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Plans for no-vaccination child care centre in Northern Rivers ‘absolutely irresponsible’, expert says

September 7, 2015
Latest News

immoPublic health advocates say plans for a no-vaccination child care centre in northern New South Wales are irresponsible and dangerous.

The ABC has seen an expression of interest on Facebook, asking parents if they would be interested in sending their children to such a centre.

The Northern Rivers region has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and frequently deals with outbreaks of whooping cough.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr John Cunningham, who is a member of Stop the Anti Vaccination Network, said it was one of the most dangerous ideas he had come across.

“I can only think that this is one of the more stupid ideas I’ve ever heard of — a child care centre full of unvaccinated children would serve as a haven for disease,” he said.

“Certainly if there was any outbreak of disease, that is certainly where it would come from or where it would go to very quickly.”

Earlier this year the Federal Government announced welfare benefits would be denied to people who refused to immunise their children.

The ABC has been sent a post on Facebook from a woman named Juanita Wanda Halden in Tabulum, west of Lismore, asking if parents would like to be involved in establishing an anti-vaccination child care centre.

Ms Halden declined a request for an interview but said in a statement she was in the preliminary stages of planning the centre and would release more information early next year.

NSW Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord said the State and Federal governments should intervene if the centre goes ahead.

“Last week the State Government announced they were going to provide $20 million to help set up early child care centres across the state, and the Federal Government has responsibility for accreditation, so state and federal governments both have responsibility,” Mr Secord said.

“People in the developing world want to have their children vaccinated, but in New South Wales we have families who are refusing and now trying to set up a child care centre.

“It’s absolutely irresponsible.”

Advocates concerned over whooping cough outbreak

In parts of the Northern Rivers region, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are immunised.

That is not something Heidi Robertson, who helped form a group called the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters, said she was proud of.

“We’re constantly going through outbreaks here of whooping cough and chickenpox. It’s a real worry for pregnant mums, and especially mums that have new babies,” she said.

Paul Corben, the director of public health for the Northern NSW Local Health District, said a big proportion of children were not protected.

“In the recent past, we’ve had two young babies on the north coast of New South Wales who have died during the course of whooping cough outbreaks,” he said.

“That’s an unconscionable tragedy for those families.”

Pro-vaccination advocate Ms Robertson said there had been a raft of misinformation spread about vaccination on social media in northern New South Wales.

“The other thing that you hear a lot is, ‘I don’t need vaccinations if I need a healthy lifestyle. If I get enough sunshine and vitamin D and I eat a healthy diet, then I don’t need to worry about vaccinations’,” she said.

“Those things are fantastic and they’re very important, but they don’t provide the specific protection that vaccines give us.

“The proof is in the pudding. The Northern Rivers here, we have got so much sunshine, so much organic healthy food and people lead very healthy lifestyles but we are continually having outbreaks.”

Published by ABC, 03/09/2015