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Vaccination Debate

It's a sight that makes most people feel a bit uncomfortable, including me!

But it's also something most of us have been through before as babies, kids and later as adults.

Vaccinations have been used for decades to stop the spread of many of the world's most dangerous diseases. For instance, way before you were born there was a really bad illness that affected tens of thousands of kids, called polio. It caused a lot of pain, lifelong deformities and sometimes death! But in Australia today, polio doesn't exist thanks to vaccinations. So how does this little jab actually work?

So the vaccine I'm about to have is for three illnesses - it's for Whooping Cough, Diphtheria and Tetanus. So what the needle contains is a teensy little bit of each of the bacterias that cause those illnesses. Now, they've been changed in some way, so they won't actually make me sick. What they will do is help me to fight off those bacterias if I happen to come across them in the future.

Not all of those infections would've been dangerous for me if I had got them; Some would've just made me sick for a while. But for babies, getting an illness like Whooping Cough, for example, can be fatal. That's why getting a vaccination isn't just about protecting yourself, it's about protecting others that can't always be vaccinated like newborn babies, really old or really sick people, or people with allergies.

These days, nearly every kid in Australia gets vaccinated for a bunch of illnesses, including the ones I was just vaccinated for, and others you might recognise like measles and chickenpox. The government reckons vaccinating kids is so important that it now has a rule called 'no jab, no pay'. It means parents who don't vaccinate their kids don't get welfare payments from the government like child care and family benefits. The government also wants kids to be banned from childcare and pre-school if their parents choose not to vaccinate them.

But not everyone agrees with that. Last week, Senator Pauline Hanson said that even though she vaccinated her kids, she thinks parents should have a choice not to and should do some research.

SENATOR PAULINE HANSON: Parents should take the responsibility to actually investigate the whole situation. People come to me constantly all the time, they're very concerned about it and I've heard it for years.

The problem is that if you look on the internet, it's not hard to find people who disagree with vaccinations. They say it causes side effects and that people have died or been left with disabilities after being vaccinated, but nearly all doctors and scientists say that's just not true!

The possibility of a reaction is very minimal and if something happens we're prepared to treat it, but again I must reiterate it is quite rare.

At the moment, only a very small number of Australian parents - about two per cent - refuse to vaccinate their kids, but health care professionals say they're worried others will start listening to the wrong advice. They say vaccinations have been so successful that everyone's forgotten how devastating diseases like polio were. They say it's important to remember how much this little jab is doing to keep you, and others, safe and healthy!

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Andy Chen
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