An Australian mother who lost her days-old infant to a fatal bout of whooping cough is speaking out against anti-vaccination advocates in an effort to make preventable deaths like her son's a thing of the past.
Buzzfeed News first reported on the comments that Catherine Hughes, an immunization advocate, made in response to Australian politician Pauline Hanson, who said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday that parents should do their own research to figure out whether or not it's safe to vaccinate their children.
"Make an informed decision. What I don't like about it is the blackmailing that's happening with the government. Don't do that to people. That's a dictatorship. I think people have a right to investigate themselves," Hanson said.
But for Hughes, who lost a child to a disease that can be easily prevented by a simple booster vaccine, careless comments about the supposed dangers of immunization are personal.
"I don't know who is providing [Hanson with] advice about immunization, but she needs to consider having a chat with some real experts," Hughes told BuzzFeed News. "The advice she is offering parents is not just thoughtless, it's dangerous."
Anti-vaxxer rhetoric has been gaining mainstream traction in the United States in recent years as well, including the noteworthy fact that only one of the four candidates from a major political party (Democrat Hillary Clinton) openly advocated for the use of vaccines during the 2016 presidential election.
Hughes told BuzzFeed News she worries that the visibility of notable politicians like Hanson only helps to spread misinformation.
"They use Pauline's clout as a politician to add more weight to their anti-vaccination arguments, and it is really troubling," she said.
"At the end of the day, it seems like Pauline is another parent who has been hoodwinked by vaccine conspiracy theories. I just wish she had less influence over vulnerable parents who may believe her misinformation."