An Australian mother who lost her newborn child to whooping cough has slammed Senator Pauline Hanson’s unscientific comments on vaccinations.
The One Nation leader told the ABC on Sunday there are reports that “vaccinations have an effect on some children”, and encouraged parents to “do their own research” on the safety of immunisation.
She also accused the government of “blackmailing” parents by withholding welfare payments for unvaccinated children – the so-called ‘No Jab, No Play’ policy.
“Don’t do that to people. That’s a dictatorship,” she said.
Sharyn Pitman, who lost her 19-day-old daughter to whooping cough in 1997 because she was too young to be vaccinated, told The New Daily the senator’s comments were “very insulting”.
“To claim that vaccines can cause harm is very insulting to myself and the many others who have lost children to various horrendous preventable diseases simply because they were either too young to be vaccinated or the correct information or vaccine was simply not offered,” she said.
“Vaccines, if available, would have more than likely saved the lives of our children. Instead we watched them suffer and die from a painful death that could have been prevented.”
The Senator should be using her public position to support, not question, immunisation programs, Ms Pitman said.
“Pauline Hanson certainly has no medical qualification that could scientifically back up what are simply her own opinions,” she said.
“As a person in her position, she should be supporting those who work hard to deliver safe vaccines as well as ensuring that communities are protected against these deadly diseases as much as possible.”
On Monday, Senator Hanson seemed to backtrack by saying her comments were a “personal opinion” and that parents should seek medical advice.
“I’m not saying to people don’t get your children vaccinated,” she told 6PR radio.
“I’m not a medical professional. I had my children vaccinated, I never told my children not to get their children vaccinated.
“If that’s what the doctor tells them, that they need to have the vaccination done, that’s up to the person. Go and talk to your doctor.”
Ms Pitman said any parent considering non-vaccination “should picture their lives without their child”.
“I would ask them to consider how they would feel if they had to helplessly watch their child die in their arms from a preventable disease that could have easily been prevented through a simple vaccine.”
The Australian Medical Association, former federal health department head Stephen Duckett, and even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison have all denounced Senator Hanson’s comments.
Mr Duckett described them as “crazy” in an interview with ABC radio.