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Thursday, September 03, 2009

 

Vaccine Fears and the Whooping Cough Epidemic

Last night I watched the 7:30 report on the whooping cough epidemic in New South Wales. While the NSW one is the most serious, there are also epidemics in Victoria and Queensland.

What is appalling is that vaccination rates have fallen below unsustainable levels, at least in part due to the actions of the antivaccination group the Australian Vaccine Network spreading fear and disinformation. For example see the http://avn.org.au/library/index.php/vaccination-information/dtp.html site, where they raise the specter of thiomersal (thimerosal), even though it isn't in the majority of vaccines Australians would be exposed to, and even though thiomersal isn't a problem anyway see http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/06/the_autism_omnibus_when_you_dont_have_sc.php and http://scienceblogs.com/angrytoxicologist/2007/10/thimerosal_better_late_than_ne.php.

Obviously governmental sources are not able to combat this disinformation. I can (and will) start my own blogging campaign to try and address the issues but given my (and others) experience in the long term fight against creationism and HIV denialism, I have little hope I can make a big impact even if high profile pro-science bloggers have had little impact on the Australian conciousness ( see Respectful Insolence as a prime example ). Still, as one of the hats I wear professionally is that of toxicologist, and as the anti-vaccination movement relies on an inchoate fear of "toxins", I'll do my best. In this day and age kids shouldn't be dying of preventable diseases like Whooping Cough.

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Comments:
Young Australian Skeptics (sic) has been on the campaign to stop the AVN. Also there is a Facebook group.

The more the better, and I'll do what I can to help (which unfortunately is not much).
 
Good work Matt, do what you can. And best wishes to the young skeptics!
 
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