Written by Staff Writer
The World Health Organization issued new recommendations on Monday for the delivery of vaccines to infants in some developing countries. The most eye-catching new recommendation involves the reinstitution of an Australian anti-vaccination movement that pulled the country’s popular child vaccination campaign in 2016.
Tennis star and four-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic’s father is optimistic that the Australian National Park vaccination campaign will resume despite the new WHO recommendations.
“It is usually good to have two doses of vaccines as children would have more side effects from one. We believe that vaccination is good for the future and the health of the country,” Djokovic told CNN Sport.
The benefits of HPV vaccination for boys. Credit: World Health Organization
Djokovic is referring to the Australian National Park and Australian Federal Parks, which were banned by authorities from vaccinating unvaccinated children aged 2-14. The CDC previously told Australian authorities that the decision was discriminatory.
The new WHO report from 2014, called a biological guide, recommends mothers take their babies to a health clinic to have their vaccinations paid for by the state and conducted in a single, instead of two, doses.
In Australia, where a measles outbreak is currently underway, Australia’s head of communicable diseases said in a statement on Monday that he had discussed the potential measles outbreak with the government.
“The guidelines for vaccination for kids are already very comprehensive and include vaccination along with the measles vaccine which is effective in the first few months of life, as well as the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine which is available during four-year-old.”
An absence of hospital care
Critics of vaccinations cite a long list of health concerns about vaccines, and, in 2015, the Australian National Park program was dubbed “the last bastion of anti-vaccination.”
“I think it is discriminatory,” said Peter Rahling, former vice president of the Australian Vaccination Network, in a 2015 report. “Governments who legislate for abortion … rightly get into trouble.”
But Djokovic is not concerned about his son being exposed to new risks. “He has gone on only a couple of walks, so he is almost never in Australia. He also has never gone on a plane or on the train. I believe that vaccinations are for the long term health of the country and I also want him to continue to grow up with a great health environment.”
Dr. Firas Abayad, a GP who treats infants at Channel 4’s Baby Unit in London, agreed with the Djokovic’s assessment of the facts of vaccinations.
“Even with a vaccine such as the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) that has now been removed as the ‘banned’ jab, it only protects against the one form of virus, and there’s no proof that it does anything to prevent the other forms of virus (such as) whooping cough,” said Abayad.
Despite international outcry from parents and politicians, MMR is still being pulled out from parents’ hands in Australia, as the program is affected by the 2015 WHO guidelines.
Djokovic believes it could be that success of research is the main reason why the program was delayed. “Years ago, when we were a new country, we needed to find out as to what the most important virus in the world is, and it is … the cause of an evil disease that kills children.”
The WHO statement on their updated biological guide is limited in specific advice: “The right mix of vaccines is needed to achieve optimal vaccination coverage and to achieve the health goal of universal health coverage. Access to universal health coverage is a prerequisite for achieving the health goals of the global action plan.”
But in an exclusive interview with CNN Newsroom, WHO’s director of general Dr. Margaret Chan said that “for some countries that only have HIV/AIDS to fight, immunization may not be a priority.”
“Infant death has a direct link to late access to care, especially in the developing world. Some health systems just do not have the capacity to provide follow-up care,” added Chan.