Gluten-free Ghettos

20 May

Imagine a child care centre in the middle of autumn. Snotty noses, grasping hands and tiny-person immune systems make a haven for viruses. Imagine a parent’s relief at knowing that every child there has had their full schedule of vaccinations.

Barry O’Farrell shares this dream. New legislation being passed in NSW will allow early childhood centres to refuse enrolment to children who have not been fully vaccinated. The noble aim, of course, is to put pressure on families to vaccinate, and to protect children in group settings from being exposed to potential carriers of preventable disease.

Allowing early education centres to choose whether or not they accept unvaccinated children seems like a fair and unobtrusive way of going about this process. No one can (well, they can, but they shouldn’t) accuse the government of being over-reaching or forcing people to have medical procedures.

But a problem lies in the way that patterns of non-vaccination occur, and the potential shit-storm in areas of concentration.

We’ve known for a while that there are areas in NSW with particularly high non-vaccination rates. One swift glance at the list (from Byron Bay/Lennox Heads, down to Kempsey/Nambucca and then on to the salubrious Mosman/Rose Bay/Clovelly) should be enough to indicate the common factor. As someone who has called both the Mid-North Coast and the Eastern suburbs of Sydney home, I can tell you in all of those places there is a strong whiff of urban hippy.

It’s not just the most educated and affluent who are being more discerning (read: paranoid) about whether and how they vaccinate their children. Overlaid on this map you can see a very clear shading indicating a sub-culture of over-cautious, organic, grain-fed, free-range, dairy-free, wheat-germ, healthy-living families.

The impact of the new legislation on market forces in these areas?  Childcare centres that will specialise in offering the kind of lifestyle that caters to wealthy, cautious non-vaccinators.

Go back to that snot-covered child care centre and imagine none of the children are vaccinated against deadly and preventable diseases. What we have here is policy that is unwittingly creating the very concentrations of vulnerable children that it is trying to avoid.

Go ahead, sprinkle the eastern seaboard with measles, polio and rubella—we can rest easy knowing the the snacks will be gluten-free. Children will be protected from the horrors of feeling bloated or slightly off—they just may feel paralysed from the waist down.

Gluten free mum

EDIT: Changes were made to this legislation  just before it was passed, meaning that any child care service that enrols non- or under-vaccinated children without a medical exemption will be fined. This obviously makes the above post very silly indeed, as these unvaccinated-friendly places would be violating the legislation.

But that doesn’t mean the new legislation makes any sense. Research suggests that while parents who vaccinate get most of their information about immunisation from doctors, those who don’t vaccinate get most of their info from the internet. If we want to change parental immunisation behaviour, they need easier access to better information. They need to hear convincing counter-arguments to the idiocy of the AVN. They need to be convinced that it is a good idea. Making child care centres deal with loads of paperwork and cop the fines for parents not immunising makes no sense – and it won’t make a difference, either.

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