Make vaccines compulsory, expert says
A visiting vaccine expert believes New Zealand should follow Australia’s lead and make vaccinations compulsory for all children.
Professor Ian Frazer said immunisation should be treated as a public health issue for the general good of the public.
‘‘We make people wear seatbelts because we know how great the cost is in terms of damage to human lives if you don’t, and infectious disease is no different,’’ he said.
‘‘Australia has quite rightly taken a vigorous approach to certain childhood vaccinations that vaccines are not optional, they are mandatory. If you choose not to have them, then there are consequences.’’
Frazer said there was ‘‘a lot to be said’’ for advocating a similar approach in New Zealand.
His comments followed weeks of controversy over a tour of the film Vaxxed, which promotes the discredited view that there is a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.
Dr Lance O’Sullivan thrust the film into national debate when he stormed the stage at a Northland screening to perform a haka and warned attendees ‘‘your presence here will cause babies to die’’.
Frazer, an Australian researcher, is most famously known as the inventor of the HPV vaccine, which immunises against human papillomavirus to protect women from cervical cancer.
His vaccine has been administered to more than 100 million people worldwide - and in 2006 he was named Australian of the Year for his decades of work in the field.
He is president of the Cancer Council Australia, and also advises the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Frazer now works to expand access to the HPV vaccine in dev- eloping countries, where deaths from cervical cancer are most prevalent.
‘‘If any other virus killed quarter of a million people worldwide each year there would be a public outcry,’’ he said.
‘‘Viruses like Zika and Ebola kill hundreds of people, and there’s a demand for universal immunisation. But because papillomavirus is a virus which you get now, and it causes a problem in 25 years, the enthusiasm isn’t so great.’’
Frazer said there was no evidence the HPV vaccine could be unsafe for teenage girls.