Letters to the editor

DEBATE: A new poll has found some unvaccinated children are being turned away from medical care.
DEBATE: A new poll has found some unvaccinated children are being turned away from medical care.

All children deserve care 

NEW research released has revealed a worrying pattern of practice in Australian health care in which some unvaccinated children are being refused care by health care providers.

The latest Australian Child Health Poll has found that one in six Australian children who are not up-to-date with their vaccines have been refused care by a health care provider.

While in the United States a clinician’s right to refuse care to an unvaccinated child has been a topic for some time, this poll suggests a worrying pattern of practice not previously identified in Australia.

All children, regardless of their vaccination status, have an equal right to health care.

This poll also found that a clear majority of Australian parents indicate support for strong policies to help get kids up-to-date on vaccines and preserve immunity in the community.

While some medical professionals will argue that unvaccinated children can present a risk to other patients, we must remember that children aren’t making these choices about vaccination for themselves.

By turning them away, health care providers not only deny health care to a child, but remove the possibility of educating parents and helping them to eventually choose to vaccinate.

Among children whose parents reported them as not being up-to-date with their vaccines, children under six were most likely to be refused care by a health care provider (25 per cent), followed by 21 per cent of primary school-aged children and five per cent of teenagers.

This poll also found the vast majority of Australian parents support childhood vaccination and keep their children’s vaccines up-to-date.

While the vast majority of parents vaccinate their children, we found that almost a third of Australian parents have some concerns about vaccination.

Dr Anthea Rhodes

Director of the Child Health Poll

AS A single woman who dates I am acutely aware of the prevalence of STDs. 

My recent experience of meeting a man who had genital herpes enhanced my fear of catching a STD. Motivated by fear of getting sick I went to the doctor and had a free STD test. 

While waiting for my results I realised how lucky I was to be in Australia, a country with a good quality public health system which is free for Australians to access. I realised that people in developing countries would have a different experience engaging with STDs and health.

There are 340 million cases of STDs occur around the world each year, with the greatest number in developing countries where STDs are the most common diseases treated by healthcare professionals other than malaria and diarrheal problems. Within the poverty stricken continent Africa, 25 out of 100 people will be infected with a STD each year compared to only 9 out of 100 people in Australia. 

Even though the majority of STDs are preventable through public health measures like vaccines, antibiotics or condom usage, the sad reality is that developing countries lack the resources to fund this, resulting in larger numbers of people experiencing poor health and early death.  

When the doctor informed me that my STD test results detected no infection, I felt incredibly relieved and I realised having access to public health measures shouldn’t be contingent on where you live.   Viewed in this light, the Turnbull government should re-evaluate whether cutting 220 million dollars from the AusAid budget was immoral. 

Australia should recheck our priorities because all people have the right to live free from disease. Our AusAid program is not a “cost”, but rather an “investment”. When will the Turnbull government re-invest?

Elisha McMurray




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