Earlier this week, Australias Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a new policy: people on welfare benefits will lose their payments if they dont get their children vaccinated. New Zealands Prime Minister John Key responded with a statement that we will not be following suit, thus demonstrating that he is a wiser and better man than Tony Abbott. (This is such a low bar to clear that the fact that it needs pointing out actually reflects badly on Key. There are things growing on the bottom of ponds that are wiser and better than Tony Abbott.)
I am pro-vaccination strongly so and I think this is a terrible idea. Im pro-vaccination because there are some children who cant be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons, and their only hope of escaping diseases like measles or polio is if the children around them have all been vaccinated and hence are guaranteed not to be carriers. This policy will not help those children. It will harm them.
Since the announcement a couple of New Zealand public figures have stood up in support of Abbott. One is the Act partys sole Member of Parliament, David Seymour. Another, Im afraid, is a doctor. Now doctors have to clean up after the anti-vaxxers, so I guess I can understand why he would feel like something has to be done. While to a certain extent parents have to make medical decisions on their childrens behalf, children are human beings with rights too including the right not to be needlessly exposed to the risk of horrible infections. But although something does indeed have to be done, this isnt it.
Please, my fellow science enthusiasts on the internet, do not go holding up Tony Abbott as a role model for your own politicians. He supports punishing poor people if they dont get vaccinations, but he is also an active climate change denier. Yes, a climate change denier in charge of a country. To Abbott, it appears, the measure of whether science is good or bad is whether policies derived from it inconvenience the poor or the rich. And that, folks, is the attitude we have to fight, if we ever want to live in a world not destined for a disastrous collision with reality.