My letter to the Victorian health minister, and the departmental reply I received today (converted to an image).
I am appalled at the abusive comments sent to you, purported to be from “Ant-Vaxxers”.
In no circumstances is this acceptable, and unfortunately this sort of abuse has become common in posts on social media. Congratulations for making a stand against such abuse.
I have also pilloried for asking questions about vaccines, and been incorrectly labeled as an “anti-vaxxer”. A rational, scientific approach can never easily be reduced to simple polarities. I believe the community needs to be engaged in a robust discussion about these issues, without fear of reprisal, ridicule and sanction.
Below are a number of questions that I believe need to be engaged with, by health care professionals, by public health officials and by the wider community. These questions are central to the process of finding the best health outcomes for individuals and for creating the best public health outcomes possible.
As Health Minister I am sure you and your department would already be engaged in such a discussion, and are strongly committed to delivering the best health outcomes for everyone in our community, and also committed to ensuring that people are not subjected to abuse for being part of this dialogue.
1. How do we improve vaccines in terms of safety, efficacy and delivery? Are vaccines safe, bearing in mind they are generally given to healthy individuals and often to prevent a disease to which an individual may never be exposed? Is the research into vaccine safely adequate and are the results fully disclosed, considering that is it largely the manufactures that do the testing?
2. Are we getting the best there is in terms of the recommended schedule and why do other countries with seemingly better health outcomes for children have different schedules with fewer vaccines?
3. Are the additives in vaccines necessary, can they potentially cause harm and are there better alternatives?
4. Are all the vaccines really necessary (eg HepB for all newborns)? Why are there different vaccine schedules in different countries?
5. Are there contaminants in vaccines (viruses and DNA for example) that can potentially cause harm and how can we improve the processes and technology to remove them?
6. Are there risks associated with giving multiple vaccines in one dose and why is it so difficult to get single vaccines?
7. Is there enough being done to monitor adverse vaccine reactions?
8. How do we ensure vaccines are not given to people who are at risk of adverse reaction and how can we improve screening?
9. Does the current approval and testing process ensure the highest quality product?
10, Which vaccines are related only to individual heath outcomes and which ones have implications for wider health outcomes in the community?
11. What is the relationship between health regulators, medical providers, media and pharmaceutical companies, and what influence do these relationships have on research funding, research results and publication? Are there vested interests that influence vaccine research, distribution, and policy? Is the “revolving door” of employment between government regulators, research institutions and pharmaceutical companies threatening best practice in elation to public health policy?
12. Does the medical meaning of “effective” (antibodies are present) in relation to vaccines correspond to the common usage meaning of “effective” (stops you from getting the disease)?
13. Is it reasonable to concerned about the ethical standards and practices of the pharmaceutical corporations and is the regulation of the industry adequate?
14. Is full disclosure of the risks and possible side effects of vaccinations being given to recipients? Is the principle of informed consent being adhered to?
15. Are there long term side effects of vaccination that have not been adequately researched, such as auto immune disease?
16. Is there any research comparing the long term health outcomes of vaccinated children with unvaccinated children in equivalent populations? (For example Amish children who are not vaccinated compared to vaccinated children in rural Pennsylvania)
17. Were there other factors involved in the eradication of disease other than vaccination? (eg sanitation, nutrition, antibiotics).
18. Why have some deadly diseased virtually disappeared when there have never been vaccines? (eg scarlet fever?).
19. Is there sufficient incentive for vaccine manufacturers to improve their product?
20. There has been a severe rise in allergies in children. Has the possibility of components in vaccines contributing to this epidemic been adequately researched?
21. I most circumstances when prescribing medication, a responsible doctor will carefully select the formulation, manufacturer, strength and dosage, considering the unique constitution and circumstances of the patient. It appears anomalous that vaccinations are given with the same dosage and schedule for all children, with very few alternatives available. For example, multiple dose vaccines have replaced single dose, which some doctors had preferred. Is this one-size-fits-all method really in the best interests of the patients?
22. Is the concept of herd immunity being accurately represented in the media? Since the concept originated from the observation that a whole community would, over a period of time, gain immunity from some infectious diseases after a majority of people had survived the infection and developed lifelong immunity. This differs for the situation where a majority of people in the community have been vaccinated against the infection. Vaccination is usually not 100% effective, and does not usually confer life long immunity, so it is possible the majority of adult population whose immunity has waned, could be the vector for spreading the disease, rather than a small group of children who are not up to date with the their vaccinations.
23. When an outbreak of a “vaccine preventable illness” occurs in the community, what steps are taken to correctly identify the source of the outbreak? Does it come from the vaccinated children, the unvaccinated children, adults who have been vaccinated and whose immunity has waned, or from some other source?