Health groups have demanded senator Pauline Hanson to retract her “ludicrous” and “dangerous” statement on Australia’s vaccination programs.
During an interview with ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, Hanson, leader of One Nation party, said that the government’s ‘no jab, no pay’ policy of withholding welfare payments for unvaccinated children is “dictatorship”, and that parents have “a right to investigate themselves” before vaccinating their children.
Experts from health groups have condemned the statement.
“I’m utterly appalled by Senator Hanson’s comments. She needs to realise that she’s a serious player in Australian politics now,” said Dr Michael Gannon, head of Australian Medical Association. “[With] 10 per cent of Australians indicating an intention to vote for One Nation, she can no longer make fringe statements that are dangerous to the health of the whole community.”
Director of Immunisation Foundation of Australia, Catherine Hughes said in an interview with SBS News that Hanson’s statement was “disappointing”.
“She shows a total lack of regard towards the health and safety of Australian children, and doesn’t seem to have an understanding of the value of preventative medicine,” Hughes said.
“By encouraging people to ‘do their own research’ on vaccination, she is insinuating parents have the resources and abilities to conduct better medical research than scientists and doctors. It’s a ludicrous thing to say.”
Hughes also added that Hanson’s previous comments on vaccination’s links with autism and other diseases were “misinformed and dangerous statements” that could influence parents’ decision.
Health director of Grattan Institute, Stephen Duckett told ABC Radio that Hanson has to “apologise and retract that statement”.
“Vaccines are safe. I cannot stress how angry it makes one feel that she is putting lives at risk,” said Duckett.
“If parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they are putting their children’s health at risk, and every other person’s children at risk too.”
Hanson has defended her statement, claiming it was a “personal opinion” which “has nothing to do” with politics. “I had my children vaccinated,” said Hanson. “I never told my children not to get their children vaccinated. All I’m saying is get your advice.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull re-emphasised the importance of vaccination. “Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are putting their own children’s health at risk and they are putting the health of everybody else’s children at risk as well,” said Turnbull on Monday.
“So, that is why vaccination is so important. That is why we have our no-jab, no-pay policy. It has worked very well over the past year and we have seen 200,000 more children vaccinated as a result.”