Professor Fiona Stanley with Ashleigh Langoulant and her father and Chairman of Meningitis Centre Australia Bruce Langoulant
Parents who fail to vaccinate their children against deadly diseases may not be motivated to act until more children are killed or severely disabled, Professor Fiona Stanley warns.
WA’s leading child expert, a patron for Meningitis Centre Australia, said diseases such as meningococcal were “less visible” in recent years, leading to a complacency about protecting against outbreaks.
Speaking ahead of the centre’s 25th anniversary tomorrow, which is also World Meningitis Day, the former Australian of the Year said: “You can’t blame parents, they don’t see the diseases.
“The reason we managed to vaccinate the entire under-15 population with polio is because people were so scared. They saw it, people were dying and being paralysed, they saw this dreadful disease,” she added.
“But there isn’t the fear like there was before because of the success of vaccination.
“You know what really pushes vaccination rates up is when vaccination rates fall, there is an epidemic and kids die and get very sick.
“But I don’t want that to be the stimulation for vaccination. What I want to be the stimulation to vaccinate is that you understand what protective vaccination is.”
Dr Fiona Stanley with Meningitis Centre of Australia poster girl Ashley Langoulant. Picture: Steve Ferrier
Professor Stanley said anti-vaccination campaigners were “evil” for spreading lies about the jabs.
“They are quite evil and give misinformation to parents which is very scary,” she said.
Professor Stanley said Meningitis Centre Australia had made great strides towards raising the profile of the benefits of vaccination and was advocating for jabs for all major strains of meningococcal to be provided free. She said while the previous State government had done well to step up and add vaccines for the W and Y strains to the State-based program, the B vaccine could not be forgotten.
“We need to look at this (B strain vaccine). You only have to have a couple of kids get this disease and be affected by it severely and you’ve paid for your vaccine,” she said.
“The cost is so great.”
Professor Stanley praised the efforts of Meningitis Centre Australia chairman Bruce Langoulant, who established the centre after his daughter Ashley nearly died from pneumococcal meningitis when she was a baby.
Ashley, now 25, suffers from severe disabilities and needs round-the-clock care. Mr Langoulant said though cases of B-strain meningococcal had decreased, it was still vital to “shut the gate”.
“Just having one child die or be severely disabled is one too many,” he said.
SOURCE: The Sunday Times/Perthnow.