David and Toni McCaffery feature in the anti-vax campaign. Picture: Supplied
David and Toni McCaffery feature in the anti-vax campaign. Picture: Supplied

Grieving parents fight anti-vaxxers

HEARTBROKEN parents have shared the tragic stories of losing their babies to whooping cough as part of a new national campaign aimed at raising immunisation rates and fighting online anti-vax propaganda.

The $5.5 million 'Get the Facts about Immunisation' campaign, launched today, features videos and information brochures about diseases which can be shielded by vaccination.

The campaign will target parents through child care services and online social media channels such as Facebook.
Toni McCaffery, whose daughter Dana died from whooping cough in 2009, said she was pleased to be involved but it was "a long time coming".

Mrs McCaffery and husband Dave have fought tirelessly for the immunisation cause.

"Parents need to understand how dangerous these diseases are and it takes all of us to vaccinate so that we can protect each other," she said.

"While vaccination rates are 93 per cent, it's not high enough, it needs to be 95 per cent to get herd immunity but there are many areas where vaccination rates are low and we can never be complacent."

Greg and Catherine Hughes lost their son to whooping cough in 2015. Picture: Supplied
Greg and Catherine Hughes lost their son to whooping cough in 2015. Picture: Supplied

Greg and Catherine Hughes, whose son Riley died from whooping cough in 2015, have also campaigned hard to counter anti-vaccine sentiment, often becoming the target of abuse as a result.

"It's always hard talking about our story, it was an emotionally difficult thing to do but one that is hopefully worthwhile. If I had received information about the pregnancy booster for whooping cough, Riley would still be here," Mrs Hughes said.

Although the national immunisation rate is now at 93 per cent, up from 90 per cent in 2011, there are still pockets of low immunisation in every state.

Do you think anti-vaxxers should face criminal chargers for endangering the community?

This poll ended on 21 August 2017.

Current Results

Yes - they're putting our most vulnerable at risk thanks to misinformation that vaccines give kids non-catchable illnesses like autism.


No - whether you agree with it or not, people should be able to make their own decisions.


Anti-vaxxers don't endanger the community, they spread truths about pharmacology!


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

In March, The Sunday Telegraph successfully called on the Federal Government to fund a targeted information campaign aimed at parents to address these pockets where the anti-vaccine lobby had been active, or where parents faced other hurdles.

"It is these areas of low coverage which pose risks to the community, especially to people who can't be vaccinated, like newborns and those with medical reasons," Health Minister Greg Hunt told The Sunday Telegraph.

"Riley Hughes and Dana McCaffery were both only a month old when they died of a vaccine-preventable disease. They were both too young to be vaccinated, so like all other newborns, relied on the rest of the community being vaccinated to offer protection," Mr Hunt said.

Immunologist and 2006 Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Frazer also played a role in the campaign with fact-based evidence to dispel the many myths and lies spread online by anti-vaccine zealots.

"Ensuring parents are fully informed about immunisation is vital in ensuring we increase the rates of immunisation across Australia in the 0 to 5 age group," Prof Frazer said.

"Vaccines work to protect children against being infected by these diseases. A parent will never know when their child may come into contact with someone who has got one of these infections, so the best way to protect children from these diseases, is to make sure they're fully immunised," Prof Frazer said.

A new online resource has been developed as well called immunisationfacts.gov.au.

Low Immunisation areas in NSW exist in Inner Sydney, Burwood, Mullumbimby and Byron Bay which have vaccination rates between 52 per cent and 74 per cent.

In Queensland, the Sunshine and Gold Coast hinterland have immunisation rates around 80 per cent. 

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