Another topic that has been highlighted in the midst of the Coronavirus is the mandatory requirement of the flu vaccine. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Radio Station 2GB that when he was social services minister he implemented the “no jab – no play” rule into childcare facilities and that he is now supporting the push for banning footballers from playing in Australia under the current Covid-19 rules. [1]

Footballers are not the only ones having to comply with this rule. Today I am visiting my elderly parents who live in an aged care facility but the rule to visit is also ‘no jab – no play’. I had to think long and hard about what to do in this situation, because although I am not an ‘anti-vaxa’ per say, I do believe that people have the right to choose whether or not having a vaccine for disease prevention is their best option. I did have the right to choose not to be vaccinated, but this would have meant not being able to visit my parents, who although safe and happy, are feeling the impact of not seeing their family.

It is clear that global health has improved as a result of vaccines against many diseases but increasing distrust in health expertise and science, particularly big pharmaceuticals and governments, has led to a deep distrust in the use of vaccines. In the wake of the Coronavirus and the push ‘for a vaccine’ to deal with the pandemic there seems to be even greater focus on the relevance of vaccines for global population health.

Modern technology has definitely has a part to play in the widespread misinformation and distrust of many global issues including immunisation. According to naturalist Sir David Attenborough, the impact that modern technology has had on our sense of responsibility, has made us less confident in our problem-solving abilities . According to Sir David,

‘Humanity is responsible for the destruction of the world’s wild places and all the biodiversity they sustain, because we don’t have the ability to control ourselves.  As a species, we don’t know how to handle the power of our hands or the intelligence of our brains.’ [3]

So, has our dependence on technology, reduced our ability to think intelligently? As always, there are two sides to every story, and to be truly informed takes time, it takes research, and it takes looking in the right places and asking the right questions.

Polarised opinions always seem to me to be a ‘red flag’ for a limited and misinformed understanding of a subject or situation and often the ‘truth’ lies somewhere in the middle – in the paradox.

So the question that I would ask is “what is the paradox for vaccines”?

According to WHO, the paradox with vaccines is, “no vaccine is 100% effective. To make vaccines safer than the disease, the bacteria or virus is killed or weakened (attenuated). For reasons related to the individual, not all vaccinated persons develop immunity.”

So the paradox is, that vaccines, although effective for many, don’t work for everybody. But this is the point, they are not a solution for individuals, they are a solution for the majority – it is a ‘herd’ protection. And possibly, herein lies the problem with our modern ‘me’ world.

If you speak to ‘old people’ like I am going to today, they remember times when people died from many of the diseases that are now controlled by vaccines. They belong to a generation where they front up every year for their ‘shots’ because in their minds, ‘it’s not complicated to make a choice for what have experienced has helped many others in their lifetime.

So, when I fronted up and ‘got my flu shot’, I too didn’t necessarily do it for myself – I did it for others – it may mean that I have immunity against certain strains of influenza, or it may not, but what it does mean is that I am able to visit my parents whom I love very much.

I do think that vaccines will remain a part of the solution for global health and well being because as Sir David said, until we do know how to handle the power of our hands and the intelligence of our brains, unfortunately our reliance on them will continue.