FOR the overwhelming majority of people, medical professionals included, there's just no question.
But that didn't stop one Gold Coast based mummy blogger from hosting an Instagram Live chat to discuss whether or not parents should vaccinate their children.
Leila Stead, who blogs as The Single Mum Diaries, held the chat titled "To Vax Or Not" on Tuesday morning and insisted that "we can not take away a woman's right to choose" whether or not to vaccinate their children.
In a video post on Instagram, Leila said that the live chat, which is no longer available, covered the vaccine debate from both sides. It was intended to give "light to a really important topic in our lives as mothers".
"The reason I wanted to bring this topic to light is for myself. I wanted to gather some more information and I wanted to get more educated on the topic from both sides of the fence," Leila explained.
For her part, Leila has opened up the debate on her Instagram with good intentions. She feels that people need more education about vaccines, despite the overwhelming evidence already available.
Her personal experience is that she did not feel like her own concerns about vaccines were adequately addressed when she took her daughter to be immunised, and that she feels overwhelmed by the anti-vaccination messages "flying around via the media".
[ To Vax or Not ] I am so glad that I posted about this taboo subject because all the different opinions and values are incredible. I hold both sides in my heart because as mothers we want nothing more than the best for our children and isn't that enough. No matter the side of the fence that we stand on we must try to remember that one thing unites us and that is the love for our children. I copped shit for posting publicly about abortion and I get hate mail regularly for "glorifying" single mama life and now my inbox is full of women that are boldly voicing their opinions... and you know what... all of it... even those that are incredibly passionate about their views and beliefs... all of it is important to me. Because things like this should be discussed and topics like this should be debated and when the fear went through my mind of "Maybe I shouldn't share my concerns with anyone" I knew in that moment that it was something that needed to be discussed. As a new mother myself I believe in making educated decisions and I believe in arming myself with many different resources so that I am confident in moving forward and as usual when I am unsure I believe in asking you.. the community and I didn't feel that this should be any different. I have felt extremely overwhelmed with everything on the news, I have had the different sides jammed down my throat with every scroll of my Facebook and I felt so nervous because it is a big decision not to be taken lightly. And as a child that had a severe reaction to a vaccine myself in my younger years it has put me even more on edge.. after seeing all of your opinions, reasonings and all of your values I feel more at ease because one thing is certain and that's no matter what side of the fence that we stand on that are all in this together. We are one and somehow despite the fact that we don't all agree we must not get carried away from the point... and the point is that no matter what side we are on we are all in our own minds doing the very best thing for our children, in a world where we can no longer be sure of anything we are being told we are all doing the best we can. Thank you for allowing me to ask these questions
Controversially, Leila told Kidspot, "I do not feel as though the case for vaccination has been made strongly enough at all. As a new mother I felt really out in the dark about it and I don't feel having a doctor hand me a pamphlet on what to do with my newborn daughter was enough education."
While there is complete agreement amongst scientists and medical professionals that vaccination is of great benefit to individuals and to the community as a whole, Leila says that she can see both sides of the debate.
"I believe we should be allowed to choose what we want injected into our children. Many of the mothers that have chosen not to vaccinate that wrote in to me stated that they are not anti-vax but that they are infact pro-choice. Many of them stated that they just want safer vaccines for their children," Leila explained to Kidspot.
But bringing the issue up and giving equal weight to both sides of the argument is irresponsible at best and outright reprehensible at worst.
Dr Brad McKay, a Melbourne based GP and medical commentator, told Kidspot the arguments against vaccination have been well and truly disproven, and that anti-vaxxers rely on rumour and misinformation.
"The chance of having anything going wrong with a vaccine is very very low. Any medication, any vaccine that we give can potentially have concerns. But the concerns are very, very miniscule in comparison to the complications that can happen from the infections that we're preventing kids from getting.
Dr McKay said that arguments against vaccination should not be given equal weight in the debate.
"It's fine for people to have opinions, but when they're not backed up by science that's just opinions. The vast majority of the world, parents, scientists, doctors, health professionals, the vast majority of everyone agrees that vaccinations work, that they're effective and that they're safe," he said.
Opinions, Dr McKay said, "should never be given even weight to the vast, overwhelming information and research that shows the effectiveness and safety of vaccinations."
As one commenter on Instagram said, "Honestly. If you have to choose between a bad reaction and, say, polio, there really shouldn't be a debate."
Leila explained that she raised the issue because she feels if more people were educated about vaccination then the immunisation rates would be much better.
"I feel more than ever after all of this that we should ask questions and that more importantly that we should not feel ashamed for speaking out and saying 'I want to know more'," Leila told Kidspot.
Immunisation has been the subject of health promotion campaigns for decades. But there's no doubt that things have ramped up significantly in recent times.
The Federal Government's National Immunisation Strategy was launched in 2013 and, among other things, focuses on communicating the need for and benefits of immunisation.
Government's around the country are also launching more punitive measures on families who choose not to vaccinate without good medical reasons; the 'No Jab No Play' initiative, the removal of the religious exemption, the obligation on parents to vaccinate their children in accordance with the schedule in order to receive welfare benefits.
[ Thank You ] To the incredible women that just joined in the discussion "to vax or not" we can not take away a woman's right to choose what she feels is best for her children. Thank you to the women that have joined in the discussion and continued to be open minded and open hearted, thank you to the wonderful women that stood and offered opinions no matter which side of the fence they stand on. Thank you to the women that listened to one another despite having opinions that didn't mesh together. I have gained incredible and valuable knowledge on this topic from midwives to doctors, from mothers who have lost children to women who educate themselves on every little detail and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for joining me to talk about it. The main consensus was "we need to talk about it more" so to the women saying this shouldn't be open for discussion I understand your point but without knowledge how do we make educated decisions for the welfare of our children. I vaccinate my daughter and will continue to do so but in taking away a mothers right to choose we are beginning to take away the freedom of choice. Educate yourself, trust yourself, be open minded, ask around... from doctors to midwives, to naturopaths and paediatricians to immunisation specialists... in every instance knowledge is power. I discussed this topic because I don't want women to be bullied, to feel this taboo subject shouldn't be mentioned, I didn't want women to make uninformed decisions because they are overwhelmed and fearful. So many women mentioned "I didn't know what to do because it wasn't being discussed" and so many of you wrote in from both sides of the fence saying "thank you for bringing this topic up" - I will leave it there. If you choose to unfollow my journey because of my stance on this matter then I am comfortable with that, it never has been a blog for the masses. It's for women to CONNECT + SUPPORT + INSPIRE one another, it's for the open minded, the daring and the outside the box thinkers. I will continue to talk about those topics in mama hood that others wouldn't dare mention because that's just me... and someone's gotta do it 💫
Leila said it all feels like it's being rammed down her throat. That combined with feeling fobbed off by medical professionals when asking reasonable questions about vaccines left her feeling "extremely anxious".
"When I have asked questions I have been fobbed off and treated as if I am trying to cause trouble," Leila said.
"I found so many women via my live chat that were also feeling overwhelmed, scared and pushed into a corner with their decision making."
If you have any questions or if you need medical advice, Kidspot recommends you speak to your GP.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.
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