Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: The sharp end of the vaccination debate

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If most New Zealanders weren't rocking up and getting their children injected then even the anti-vacc crowd would probably be spurred to get with the vaccination programme they've been able to so cheerfully spurn to date. Photo / Thinkstock
If most New Zealanders weren't rocking up and getting their children injected then even the anti-vacc crowd would probably be spurred to get with the vaccination programme they've been able to so cheerfully spurn to date. Photo / Thinkstock

No one has to vaccinate their children. Obviously, it's a free country and it's everyone's right to make an informed decision. We've all heard the arguments. But it must surely annoy the vaccinated masses that the unvaccinated minority are getting a free ride.

Do those informed deciders conveniently overlook the fact that it's only the vaccinated population surrounding them that affords them the luxury of refusing vaccinations?

The very people they think haven't properly considered the consequences, haven't seriously weighed the pros and cons, are actually assisting them. The herd immunity theory - known by vaccination-non-believers as "treating our children like cattle" - states that vaccinated people are indirectly giving protection to the non-vaccinated.

If most New Zealanders weren't rocking up and getting their children injected then even the anti-vacc crowd would probably be spurred to get with the vaccination programme they've been able to so cheerfully spurn to date.

But at the moment their thinking is: "Hey, those diseases barely exist in New Zealand so where's the need?"

Yet others would respond: "Well, hey, it's only thanks to the vaccinated who walk among us that these diseases are at such low levels."

And, if national vaccination rates were higher some of these diseases would actually be eradicated.

The more people who vaccinate the more we collectively benefit yet it's an accepted principle that the entire population won't be able to receive a vaccination.

The only thing is that it's child cancer patients and other people with compromised immune systems that we're happy to excuse - not the offspring of amateur researchers who've trawled the internet for dubious reasons to buck the system.

Do these non-vaccinators really think anyone likes presenting a tiny six-week-old for its first vaccination?

The natural parental instinct is to protect babies from pain and uncertainty. It's utterly counterintuitive to send a precious newborn off for a nasty jab in the thigh. Yet the overwhelming majority of Kiwis manage to overcome this understandable sentiment and consider the long-term benefits - not just to their child but to the community as a whole.

Some people are capable of seeing the communal big picture; others focus on the selfish small one.

Some parents are affronted that their non-vaccinated children have been banned from a west Auckland school in order to contain the spread of measles.

Perhaps the herd immunity effect of passively getting protection at the expense of others has given them the idea they can continue to have their cake and eat it too.

It must be quite a shock to realise their decision comes with consequences, that finally there is a problem that can't be neatly transferred to society at large.

Now it's their responsibility to keep their children at home in order to help protect the community's more vulnerable members from measles.

It's time to consider others not just themselves.

Debate on this article is now closed.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

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