A recent feature article in a Sunday paper showed a young woman teacher with her beautiful young son who was perhaps 3 years old. She was proudly telling the world that she “didn’t believe in vaccinating her boy’ against infectious diseases as she thought he was better to develop his own immunity “naturally”. I wonder what she will say if and when he chokes to death from diphtheria or whooping cough, or is paralysed forever by poliomyelitis, or dies a miserable slow death from measles encephalitis.


We are all only one vaccination injection away from contracting these awful diseases, or one broken sewer pipe or major flood removed from scourges like polio, cholera or typhoid. Anyone who believes a 3 year old can fight these diseases when they have no pre-existing immunity is frankly, a stupid fool. The law says that we must fence our swimming pools and strap our kids securely in cars to protect them. But a ridiculous approach to public health exists in regards to vaccinations, pandering to (in the main) inner city “intelligentsia” (I use the term very advisedly!). These silly citizens are in fact abysmally ignorant of the natural history of things like diphtheria, Whooping Cough or Polio. Folly like that of the teacher first mentioned can only be based in ignorance.


Diphtheria still kills many children in places such as India, the old Soviet Union and Indonesia. Caused by a bacterium called Corynebacterium, it typically causes a swollen neck  and a fever that is seldom very high, a  ‘musty” aroma to the breath and the formation of a thick white membrane over the tonsils but which also extends into the voice box,  windpipe and lungs. A child who is not vaccinated against this killer disease has a 40 to 50% chance of DYING – either by suffocation or a direct toxic effect on the heart. There have been sporadic cases in unimmunised migrant children in Sydney in recent years. An epidemic of diphtheria in parts of NSW in the 1880’s killed every second child in affected areas. Because, like Whooping cough, diphtheria starts like many other respiratory infections and the fever is not high, it is easily missed. Urgent  tracheotomy is needed in severe cases.


Thick membrane on tonsils in Diphtheria







Thick membrane on tonsils in Diphtheria

Swollen Neck in Diphtheria





Swollen neck in Diphtheria

Whooping Cough (Pertussis – also called the “100 day Cough”) is also readily prevented by vaccination. In the 1970’s there were some cases of neurological damage attributed to the vaccine and some people refused to let their children be immunised – the actual causation remains controversial but if a child is well and does not have another fever causing illness when vaccinated, there appears to be no risk with the vaccine – the biggest risk by far comes from Whooping cough. A further problem is that some adults who have been vaccinated many years ago may still carry the Bordetella pertussis germ or have mild infections – hence booster vaccinations are now recommended for some adults. In California in 2010, ten children DIED from Whooping cough – several of those had been to doctors but the diagnosis was missed. In the first 6 month of 2012 there were 18,000 reported cases of pertussis in the USA.

The biggest risk of pertussis and diphtheria is to small babies – they are too young to be vaccinated but are at extreme risk if some one who is not vaccinated ( most irresponsibly in the view of many doctors) but who can spread these lethal bacteria to these tiny and innocent babies.


The third component of Triple antigen is tetanus toxoid. Tetanus is rare but lethal. The germs are present in everyone’s garden – and they survive for years as ‘spores’. Many soldiers in WW1 survived their wounds only to die an agonising death from tetanus, which puts all the victims’ muscles into severe spasm.


Are you vaccinated against these killer diseases? Are your children’s vaccinations up to date and complete – if not see your GP today. Polio vaccine is even painless – a drop of fluid on the tongue to avoid painful paralysis for  life !!

There are also vaccines against measles and other serious infectious diseases. Don’t abuse your child by neglecting to vaccinate against these diseases – they are all killers.


This information sheet is prepared by Dr Jim Wilkinson, MBBS MHL FFARACS FANZCA

It is for general information only. Specific advice should be sought from your own doctor.



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