Australian MP Emma Husar despises the link that people continue to make between vaccinations and autism.
It has already been disproven, but this fictitious link is still a serious obstacle in achieving universal vaccination — because some people believe that they’re protecting their child from autism by not getting them vaccinated.
Federal Labor MP Husar is the mother of an autistic child. And she also has experiences of the type of disease that vaccinations can prevent — having nursed her sister when she was left in a coma by meningococcal disease.
Husar told Parliament on Monday that, between the two, she would take autism over preventable disease any day of the week.
“Let me tell you, I would take the autistic child every day over the one that almost died from an almost now-preventable disease through vaccinations,” she said, in support of a government proposal to change No Jab No Pay rules.
Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening illness, caused by bacteria that infect the blood, brain, and spinal cord, according to the Vaccine Information website.
It is one of the most serious causes of meningitis, and, being contagious, it is easily spread in crowded places. But it is most easily prevented through vaccination.
Read more: 5 Vaccine Myths That Are Completely Not True
Husar made her comments as the Australian Parliament debated a new proposal, passed by the lower house on Monday afternoon, designed to give parents further incentive to vaccinate their child.
The new proposal would withhold about $28 a fortnight from Family Tax Benefit Part A for families whose children don’t meet immunisation requirements from July 1, reported the Australian Associated Press (AAP). That would be instead of withholding the family tax supplement at the end of each financial year.
It means that, rather than just families with an annual income up to $80,000, all families would instead be included in the legislation.
Parents would be given 63 days to update their child’s vaccinations, or to get a medical exemption, before their payments were cut off.
It is hoped that these new measures will give parents who are against vaccinations an added incentive to get their children vaccinated.
Many large studies have found vaccines do not cause autism, according to the Australian government’s Immunise website.
The largest study included over half a million children born in Denmark, according to the website, and found that unvaccinated children were just as likely to develop autism as vaccinated children.
When the results of the study were combined with the results of nine other studies, to include medical information from nearly 1.5 million children living all around the world, the website adds, researchers were able to confirm that vaccination could not be causing autism.
The misunderstanding came from a research group in the UK, in 1998, which suggested a link between the MMR vaccine, for measles, mumps, and rubella, and autism.
But the study only included 12 children, and the authors retracted their claim that there was any association between vaccination and autism in 2004. They also printed an apology in the journal which first published their report.
Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on universal access to quality healthcare — including that vaccines should be accessible and affordable for all. You can join us by taking action here.