Speaking out against those who oppose vaccinations for common diseases such as measles, chickenpox, and smallpox, an Australian who lost a newly born son to whooping cough is seeking to make preventable deaths obsolete. In a tweet following the death of her son, Catherine Hughes wrote: “My son died a horrible death from #whoopingcough. Your uneducated comments about #vaccination are a disgrace to children.” Hughes leads a group that promotes immunization.
Hughes’ son, Riley, died in March 2015 at the age of 32 days. Hughes’ comment followed remarks made by Pauline Hanson, an Australian senator who leads the right-wing One Nation party, who told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday that parents should make up their own minds as to the advisability of immunization for their children. Hanson said,"Make an informed decision. What I don't like about it is the blackmailing that's happening with the government. Don't do that to people. That's a dictatorship. I think people have a right to investigate themselves." Hanson has four children, all of whom are vaccinated.
Hanson has likened the government policy of withholding a $15,000 a year subisidy if parents fail to have their children vaccinated. “What I don't like about it is the blackmailing that's happening with the government - don't do that to people,” said Hanson on ABC's Insiders program on Sunday. As to assertions that vaccinations save lives, she said, “That's a dictatorship and I think people have a right to investigate themselves.”
Hughes told BuzzFeed News, "I don't know who is providing [Hanson with] advice about immunization, but she needs to consider having a chat with some real experts." She went on to say, "The advice she is offering parents is not just thoughtless, it's dangerous." Hughes said, moreover, that she is concerned that politicians such as Hughes spread misinformation about health issues. Referring to the anti-vaccination community, Hughes said, "They use Pauline's clout as a politician to add more weight to their anti-vaccination arguments, and it is really troubling." Saying that Hanson has been “hoodwinked” by conspiracy theories, Hughes said she wishes that such politicians had less influence than they do.