On Sunday evening, Australia’s Channel 7 Sunday Night programme aired a positive, well researched and scientifically based story on the dangers of not vaccinating.

The report centred around the death of four week old Dana McCaffery from whooping cough. The tragedy was Dana was too young to be vaccinated, but lived in an area of low herd immunity, resulting in her contracting the deadly pertussis bacteria. There is no cure for whooping cough.

Dana’s parents, Toni and David made the brave decision to speak out to reporter Rebecca Maddern of “Sunday Night”. What resulted was a wake-up call for parents who don’t vaccinate as we viewed footage of tiny babies with pertussis and heard of the heart break from the parents. Dana’s paediatrician, Dr Chris Ingall, who was unable to save Dana, implored parents to vaccinate, not only to protect the lives of their own children but others as well.

Our own anti-vaxers, the Australian Vaccination Network, whose role is to “empower people everywhere to make informed health choices for their families and themselves” were given some air time. Represented by Meryl Dorey, she stated that her mother used to just put her out with sick kids so she could get infected, and thereby gain natural immunity. She had this to say about measles and whooping cough;

“You didn’t die from it 30 years ago and you’re not going to die from it today”.

When reporter Rebecca Maddern asked her; “What if one of your children got whooping cough? (to which she responded they had), “And did you seek help from the medical profession?”, she offered;

“No, we treated whooping cough homeopathically and none of us were sick for more than 2 weeks. My vaccinated children got it and my unvaccinated children got it. And none of us were sick for more than 2 weeks and it was nothing more than a bad cough”.

This juxtaposed alongside footage of tiny babies with hacking coughs, gasping for air and barely able to breathe.

The story was intended to be “..a wake-up message to parents about the vaccination debate which needs to end right now”. And it was. It was also a rare example of responsible scientific reporting, based on science and evidence. Although the anti-vaxers did get input, what they got was minimal and in the context of the tragedy of Dana, made them look rather irresponsible.

As was expected there has been an overwhelming response to Channel 7, both positive and negative. Some of the negative responses from the anti-vaxers has been published as part of a story called “Channel 7 – one-sided reporting” on the AVN website.

The usual suspects have had an airing; vaccines have never been subject to double-blind clinical trials (wouldn’t that be unethical?); drug companies are not interested in our health, only money; drug companies pay millions of dollars a year to vaccine injured people; my child started exhibiting autism-like symptoms shortly after receiving the vaccine; vaccines are full of toxins (formaldehyde, mercury), you’ve heard it all before. One letter sent to Channel 7 had this to say;

“Perhaps you can inspired by the organisation headed by actors Jim Carey & Jenny McArthy in and supported by shows much more renowned & respected than yours such as OPRAH WINFREY & LARRY KING LIVE”.

I also encouraged as many people as possible to send positive feedback and many of you did (thank you). The response, both positive and negative, has been so overwhelming, that Channel 7 have agreed to have a “debate” on this week’s show. As a result of my congratulatory email sent to the show, I have been invited to be in the audience. I was informed by Channel 7 that Meryl Dorey will not be on the panel since they; “only want people with a scientific background”.

Further, for the “positive” they have a paediatrician (I believe it is Dana’s) however, they are having trouble finding a doctor for the negative. Apparently all the doctors they have spoken to told them vaccination is a good thing, (go figure). I was also told that all the doctors consulted so far, assured the researcher there is no link between vaccination and autism.

This is a very positive response from a commercial television station, not previously known for their critical thinking and scientific approach to journalism. I only hope they do not cave into the screeching anti-vaxers in the meantime, and maintain their scientific-background requirement for panel members.

I will keep you updated as more information comes to hand. To watch Rebecca Maddern’s report in it’s entirety go here.

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