After seeing a sign in her doctor’s office slamming the short-sighted beliefs of anti-vaxxers, Sunni Mariah took a photo and posted it to her Facebook page. As of this writing, the post has been shared almost 200,000 times.
According to the lifestyle blog MammaMia, the words on the sign were originally written by Australian doctor Rachel Heap, an intensive care specialist who moonlights as a debunker of anti-vaxxer pseudoscience.
Heap’s home country of Australia is known for its no-nonsense approach to people who refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children. In addition to a series of measures implemented over the last few years, Australia will now take away $28 USD in bi-weekly tax benefit payments from parents for each of their children who are not vaccinated.
In 2016, Australia did away with the “conscientious objection” exemption, which previously allowed parents to cite their personal belief systems as grounds for vaccine refusal.
During the same year, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia announced that nurses and midwives who push anti-vaxxer views at work or on social media could face prosecution.
Speaking to MammaMia, Heap says that the “ghosts” of people who’ve paid the ultimate price for the culture of vaccine refusal are what keeps her motivated.
While working in a children’s intensive care unit, Heap remembers two babies who had whooping cough. One of the babies spent six months in intensive care and may have been left with permanent brain damage.
“The other one didn’t make it,” she says.
“Those are two of my ghosts, but I’ve got countless, endless other ones, because people don’t count the adults,” she said. “The 28-year-old guy who died of late complications of whooping cough. The people who’ve died of influenza – young, healthy people as well as the older and more frail. Name a vaccine-preventable disease, other than polio, and I’ve seen it directly.”
“How can I not continue this fight? And no, I’m not paid for it. Most of the people in the pro-vax field, we do this in our spare time, because we are passionate about protecting the vulnerable.”
Heap says that parents who refuse vaccinations for their children are treating them like “possessions,” and not human beings with rights who will suffer the consequences of not being inoculated against preventable diseases.
“These diseases can impact on their whole lives,” Heap says.
“You don’t get to choose whether your kid wears a seat belt. There’s stuff in place to protect children. You don’t own your children. That upsets me.”
Featured image via Facebook