The Australian state of Victoria is preparing to welcome the world with open arms during this year’s Soccer World Cup. However, preparations are not without their challenges – in particular, a recent outbreak of measles which has seen over 400 reported cases and one death. “It’s only natural that people will be concerned,” said Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy in response to growing concerns about the spread of infection among children and teenagers at higher risk for complications from measles. With an estimated 3 million Australians visiting Europe each year, it is imperative that we do all we can to protect against diseases like these before they come home.”
Soccer World Cup: Australia Prepares for Soccer Participation with Increased Vaccinations and Health Checks
Health Minister has announced that all Australians visiting Europe during the Soccer World Cup will be required to undergo mandatory health screenings for measles and other notifiable diseases prior to leaving Australia. The Soccer World Cup is expected to see over 3 million Australians flock overseas; many of which will travel through countries such as England, Northern Ireland and Wales where recent outbreaks of Measles have been recorded. With the number of measles cases currently reported in Australia at over 400, it is clear that the current vaccination approach to disease prevention has failed.
The Victorian government has called for an end to religious practices that prohibit preventative medical treatment against diseases such as measles. “There’s no way around this; it is simply too dangerous to send unvaccinated children into public places, no matter how temporary. When you consider the incredible number of people who travel through airports and train stations, with or without their children during peak times, it’s clear that we need stronger preventative measures in place,” said Ms Hennessy. “Not only do religious beliefs have no place in public, they have no right to claim exemptions that can put children and adults at risk.”
The call for stricter measures follows the death of a 30-year old woman who was admitted to Sydney’s Concord Hospital with an advanced case of measles. The patient had reportedly contracted the virus while travelling overseas and did not receive treatment until she fell critically ill. “It is a tragedy that someone could die from this disease in our country, but we must take comfort from the fact that it could have been much worse,” said Federal Health Minister Jill Hennessy. “The patient was initially admitted to a private hospital who only diagnosed the measles after she had been transferred to Concord Hospital. Thankfully, we have since learned that the British and German governments will be screening all passengers arriving from Australia for measles. We support the government in taking any and all measures necessary to protect against these infections.”
With three million Australians set to travel overseas for Soccer World Cup, Premier Daniel Andrews has called for a state-wide drive towards increased vaccination in the lead up to the event. “The logistics, cost and resources required to provide these health services is enormous,” Premier Andrews said. “But in the face of this epidemic, it’s clear that we must act now.” To help with costs associated with running vaccination clinics around Australia, The Victorian government will be requesting donations from private companies and members of the public in coming weeks.
The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN), an outspoken anti-vaccination lobby group, has released a statement denouncing calls for mandatory vaccination. “It is simply ridiculous to suggest that we should force people to undergo medical procedures,” said Skeptic spokeswoman Meryl Dorey. “While I will not comment on the effectiveness of vaccinations, I am of firm belief that people should be able to make their own choices about what goes into their bodies.” “It is no secret that vaccines carry with them the risk of side effects. It is for this reason that we must oppose mandatory vaccination at all costs.”
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has issued a statement in support of all measures to prevent the spread of Measles, including calls for mandatory vaccination. “We must not kid ourselves about this issue,” said AMA president Dr Tony Bartone. “Mandatory vaccination is absolutely necessary if we are going to protect public health and safety. Each year we see a rise in non-vaccination in Australia, and each year we see an increase in outbreaks like this one. Unfortunately, it is the most vulnerable members of our society who are often left at greatest risk.”
The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) has expressed support for the AVN’s comments against mandatory vaccination. “Our government needs to understand that there are risks associated with vaccination, and for this reason it should be left up to parents to make the final decision,” said ANH spokeswoman Emma Stokes. “While we understand the concerns of public health officials, freedom is one thing that should not be taken lightly.”
Anti-vaccination protesters have descended on Parliament House in Canberra to rally against the Federal Government’s plans to introduce measures protecting public health. “It is important that we stand up against the encroachment of fascism and authoritarianism in our country,” said protester Neil Wilkinson. “By calling for mandatory vaccines, the government is taking away basic human rights.”
The Human Rights Commission has issued a statement supporting the right of all Australians to be vaccinated, in a special address delivered by Australian Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow. “The right to health is one of the most basic human rights,” said Santow. “In recent times, we have seen ‘vaccine hesitancy’ erode this right for Australians, and for people around the world. We must all do our part to refute this dangerous movement.”