Editor Mat Nott
Editor Mat Nott

Editor: health issues beg for another shot

FLUORIDE and vaccinations are two of the most hotly-contested health issues in news.

Everyone can accept that smoking isn't great for you, that it's better to maintain a trim figure, and that occasionally going for a run might be of some benefit.

But if you dare suggest, in cold hard newsprint, that it might be a good idea to get your kids immunised against measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough, then you'd better be prepared for the backlash.

As a newly-hatched reporter working my first job in Western Australia, I wrote a short story about immunisation, which I fully expected to sink without a trace.

Instead it sparked a barrage of letters.

In the days after it was published, no fewer than eighteen letters landed on my desk decrying the evils of immunisation.

One correspondent was particularly insistent, sending thick wads of paper with what must have been years-worth of collected anecdotes about immunisations causing behavioural difficulties and disabilities.

But the plural of anecdote is not data.

There is a reason the Australian government pays for immunisations. It is because the public benefit of doing so has proved to far outweigh the possible risk in nearly every case.

Parents have a responsibility to the rest of the community to get their child immunised, because it's not just their child that could be affected.

How would you feel if you passed the mumps to a baby too young to be immunised, and left it with profound disabilities or unable to bear children?

That might be a "part of life" in developing countries, but it shouldn't be in Australia.

And as for fluoridated water? I'm all for it - particularly as our dental system is already under so much pressure.

The cost to the tax-payer is minimal, and decades of research shows it can prevent expensive dental work down the line, so I have no qualms about its benefits.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but at least you won't be harming anyone else if you choose to make your kids drink tank-water instead.

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