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Danger zones -

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NARRATION

Watch as this baby gasps for air. Whooping cough kills one in two hundred newborns.

Dr Chris Ingall

They can't breathe in, they just continue to cough and cough. And um, will turn blue.

NARRATION

We can protect ourselves from these diseases. But vaccination still ignites fierce opposition.

TV Commercial

The greatest lie ever told is that vaccines are safe and effective.

NARRATION

But vaccines have been plagued by reports of nasty side effects.

Spokesman

We've had forty-four children present with febrile convulsions.

NARRATION

So do people now fear a vaccine's side-effects more than they fear the disease itself?

Dr Maryanne Demasi

I've come to the beautiful coastal town of Byron Bay.This is where you come to embrace your inner
hippie, and see what alternative living is all about. But does this laid-back lifestyle come at a
cost?

Paul Corben

This part of New South Wales is known as an alternate lifestyle area. Sometimes with that goes a
distrust of western medicine, and so people believe that public health and pharmaceutical companies
doctors and other immunisation providers are collaborating in some conspiracy.

NARRATION

If people in the community don't get vaccinated, it can lead to disease outbreaks. This creates
danger zones in areas with low levels of vaccination.

Paul Corben

Some periods they can drop down to fifty per cent.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Wow.

Paul Corben

Or very close to fifty per cent.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So does that translate into an increase in disease rates?

Paul Corben

We've seen twice the level of disease in, in Byron Bay as we've seen right next door in Ballina.

NARRATION

I was baffled by the extraordinary low vaccination rates. So I decided to hit the streets of Byron
to find out why.

Woman

And I really think that the vaccinations actually don't help with letting the body naturally build
its own immune system.

Woman

I just feel that I don't really want to put anything unnatural in him, because I just don't feel
it's natural, yeah.

Teenage girl

No, I haven't been vaccinated.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

What's the reason for that?

Teenage girl

Um, well my parents did not believe in it, and like I know someone who has been vaccinated and got
Down's Syndrome from it.

NARRATION

It surprised me how much misinformation there is out there about vaccination. No vaccine comes
without risks. But the majority of side effects are minor.

Doctor

Okay, Mum's going to hold you really tight. Give mum a cuddle.

Professor Robert Booy

It's common to get a bit of redness or swelling at the injection site. Bit of pain that lasts a
couple of days, a fever, maybe for a day.

Doctor

Okay, all good.

Mother

Good girl.

Professor Robert Booy

But they're minor and they go away quickly. Rare side effects are something in the order of one
hundreds of thousands. An allergic reaction, for example.

Doctor

Good girl.

Professor Robert Booy

It's really important for people to be able to weigh up this risk - when I get on a plane, will my
chances of surviving and landing okay, when I have my child vaccinated or myself vaccinated, what
are the likelihood of a serious side effect? We all go on planes, and we should all be vaccinated.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Now I'm not here to mince words. Vaccines work. They protect us from diseases like smallpox and
polio. These are diseases which maim, paralyse, even kill their victims. But to sustain this
protection, we must achieve what we call 'herd immunity'.

Professor Robert Booy

Herd immunity is the means by which those who are vulnerable but not able to be vaccinated can
still be protected, because so many people around them are vaccinated, and are immune. And so
whenever a germ comes into a community, it keeps coming up against fullstops, against barriers, and
it can't get to that one or two vulnerable children. For herd immunity to work, in terms of quite a
few diseases, we need ninety-five per cent immunity, so it's really quite high.

NARRATION

Vaccines not only protect you, they protect your community. And that's why immunisation can be
called altruistic. It's not good enough to say that you've been vaccinated as a baby. Older
children and adults need boosters. This has been a timely reminder that I'm due for mine.
Remarkably, only twelve per cent of adult Australians have had a whooping cough booster.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

I'm done.

NARRATION

The problem is that most people are too young to remember the devastation caused by epidemics in
the early 1900s.

Professor Robert Booy

There were children dying left, right and centre from diphtheria in the forties, paralysed by polio
in the 1950s, and since then there's been many children who have still died from whooping cough,
for example. If you don't see it, out of sight, out of mind. How do they weigh up what they see in
front of them - a serious side effect, which occurs rarely - against an infectious disease they've
hardly even heard of?

Toni McCaffery

Dana.

David McCaffery

Dana who?

Toni McCaffery

Dana Elizabeth McCaffery.

NARRATION

Dana was born perfectly healthy in 2009.

Toni McCaffery

We'd made the decision to have a third child, we'd just moved to a new area, so for us it was, you
know, another step in a new life.

NARRATION

But Toni and David had no idea that moving to Lennox Head in northern New South Wales was a
potential danger zone.

Toni McCaffery

I had never been warned about whooping cough. But at the time Dana was born, the rates of
notification were seven times what they were the previous year. There was one day that I dropped
James to school, I had to take my newborn baby Dana with me. And walked into a school, and just
completely unaware.

NARRATION

It's still not known how, but Dana came in contact with someone carrying pertussis - the bug which
causes whooping cough.

Toni McCaffery

She was about eleven days old, and started to get a blocked nose. And I took her to the doctor and
that's what they thought it was, just a cold.

NARRATION

But things turned bad quite suddenly. Dana was airlifted to Brisbane hospital in a critical
condition.

Toni McCaffery

I heard Dave scream and I ran up. And we just stood there, alarms going off, everybody on deck,
pumping your child. And as they count down, every minute, and they get to a minute, and they're
yelling at you, going, 'Right, now she has permanent brain damage, now she has this, now she has
that.' And you know it was just, it was horrific.

David McCaffery

It was horrific, it was horrific. It was your worst nightmare.

Toni McCaffery

All from something that was described to me as 'just a cold'. And five days later my baby's dead.
It was ... it just ... It was a complete shock, yeah.

David McCaffery

It was that quick.

NARRATION

At eleven days old, Dana was too young to be vaccinated. She had to rely on herd immunity for
protection. But tragically, it failed her.

Toni McCaffery

It's horrible to think ... I killed my child by taking her into that school. It took me months, if
not years to be able to walk through the school gates again without that voice in my head.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

That feeling of regret.

Toni McCaffery

It's just that feeling of, if I had simply stayed home that day, she might be alive.

Dr Chris Ingall

I've been here for twenty-five years now, treated a lot of children with vaccine-preventable
disease. There's a certain anti-authority, anti-mainstream view - the idea, in their heads, that
vaccination is not a good thing. It is something which stems from their alternative lifestyle, and
then it affects everyone around them.

NARRATION

The anti-vaccination sentiment has been spurred on by bad publicity around vaccine side-effects.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

A report in 1998 by British doctor Andrew Wakefield linked the MMR, or Measles Mumps Rubella
vaccine with autism.

Professor Robert Booy

I was living and working in the UK in the late nineties when the autism theory came along. It was
really rubbish science, but it caught people's imagination, and particularly the anti-vaccination
group swung in behind Dr Andrew Wakefield and said, 'Oh, this must be true.'

Dr Maryanne Demasi

It took many years to prove his research was bogus. But the damage was already done.

Professor Robert Booy

It made people think that vaccines were unsafe, that their child could be dreadfully damaged. And
so for a time, immunisation uptake in the UK of the MMR vaccine went down to about sixty per cent.

NARRATION

This hasn't stopped the anti-vaccination lobby from drowning out the science.

Dr Chris Ingall

The messages are wrong, they have no truth in them, yet they're plausible. And people who aren't
sure, could say, 'Well, on balance, I'm not going to vaccinate.' And that's been happening a lot.

Professor Robert Booy

It's only around the corner, if we don't keep immunisation rates high, that epidemics can come
back.

NARRATION

The McCafferys have since had another baby named Sarah. Toni tells me she's worked hard to ensure
every new parent receives a warning about whooping cough.

Toni McCaffery

That sticker now is going on every baby's health record book - saying, 'Watch out, whooping cough
is about. Parents and Grandparents get a booster now.' Just those words may have changed my life.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

So even if this saves one life, it's been worth it.

Toni McCaffery

Oh yeah. The reality is, these diseases kill, and that when they turn deadly, medicine can't stop
them. There is no cure.

Dr Maryanne Demasi

Immunisation is one of the best defences we have against deadly epidemics. The fear now is that the
tide of people reluctant to get vaccinated may see the re-emergence of diseases we once thought had
been eradicated. Let's hope not.

Topics: Health

Reporter: Dr Maryanne Demasi

Producer: Dr Maryanne Demasi, Paul Schneller

Researcher: Roslyn Lawrence

Camera: Brett Ramsay

Daniel Shaw

Additional camera:

David Marshall A.C.S.

Archive footage Courtesy of:

National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS)

Chain of Protection

Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne

Sound: Paul Castellaro

Grant Roberts

Editor: Andrew Glover

Story Contacts

Professor Robert Booy

Immunisation and Infectious Diseases Expert

National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS)

The Children's Hospital at Westmead

Paul Corben

Director, NSW North Coast Public Health

Dr Chris Ingall

Paediatrician

Related Info

Chain of Protection - immunisation information

Myths and Concerns about Immunisation

The Realities: Diseases Preventable by Vaccines

Comparison of Effects of Vaccines & Diseases

^ top

YOUR COMMENTS

>> Add a Comment

Scott - 18 May 2012 9:17:21am

If you guys are going to enter into this debate then you need to cover the full story... poor
journalism!

I chose not to vaccinate my new little boy because his mother suffers fron eczema and there seems
to be directs links between immunization and auto immune disorders.

Why also did you not mention alternatives such as homeopathic treatments.

Why would you give a new born baby a HepB shot? ... bottom line is we are prescribed too many
vaccinations and dont care to investigate the side effects on our nations health. Just tow the
government line that you've been told to tow... dont ruffle any feathers... poor job!!

>> Reply

Tom - 18 May 2012 2:09:44am

I am one of three siblings who have all been personally touched by the side effects of vaccination.
I had my shot when I was age 2. Now age 43, I have been living with epilepsy because of the shot
ever since .

One of the things this program neglects to mention, are the 'hidden' side-effects of
vaccination.Vaccination may of got rid of some of the older symptoms (like polio). However, how can
that account for the increased prevalence of other symptoms in the general community. Symptoms like
ADHD, childhood cancers, epilepsy, kids in a vegetative state.These symptoms were unheard of by
most people 50+ years ago.

How else can you explain the increase in these symptoms (plus many others) 'but' for the increased
use of Vaccinations.

>> Reply

William - 17 May 2012 11:09:39pm

It's very distressing to see young children suffering from disease & I can't think of any good
reasons why parents would willingly choose not to vaccinate their kids & put them at greater risk
of illness. The same principles of preventative medicine & vaccination apply to adults. There is
always some risk involved with any vaccine, but the health risk without it is much greater.

The reality of global Contagion is imminent & it's extremely urgent for people to stop lingering
with negative attitudes & choices toward vaccination. It's good to hope for the best & that we
won't get sick, but the reality is, things don't always work out the way we hope & it's essential
to prepare for the alternative. In the context of disease prevention; 'to fail to prepare, is to
prepare to fail' which makes vaccination a life-saving necessity!

The following statement was issued on 6th April 2011 by World Health Organisation,
Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan & highlights that we're already in the health crisis situation
which will make it difficult to extinguish an outbreak of global Contagion;

"...The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens has accelerated. More and more essential
medicines are failing. The therapeutic arsenal is shrinking. The speed with which these drugs are
being lost far outpaces the development of replacement drugs. In fact, the R&D pipeline for new
antimicrobials has practically run dry...."

If a disease like Tuberculosis is allowed to take hold & proliferate because of misinformation,
persistent negativity & lack of positive action toward vaccination, what will the result be? Well,
you might like to consider the 2008 Catalyst presentation about 'THE TUBERCULOSIS RESURGENCE' which
highlights important details to consider;

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2395725.htm

As we all share the same home (earth), we need to maintain an active concern for our personal
health, as well as the health & wellbeing of others. One of the ways we can do that is by
protecting health with vaccination against disease.

Thankyou Catalyst for a very valuable presentation.

>> Reply

Ashamed to be human. - 17 May 2012 11:08:53pm

SO disappointed in this extremely biased report. Pure, onesided propaganda. Shame on you Catalyst
for only presenting one side of this volatile and very current debate.

>> Reply

Kent Gorrell - 17 May 2012 10:50:40pm

Short on facts, no stats, just anacdotes and interviews with uninformed hippies.

More a promo for big pharma than real journalism.

How about real stats on rates of hooping cough v rates os imunisation.

How about true representation of the arguments against and factual rebuttal.

I expect better from Auntie.

Would you like Themerisol with that?

>> Reply

Scott - 18 May 2012 9:29:15am

well said!!

>> Reply

GlennD - 17 May 2012 10:36:21pm

Great story. Public mistrust for evidence-based concepts (i.e science) is truly perplexing.

>> Reply

Donna - 17 May 2012 10:10:09pm

First of all, why wasn't the "new" strain of whooping cough mentioned in this report? And that it
is resistant to the current vaccine? And that about 80% of recently reported WC cases are this new
strain?

Second, some basic questions.. what percentage of cases are occurring in people that have been
vaccinated? What percentage of the vaccinated community report adverse effects, and how many are
estimated to go unreported?

Third, why wasn't it mentioned that the largest population of "vaccine deniers" are: well educated,
high-income, women (mothers) who arguably have the most to lose (the health of their children)?

The investigation was clearly biased and fear mongering. I get the feeling that the general public
is being primed for compulsory vaccination for all Australians.

It is up to the individual (or parents of children) to weigh up the risks of disease with those of
adverse effects from vaccines.

>> Reply

Moderator: We acknowledge that the pertussis vaccine is not perfect but to achieve herd immunity,
95% of the population should be vaccinated to avoid outbreaks. Statistics regarding the percentage
of cases that are occurring in people who have been vaccinated can be supplied by Professor Booy's
office.

The focus of the danger zone was in Byron bay and the doctors attributed the low vaccination rates
in Byron bay to its residents being anti-western medicine. The anti-vaccination lobby is
represented by a wide variety of people.Prof Booy made it clear from the story that it is a choice
for parents and that they must weigh up the risks.

Therese - 17 May 2012 9:49:27pm

One in 200 newborns die from whooping cough? Think about it. Gets your facts straight please!

I think the issue for most us is not whether to vaccinate, but how much we should vaccinate. Polio
and dipthera are definitely worth vaccinating for, but flu and measles? Our immune systems have
managed to deal with them well enough. It's the multiple vaccinations recommended these days that
are the worry. Such a cocktail of different drugs injected into the tissues of our young are what
should be investigated.

>> Reply

Scott - 18 May 2012 9:52:47am

you hit the nail right on the head!!!

Every bit of information I find says avoid multiple vaccinations at once, yet they just jam more
and more into a single jab.

Also why would anybody want to give a fresh newborn baby a HepB shot? welcome to the big bad world
bup.

>> Reply

Alex Hodges - 17 May 2012 9:45:26pm

Shame on you,ABC,I expect more unbiased and balanced journalism from you!This piece on vaccination
could have been written by the vested interest manufacturers! As for the repeat attacks against Dr
Andrew Wakefield,what a disgrace.Have you read the FULL story regarding his and two other experts'
findings that autistic children in his practice,had lab-strain measles virus growing in their
bowels? Are you aware that two further studies have vindicated him and corroborated his work,and he
is now sueing for defamation?Doctors are warned not to report vaccine damage,that's why people are
not getting this information,in order that they might make an educated decision on this issue.Two
weeks ago,an article appeared in our newspapers regarding a 13 year old girl who has been reduced
to a childlike state after a Gardisil jab!No wonder there is so much fear about these toxic
injections.Why did fully vaccinated medical staff at our local hospital go down with whooping
cough? I know many happy,healthy,unvaccinated children and they are not disease-carriers!What a
ridiculous,unsubstantiated argument!

>> Reply

Justine - 17 May 2012 9:11:19pm

Well what can I say, ABC what a disgraceful segment. No I am not a hippie from Byron Bay ! Quite
the opposite ! Notice you didnt talk about the fluvax, I have noticed the vaxed people in a
workplace are often sicker for longer than the unvaxed, please explain !!! Wheres the herd immunity
here ? Know people this year who have a continual cough since being vaxed , oh well bad luck for
them ! I think vaccination rates are lower because people are starting to think for themselves
about their health and make their own onservations.

>> Reply

Scott - 18 May 2012 9:57:23am

my sister runs a childcare center and says that it is very evident that the vaccinated children are
the ones that always get sick.

>> Reply

Renee - 17 May 2012 9:07:20pm

How disappointing the Danger Zones feature on immunisation. As a parent trying to make the right
decision for my children I was keen to hear some solid science that would positively contribute to
the debate, but instead it was the same old one-sided bias that we should put our blind faith in
science, and anyone who criticises vaccines is either a shonk or a hippy. It would have been much
better to take the opportunity to ask the doctors to show the science that refutes the concerns -
why do vaccinated people still get diseases such as whooping cough? Has anyone ever researched the
effects of giving an increasing number of vaccines to small children, including the increasing
trend to combine vaccines in one shot? Should we be concerned about some of the other ingredients
in vaccines, such as aluminium? Is there an argument for selective vaccination rather than
following a one-size-fits-all prescription? And what about interviewing someone from the other side
of the debate, rather than just making a sweeping statement about bogus autism research and relying
on a few vague vox-pops to represent an alternate view? The story did nothing to help parents who
are genuinely stuck with real critical decisions regarding the health of their child to be in a
better position to make informed decisions - one way or the other. when you have such a large
audience you have a responsibility to deliver unbiased journalism.

>> Reply

jess - 17 May 2012 9:06:11pm

Absolutely disgusted by this programs the one sided argument around vaccinations, call your self
reporters, more like reps for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture vaccinations, did they
pay you for this campaign? As a mother i was all for vaccination until my perfectly healthy son was
vaccinated and few months later was then diagnosed with autism. Start telling the truth about what
the hell is in vaccinations, after all it was only in 2008 when Dr. Healy (former head of NIS)
spoke out about thermisol in vaccines and the damage it cases young babies. start telling the truth
that it is unsafe for some babies to pump there developing bodies and immune systems with high
lethal doses of multiply virus at one time and for there not to be side affects - yeah righto!. Why
do you think they wont vaccinate when a child has a fever?? because their little bodies simply can
not handle it such an assault. So what about the poor children that have an undeveloped immune
systems where are they in your heard theory??? Oh thats right they are the 1 in 94 boys that now
have autism.

>> Reply

Sonja Hardy - 17 May 2012 8:48:50pm

I have read credible reports that most cases of whooping cough occur in the fully vaccinated, and
there is even some suggestion that the vaccine causes the disease. In fact, my daughter had
whooping cough soon after having been vaccinated. I questioned my doctor at the time, but was not
given a satisfactory answer.

>> Reply

Lily - 17 May 2012 8:41:03pm

My 2year old granddaughter lives in Coffs Harbour; she has been fully vaccinated but still had
whooping cough last year and may have it again. How is this possible?

Love the program

>> Reply

Anne Taylor - 17 May 2012 8:36:12pm

An excellent segment with factual information. Thank you, very timely.

>> Reply

Dr James - 17 May 2012 8:36:04pm

'got vaccinated & got down syndrome' what?!? Down syndrome is a genetic condition, it is NOT due to
vaccination. It is disturbing to see people believing in such erroneous claims.

>> Reply

Geoorgina - 17 May 2012 8:36:01pm

I commend the Catalyst team on the excellent presentation this evening concerning vaccines. As a
health professional I am often frustrated with ill informed patients who do not understand evidence
based medicine and the the danger they put others in. I think all new parents (and others who chose
not to vaccinate their children) should watch this presentation. Thank you for such a well
researched and well presented piece.

>> Reply

ian rowland - 17 May 2012 8:34:12pm

Brilliant! At last a concise and cutting edge debunking of the crackpot thinking which is placing
our children at risk.

I had my whooping cough vaccination today in preparation for the arrival of our first grandchild in
August.

As a child of the 1950s I saw the ravages of polio and other epidemics which were eradicated by
vaccination.

To the blithely ignorant "alternate thinkers" let me say this: Get you addled head out of your
computer screen (the internet is the world's biggest junk shop dressed up to look like a public
library!) and take a walk through an old cemetery and read the headstones. Even you will be stung
by the commonality of those reading "Child died of whooping cough...Child died of diptheria." and
the list goes on...

>> Reply

Rod - 17 May 2012 8:30:33pm

I can't believe how biased your story about vaccination was on tonights Catalyst program.

You only have to look at how many vaccinations kids have before there 5 years old to realise that
vaccination programs are a business and not in the interest of human health.Your show stinks and
has no integrity.

>> Reply

VC - 17 May 2012 8:28:33pm

I am so disappointed in the ABC after happening upon Catalyst tonight. I would usually be a firm
supporter but the conservative nature and alarmist overtones of your program tonight has made me
think twice. I feel like I am watching Today Tonight

>> Reply

George Christinson - 17 May 2012 8:24:58pm