FOLLOWING a whooping cough outbreak at a Hills primary school the state’s peak doctor body is urging the community not to be conned by the misinformation anti-vaccination advocates spread.
The WA Health Department attributed the outbreak to a range of factors including low immunisation rates, a less effective vaccine and evidence the bacteria may have mutated.
Australian Medical Association WA President Dr Andrew Miller said anti-vaccine propaganda was potentially dangerous.
“Generally the Australian public is excellent at supporting the overwhelming body of evidence on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, but sadly there is a minority who prefer to listen to conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine propaganda,” he said.
“These people are anti-science, anti-health and the nonsense they peddle is dangerous.
“The reality is approximately one in 200 infants under the age of six months who contract whooping cough will die.
“This is a nasty disease that can have lifelong repercussions. Don’t let a blog post on the internet put your family at risk.”
However the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network (AVN), which advocates for vaccine safety and informed consent, said whooping cough was increasingly becoming a disease of the vaccinated.
The Network said research showed mass vaccination may have led to the emergence of a more dangerous strain of whooping cough, similar to the emergency of new strains of bacteria from the overuse of antibiotics.
An AVN spokeswoman said research also showed the vaccinated were at a higher risk of becoming infected with the mutated strain.
“It is a habit of the media to target unvaccinated children as the cause of outbreaks when often it is a vaccine failure or ineffective vaccine,” she said.
“There are record high vaccination rates with record levels of whooping cough and the outbreaks are commonly seen among vaccinated populations.
“Researchers have found evidence circulating strains of whooping cough have adapted to the current vaccine and the vaccinated population actually having a higher risk and greater severity of infection with the current strain.
“The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows acellular pertussis vaccines licensed by the FDA are effective in preventing the disease among those vaccinated, but suggests they may not prevent infection in those vaccinated or its spread to other people, including those not vaccinated.”
But WA Health Department and the AMA refuted claims whooping cough could be spread from a vaccine.
Dr Miller said the bacterium in the whooping cough vaccination was incapable of reproduction.
“Vaccines are safe, effective and remain one of the most important public health initiatives we have,” he said.
A North Metropolitan Health Service Public Health and Ambulatory Care spokesman said there were no new vaccine available at present for whooping cough.
“The current acellular pertussis vaccines, introduced in Australia between 1997 and 1999, have been found to have lower effectiveness with more rapid waning of immunity compared with the previously used whole cell pertussis vaccine formulations,” he said.
“The most important aim of a pertussis immunisation program is to decrease the risk to newborns, so there is now a program for pregnant women recommended in the last trimester, preferably between 28 and 32 weeks gestation.”
The spokesman said the pertussis vaccination decreased the risk of being infected, and if infected vaccinated people had a milder illness than those not vaccinated.
BY SARAH BROOKES