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GPs go forth

Come on everyone, roll up your sleeves

Dr David Turner

Dr david turner duo 3x2

‘Oh I’m not having my child immunised, I’m relying on herd immunity’

Of all the ill-informed, nonsensical and illogical things some patients say, this phrase managed to red line my anger like nothing before or since.

I have a few times in my career come across parents similarly refusing to vaccinate their children because they don’t want to expose their child to the (miniscule) risk of vaccination, but are quite prepared to allow their child to benefit from the fact enough other children in their offspring’s cohort have been vaccinated to give herd immunity.

The reason this makes steam come out of my ears is that a parent who talks about the protective effect of herd immunity has clearly read up on and understood something about vaccination – enough to know how important it is that every child who can be gets vaccinated.

If you don't want to take your blood pressure pills, fair enough... but by not being vaccinated you are putting other people at risk

I can forgive stupidity or ignorance, but it’s hard not to be judgemental when someone is refusing to vaccinate a child because of an imagined risk, while understanding how vaccination works and is safe.

Most things in medicine are about the patient and the patient only. If you don’t want to take your blood pressure pills or statin, as long as you fully understand the risks, fair enough it’s your stroke or heart attack to have and that doesn’t directly affect anybody else’s health. Vaccination however is different. By not being vaccinated you are putting other people at risk.

A child could be incubating mumps or measles and next to them in the waiting room could be an immunosuppressed patient. I do believe in freedom of choice, but I also believe if you want to benefit from a free, state provided health service you have certain obligations – and not knowingly doing harm to other patients is surely up at the top.

Many European countries do not allow children to enrol in state schools unless evidence of vaccination is provided. I see no reason why we should not introduce a similar system here.

And while we are at it, for the same reason, I would make it a condition of service that all NHS employees have an annual flu jab, as many still refuse. You know who you are.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London


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Readers' comments (8)

  • Basically...yup

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  • Seconded.

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  • Tantalus

    No jabs, no free healthcare......simples

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  • Please see cochrane analysis of benefit of flu vaccination for health care workers

    "Our review findings have not identified conclusive evidence of benefit of HCW vaccination programmes on specific outcomes of laboratory-proven influenza, its complications (lower respiratory tract infection, hospitalisation or death due to lower respiratory tract illness), or all cause mortality in people over the age of 60 who live in care institutions. This review did not find information on co-interventions with healthcare worker vaccination: hand-washing, face masks, early detection of laboratory-proven influenza, quarantine, avoiding admissions, antivirals and asking healthcare workers with influenza or influenza-like illness (ILI) not to work. This review does not provide reasonable evidence to support the vaccination of healthcare workers to prevent influenza in those aged 60 years or older resident in LTCIs. High quality RCTs are required to avoid the risks of bias in methodology and conduct identified by this review and to test further these interventions in combination"

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  • I think this should be a safeguarding / child neglect issue. How this is not taught in that useless twaddle known as safeguarding is beyond me

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  • Good point Fred. There are immunisations which are clearly proven to work, and perhaps those with much less robust evidence to support them.
    David- I've had my flu jag like a good little boy, but that does not mean I think it will necessarily work and I certainly do not believe it should be mandatory.

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  • " .... I would make it a condition of service that all NHS employees have an annual flu jab ...."

    Fortunately current staffing levels make this unlikely to be policy anytime soon.

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  • This comment has been moderated

  • Cobblers

    You are conflating two ideas here one basic life saving child vaccinations, the other more a job based requirement.

    Truth be told this year's flu vaccination is rubbish (especially 65yrs) and shown to be so in Australia with the same vaccine constituents and same H3N2 flu variant flying about.

    So 100% behind you on kiddie vaccs but not so much on the Occy Health stuff.

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