Opinion: Anti-vaxxers need to do their research

The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread (Getty)
The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread (Getty)

I'm a poorly researched schill who's been brainwashed by Big Pharma, apparently.

I shouldn't be surprised. My story addressing commonly held myths about the flu jab brought the anti-vaxxers out in force.

Hang on, why do the anti-vaxxers assume I haven't done my research?

I have. I just choose to listen to the scientists, doctors and researchers, rather than the cranks, frauds and nut-jobs.

It's the same rationale that says if you're building a bridge, you listen to engineers; if you're getting a wisdom tooth extracted, you go to a dentist; if you're having a WOF done, it's better to ask a mechanic than your neighbour Phil who once electrocuted himself by chewing on a car battery.

Why do people think that a bit of googling and reading on the internet is an adequate replacement for years of professional study and research?

I'll tell you why I'm so hot about this subject.

Ultimately, I'm less worried for myself than I am for my two-year-old daughter. Or for the person undergoing chemo. Or for the elderly person whose immune system isn't as robust.

It's called herd immunity. The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread. But if large parts of that population refuse to be vaccinated, viruses can still circulate.

Vaccinations helps protect the whole community, including those who can't be vaccinated.

Putting your own health above that of babies and the sick, due to some misguided nonsense about 'Big Pharma', or mercury, or autism (what utter madness), is the absolute height of selfishness.

Thinking that washing your hands regularly, or taking multi-vitamins, or eating lots of green vegetables will provide enough protection against a raft of infectious diseases is misguided.

I'm 38 years old. I'm strong, I'm fit, I eat very well. Last year I contracted the flu, and it ruined me.

For the best part of a week I was bedridden. Even once I could crawl out of bed, I remained weak as a kitten for another two months.

Every year, around 400 New Zealanders die directly or indirectly from influenza.

What are the side effects of the flu jab? A sore arm? A couple of days of feeling under the weather? A very rare allergic reaction?

Tell me those risks outweigh the deaths of 400 New Zealanders every year.

Granted, vaccines aren't perfect. The flu jab, for example, might provide about 50 percent protection. But that's a lot more protection than your immune system can provide.

Some people do suffer side-effects. Some people are allergic to certain vaccinations. Occasionally, there is an adverse reaction. And yes, in the United States, some people have received compensation for an adverse reaction to vaccines. How many? About one in every 4,000,000.

Measles kills one in 1000 people. Polio has crippled untold millions. Influenza is estimated to have killed 1 percent of the world's population in 1918 alone. Smallpox killed 30 percent of the people it infected.

Smallpox is gone, thanks to vaccinations. Polio is on its way out, thanks to vaccinations.

Measles was eradicated from the United States just 16 years ago. It's now back, thanks to pockets of the population that have refused to vaccinate.

Relying on natural immunity and wild strains of viruses, as promoted by anti-vaxxers, would mean those terrible, devastating diseases would still cause widespread suffering and death throughout our population.

Finally, have a listen to this. It's a baby girl with whooping cough, gasping for breath.

There's a vaccine for whooping cough. Babies like this are too young to get it. If everyone else who was able to be vaccinated against whooping cough, was vaccinated, babies like that little girl would be far less likely to suffer from a preventable disease.

Listen to that little girl, listen to her tiny body struggling for oxygen, and tell me again why you're so opposed to vaccinations.