An Australian woman is considering opening up what many public health officials might consider their worst nightmare: a child care center specifically for unvaccinated kids.
Juanita Halden, a mother of two who lives in a small town called Tabulum in New South Wales, Australia, recently wrote a post on Facebook asking local parents if they would be interested in a center that caters to children whose parents refuse to get them vaccinated, the ABC reports, because they believe vaccinations are dangerous and unnecessary.
Halden is protesting the Australian's government's new policy of withholding government benefits from parents who do not get their children vaccinated, the Daily Telegraph writes.
“I am of the opinion that proposed No Vax Child Care Centre participants would be in a position of less susceptibility to serious communicable diseases based on the knowledge that the parents of these children already have,” Halden told the paper. “They already know the risks, they already know that the heart of immunity boosting and disease resistance lays (sic) within gut flaura (sic) strengthening and that Homeopathic programs offer a safer alternative than the current multiple injection vaccine schedule."
Local health authorities say the idea of a vaccination-free childcare center is especially worrying because the region has seen outbreaks of whooping cough and chickenpox in recent years.
"In the recent past, we've had two young babies on the north coast of New South Wales who have died during the course of whooping cough outbreaks," Paul Corben, director of public health in the area, told the ABC. "That's an unconscionable tragedy for those families."
And the state's opposition Health Minister, Walt Secord, told BuzzFeed Australia, “It is irresponsible, dangerous and ridiculous—and puts the whole community in danger of measles, whooping cough, mumps and other deadly diseases.”
In the Northern Rivers region, where Tabulum is located, somewhere between 50 and 70% of children are vaccinated, according to the ABC. Parents who don't vaccinate their kids often believe that vaccines can cause autism or other health complications, or don't believe in vaccination for religious reasons. There is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism, and though there are minor risks, the Centers for Disease Control and the vast majority of doctors believe the benefits of vaccinating children far outweigh those risks.
Earlier this year, a measles outbreak in the U.S. resulted in tougher laws compelling parents to vaccinate their children, including California, which was at the center of a string of cases. Parents in California can no longer cite religious beliefs as a reason not to vaccinate their children. There were 159 cases in the U.S. between January 4 and April 2 this year, with 111 of those being related to the outbreak in California, according to University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. In the majority of those cases, the patients weren't vaccinated.
The PEW Research Center writes that only three states—California, Mississippi and West Virginia—have laws on the books requiring parents to vaccinate their children unless there is a medical reason for them to be exempt.