safer of the two options.

However, looking at the possible risk of side effects alone is not enough; it is important to look at both the risks and the benefits. Below is a summary of what disability some of the common vaccine preventable disease can produce.


Once, measles would infect up to 90% of people by the time they turned fifteen. Of those infected, up to 26 in every 1000 people would die from measles related complications. Then came the vaccine. Measles related deaths plummeted, and are still plummeting, with global measles deaths decreasing by 79% between 2000 and 2015. WHO is even aiming to eliminate this disease by the year 2020.

The measles disease is caused by a virus and typically presents with fever, runny nose, cough and red watery eyes. An inflamed rash appears and can last for up to a week. Complications can also occur and can have lasting impacts, or even lead to death; blindness, respiratory infections, diarrhoea and dehydration, earing infections and brain swelling. These complications typically effect under 5 year olds and over 20 year olds.

Globally, measles still ends in 134 200 deaths a year; that’s 15 deaths every hour! However, there is a way to reduce this figure and aid in eliminating the disease altogether; vaccinate.

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Figure 2. Imaging showing the measles rash on a young boy. Available from:


Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is a bacterium of the respiratory tract that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. People with pertussis can struggle to breathe during one of these coughing fits, resulting in the “whooping” sound characteristic of the disease. Annually, it is thought that there are 16 million cases worldwide, 195 000 of which result in death.

Below is a video of an infant girl with the debilitating disease (please turn on sound).

Sourced from Mayo Clinic (


  1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Pertussis: Countries. CDC; 2016 [Cited: 25 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  2. World Health Organisation. Fact Sheets: Measles. WHO Media Centre; 2015 2016 [Cited: 25 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  3. Orenstein W, Papania M, Wharton M. Measles Elimination in the United States. The Journal of Infectious Diseases [Internet]. 2004 [cited 25 February 2017];189(s1):S1-S3. Available from:
  4. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines: Measles. CDC;2016 [Cited: 25 Feb 2017] Available from:

If Herd Immunity is a thing, why should I vaccinate?


‘My child Abbey is coeliac, lactose intolerant, as well as being allergic to shellfish, coconut and anaphylactic to nuts. I am terrified of exposing her to something that might be directly harmful to her health. Besides, I heard that herd immunity means that she is protected anyway.’ – concerned mum.

When we have children that already suffer from relatively uncommon allergies, we tend to assume that they are the exception to every rule and the very thought of getting them immunised can become daunting and scary. In reality, the likelihood that a child like Abbey would have an allergic reaction to a vaccine is quite literally one in a million; the same probability that you will be struck by lightning within the next 12 months. Children’s immune systems are already dealing with millions of antigens (things like bacteria and viruses that trigger the body to produce antibodies) every day creating red flags ready for response on second exposure. Giving your child a vaccine is simply allowing them to red flag a few specific and nasty antigens; a process which is very natural and occurring all the time.


Figure 1Secondary Immune Response

The perception of risk, however is a powerful thing, and if the thought of giving your child a vaccine is causing anxiety because of their current health issues, please speak to your GP.

Regarding the rumours that herd immunity means that you shouldn’t need to vaccinate your child, be aware! The concept of herd immunity is a tricky one; it only works with a high vaccination threshold. If only a few scattered people in a population are vaccinated, it’s likely that if one person in that population contracts the disease, it will spread from person to person among those who are unvaccinated as their bodies have little to no ability to ward off primary infection. If, however, the opposite is true, and there are only a few scattered unvaccinated people in the population, the few that are unvaccinated are less likely to spread disease if it is contracted; buffered by the vaccinated population.


Figure 2Herd Immunity

In order to protect those in our community that are at serious risk of dying from infectious disease (the elderly, the immunocompromised and infants), a threshold of 95% total vaccination within the population of Australia needs to be achieved. Vaccinations are at an all-time high at the moment, with the ‘no jab no pay’ program, with vaccination levels sitting according to Figure 2  below:

Disease Herd Immunity Threshold (HIT)
Mumps 75–86%
Diphtheria 83–86%
Rubella 83–86%
Varicella (Chicken Pox) 90%
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) 92–94%
Measles 92–95%

Figure 3UNICEF. Herd Immunity Thresholds 


It is not, however until we maintain the 95% threshold rate that we can be sure that our vulnerable are protected. It is one thing to understand herd immunity and try to hide behind it, but we need to understand that by doing this we are putting the vulnerable at a serious risk.

The concept of herd immunity is further explained in the video below:

Herd immunity



  1. Centers for Disease Control. Possible Side-effects from Vaccines [Internet]. Atlanta, GA (USA): Centers for Disease Control; 2016 Dec [cited 2017 Feb 19]. Available from:
  2. Centers for Disease Control. Vaccines when your child is sick [Internet]. Atlanta, GA (USA): Centers for Disease Control; 2016 Dec [cited 2017 Feb 20]. Available from:
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  5. World Health Organization. What are some of the myths – and facts – about vaccination? [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017 Jan [cited 2017 Feb 20]. Available from:


A Global Perspective: United States of America

Anti-vaccination movements are not just isolated to Australia, but do occur in many countries around the world, predominantly in first world countries. Such countries include, but are not limited to, United States of America, France and Britain. These countries have essentially universal access to vaccines that prevent terrible diseases, and yet are not reaching Herd Immunity thresholds. As with Australia, much of these countries host pockets of unvaccinated people who share the same beliefs with regards to vaccines, which leads to outbreaks of vaccine preventable illnesses within these populations. So though overall vaccination rates within these countries are up above 85%, it’s these pockets of misinformation and distrust that are leading to people falling ill from vaccine preventable diseases.

In the U.S., vaccination rates across all states for each of the common seven vaccines are all above 80%, with 3 of the vaccines/combined vaccines reaching the threshold for herd immunity. However, there many communities and groups that have diminished vaccination rates that are causing outbreaks of preventable diseases. One such outbreak occurred in California. In December of 2014, an outbreak of measles occurred, with at least 127 cases being traced back to a single visitor of the Californian Disneyland amusement park. These cases spanned across 8 states in the U.S. as well as spreading into Canada and Mexico. Fortunately, no deaths resulted from this outbreak. This case prompted the passing of the Californian Senate Bill 277 in 2015, a Bill which removed a number of exemptions to vaccination requirements for day care and school aged children. Though this bill was only effective from July of last year, it is expected to result in increased vaccination rates within the state of California.

Image result for disneyland measles outbreak

Figure 1: A depiction of a Disney favourite, Mickey Mouse, with the Measles Disease. Available from:

This is one example of a government’s response to falling vaccination rates, due to vaccine opposition, and is quite similar to Australia’s response to declining immunisation rates; the “No Jab, No Pay” Law (please refer to blog post of the same name). By removing avenues through which parents can rule their children exempt from vaccines, the Californian government and the Australian Government hope to increase vaccination rates and reduce the occurrence of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases.


  1. Legal Info. Senate Bill 277. Government of California; 2015 [Cited: 23 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  2. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Immunisation. National Centre for Health Statistics; 2016 [Cited: 23 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  3. World Health Organisation. Immunisation: Monitoring and Surveillance. WHO International; 2016 [Cited: 23 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  4. Ołpiński M. Anti-Vaccination Movement and Parental Refusals of Immunization of Children in USA. Pediatria Polska [Internet]. 2012 [cited 25 February 2017];87(4):381-385. Available from:

No Jab, No Pay

The “No Jab, No Pay” changes in the government policy which came into action on the 1st of January 2016 across Australia has been met with quite a lot of controversy. The new policy removes welfare payments to parents who have not vaccinated their children fully according to the National Immunisation Program (NIP). This could see some families losing up to $15 000 per year per child. There is an exception to this is that individuals who are immunocompromised or medically exempt from this will not have their welfare payments removed. However, conscientious and religious objections to vaccination will no longer be accepted. The introduction of the “No Jab, No Pay” policy lead to an increase in the vaccination rates, with  5 738 children whose parents previously registered as opposed to vaccinations now being vaccinated and a further 148 000 kids who were behind on vaccinations where brought up to date with their vaccinations within the first 6 months of the introduction of the policy.

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Figure 1: National Vaccination Schedule

Many individuals believe that this is an act of repression, forcing individuals who cannot afford to lose their welfare payments into vaccinating their children. The introduction of the legislation was met with wide spread opposition, including rallies, public hearings and senate inquiries. They believe that parents should not have the choice to refuse vaccination without adequate scientific background, while there are many objections about the safety of vaccines, many believe that the damage that individuals do by decreasing herd immunity in a community is much greater. What do you think about the “No Jab, No Pay” policy?



The Andrew Wakefield Effect

I heard that there is a direct link between vaccinations and Autism. I don’t want to be directly responsible for damaging my child’s mental health.’ – Concerned Mother

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Figure 1. Suggests a possible link between the MMR vaccine and Autism

Many of us would have heard the rumours that the vaccine to combat measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), given to small children from as early on as 12 months of age, can cause the onset of Autism in some children. You might have also heard rumours that big money vaccine funding organisations or big pHARMa have spent millions trying to silence these claims. If this is the case, you may be quite surprised to hear that the truth is, in fact quite the opposite.

Andrew Wakefield, a former gastroenterologist (gut doctor), published a paper in 1998 suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This paper was almost immediately refuted due to the incredibly small sample size (only 12 subjects) and the fact that all of his conclusions were speculative, and none substantiated. It was discredited and retracted by the Lancet (the paper that the article was originally published in). It was too late, however; the damage had already been done, and vaccination levels through Europe were dropping.

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Figure 2. Dr. Andrew Wakefield

It turns out that Wakefield was being paid big money by lawyers that were attempting to sue vaccine-producing companies in an attempt to strengthen their case. Andrew Wakefield has since been charged with deliberate fraud. He and the other researchers who published the paper, picked data that suited them, falsified facts, underwent invasive investigations on kids without proper ethical clearance, and misrepresented scientific data.

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Figure 3. Newspaper clippings from 2010 showing scientists retracting their previous statements

Many researchers have since looked into the MMR vaccine, in order to find the suggested link, but no credible peer reviewed scientific research has been able to find any evidence that the MMR vaccine is connected to Autism.

Overall, Wakefield’s work on the MMR vaccine is now going down as the single greatest and most serious case of fraud in medical history, one which has created a lasting negative impact on Global health,  years after it has been discredited.

Should you get Vaccinated?

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  1. Deer B. Investigation forces Lancet into two retractions [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2017 Feb 20]. [Figure], Investigation forces Lancet into two retractions. Available from:
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Homeopathic Vaccines, what are they?

Many individuals who take a pro-vaccine stance blame homeopaths for the decreasing rates of vaccination in modern community. People believe that homeopaths are influencing their patients to stop the use of conventional vaccines and rather use ‘nosodes’, or homeopathic vaccines. However, a study conducted in May 2016 aimed to evaluate the stance that many homeopaths take on the administration of conventional vaccines. Their survey found that there was one important factor in determining whether an individual was pro- or anti-vaccine, and that was whether they were medically qualified or not. In this survey they found that medically qualified homeopaths suggest following the conventional vaccination schedule as outlined by the government, while non-medically qualified homeopaths advocate for the use of nosodes or homeopathic vaccines. So, what are nosodes?

Figure 1: Vaccination vs Nosodes

Nosodes are a homeopathic preparation that involves the serial dilution of a tissue that is infected by the bacteria or virus of choice. The infected material can come from a range of infected human tissues or bodily fluids. One procedure known to be used is taking the infected materials, sterilizing them using alcohol and diluted multiple times by a factor of 100 until they are at a non-infectious concentration. It is important to know that there are no guidelines or specific rules for how nosodes should be prepared. More than 45 nosodes have been in use since the 1830s, but do they work and can they be used as an alternative to conventional vaccines? In recent years, the use of nosodes has increased in popularity with the rise of the anti-vaccination movement, with many parents opting for the use of nosodes instead of conventional vaccines, with many families deciding not to vaccinate at all.

The important thing to know about nosodes, is that there isn’t much scientific evidence behind the preparation, efficacy, or safety of using them. Some studies have aimed at evaluate the efficacy of the Tularaemia nosode in comparison to the conventional Tularaemia vaccine, with findings showing the nosodes for Tularaemia only provided protection in 22% of the tested population, while the conventional vaccine was found to provide 100% protection. The reason why some individuals choose to use nosodes rather than conventional vaccines, is that they have fears surrounding the ingredients contained within vaccines and whether they are necessary and safe. Hovever conventional vaccines have to go through an extensive period of testing before they are allowed to be produced and given to the public, this testing ensures that there is a minimal risk of harm and maximal benefit. It is important to know that nosodes do not go through such rigorous testing the ensure their safety and effectiveness before release. There are still various reason why people can’t or choose not to use conventional vaccines, some of which will be discussed in later post, so stay tuned for more information!

Image result for vaccine ingredientsFigure 2: Common Ingredients present in Conventional Vaccines

If you are interested in finding out how vaccines work, please watch the video below and please feel free to comment if you have any questions!

How do Vaccines Work?


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An Overview

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Figure 1. Available from:

Anti-vaccination movements have existed for as long as vaccines themselves, and though arguments against vaccination have varied over time, they have often stemmed from similar roots; religious opposition, distrust in the medical sciences and misinformation through flawed vaccination studies.

Currently in Australia, childhood vaccination rates are at around 91-93%, between the ages of one and five years, across all National Immunisation Program vaccines. Although this percentage seems adequate, immunisation rates need to be at this level, or higher, in order to reach the Herd Immunity Threshold, and protect vulnerable individuals (who cannot vaccinate) within the wider community.

Unfortunately, there are pockets of communities in Australia where the immunisation rate is significantly lower, with several towns in New South Wales having rates under 75% for children under five years old. This is well below levels needed to achieve herd immunity for most vaccine preventable diseases, and these low figures can result in outbreaks of these diseases within vulnerable populations.

One of the significant reasons for this disparity in vaccination rates, and the increase in outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, is the rise of anti-vaccination movement. These movements can spread fear and distrust in the medical field, leading to parents making the tough choice to not vaccinate their child. Unfortunately, this can have a negative effect on the wider community, not just the individuals making the decision.

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Figure 2. Illustrates the effect of having vast amounts of information available to parents. Available from:

It is worth noting that, no matter what side you stand on, no parent makes a decision for their child with the intention of causing them any harm. Therefore, this blog aims to present and discuss perspectives on both sides of the argument, debunk any myths that are encountered and open up conversation between pro- and anti- vaccination movements. It is hoped that through this blog, we can educate the wider community to make better, scientifically backed decisions that benefit both the individual and the wider community.


  1.   Immunise. AIR – Current Data. Australian Government: Department of Health; 2016 [Cited: 16 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  2.   Teach UNICEF. Data Analysis Activity: Herd Immunity. UNICEF; 2015 [Cited: 16 Feb 2017]. Available from:
  3.   My Healthy Communities. Immunisation Interactive Data Table. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 2016 [Cited: 16 Feb 2017]. Available from: