DO I believe in vaccines? Yes. Do I get myself vaccinated? Yes. Do I get my children vaccinated? Yes.

After reciting the above articles of immunological faith, you may consider me a “vaccine vicar” – a dedicated proselytiser on vaccines. Right?


The “Church of Vaccination” is not what it used to be. While I remain strong in faith, it would not take much more red tape or complexity for me to defrock and leave the others to administer the good oils.

Doctrinal confusion

A generation ago, simple village pastors like me knew the vaccination breviary by rote. We could minister vaccines to all folk, of all ages and backgrounds.

Nowadays, one needs a PhD in immunisation to follow all the complexities. And a post-doctoral fellowship every year or two to boot.

I have been in general practice over two decades and cannot remember a year when the vaccine “theologians” have not altered their doctrines.

I shudder when I receive those large envelopes from the Health Department that are appearing with increasing regularity … inside them lurk new vaccine protocols, new immunisation schedules, resulting in more work for practice nurses, more rearranging of the vaccine fridge, more confusion in general.

Travellers from over the mountains tell me that there are new contemplative religious orders in the big cities – the Flu Monks and the Flu Nuns. These good people can tell you which one of the zillions of influenza vaccines is suitable for each soul. I am beginning to wonder whether it is occult sorcery, for when I was in the medical seminary, the same potion seemed to ward off the flu for all and sundry.

Too many denominations

Back in the day, all the faithful would gather in one place for vaccination.

However, since the HealthCare Reformation, so many vaccine denominations have emerged: GP clinics, pharmacies, local health districts, primary health networks, travel clinics, midwives, community health centres and nurse clinics.

It makes me fear that sacrilege and heresy may be rife because the partially vaccinated and unvaccinated are surely in our midst, threatening the greater body of immunisation believers.

The Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners prayers at the Department of Health altar appear to have gone unheard, because the health gods continue to countenance a vaccine multidenominational world view.

Initiation rites

I don’t know what happens in the other vaccine denominations, but in the GP citadels, the newborn initiation rites are always accompanied by other parental rituals, such as:

  • weighing and measuring the infant;
  • evaluating various rashes;
  • reassuring parents about the shape of the baby’s head; and
  • applying for subsidised services.

I am not sure how, or even whether, the other denominations have been trained in the other rituals, hence the GP rite takes longer and is probably a little more expensive.

I trust that the other denominations have at least had formation in anaphylaxis, the Australian Immunisation Register and infection control. Or did this ancient wisdom get lost in the HealthCare Reformation?

School enrolment

The gods built the Australian Immunisation Register a long time ago. It was designed to be the ark where all could find their vaccination ancestries.

But inevitably, people entering primary school, nursing school, medical school and every one of the thousands of health courses and jobs in Australia run to their village GPs for a nihil obstat.

The Australian Immunisation Register is a lost ark that needs to be unearthed so that all can see it, touch it and use it. While it remains shrouded in mystery, the public wander around in confusion as to their true vaccine status. Where is Indiana Jones when we need him?

Maybe vaccines cause illness after all. GP madness perhaps?

Dr Aniello Iannuzzi, FACRRM, FRACGP, FARGP, FAICD, is a GP practising in Coonabarabran, NSW, and a clinical associate professor at the University of Sydney and University of New England.



The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless so stated.

8 thoughts on “Vaccine vicars and the immunological faith

  1. Sue Ieraci says:

    The anonymous comment “They will strike you off at a touch of a feather if you say anything against vaccination
    also” is simply not true. The US has had to rationalise the system for making claims against vaccine manufacturers as the manufacturers were starting to see the market becoming non-viable as a multitude of false claims were drowning out the rare cases of real harm.

    We should not confuse legal judgements with clinical evidence.

    Peter Markey is right – vaccination is becoming much more complex, like many areas of health care, as it is refined and improved over time.

  2. Dr Peter Markey says:

    A light-hearted look at the growing complexity of immunization schedules. But that’s all it is. All medicine is more complex and more specialized than it used to be and vaccination is no exception. We are lucky that there are now so many more vaccines to prevent illnesses which previously were left in the hands of Gods. Changing epidemiology and vaccine effectiveness (previously unmeasureable) has meant tweaking of schedules and more nuanced approaches for a lot of vaccines leading to better outcomes. Support services for GPs and other providers have never been more accessible. There is no evidence that who provides the vaccine makes any difference to outcomes. Access is the key and GPs are at the forefront and deserve congratulations. Because of our national Register, national schedule and ease of access to immunization, Australia has some of the highest coverage rates and lowest vaccine-preventable disease rates in the world. Our national immunization program is a modern miracle and cause for celebration. We should all be proud of it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They will strike you off at a touch of a feather if you say anything against vaccination
    February 22, 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court shielded drug companies from all liability for harm caused by vaccines mandated by government when companies could have made a safer vaccine.
    From now on, drug companies selling vaccines in America will not be held accountable by a jury of our peers in a court of law if those vaccines cause damage or could have been made less toxic. 2
    1 Supreme Court of the United States. Russell Bruesewitz et al v. Wyeth et al. No. 09-152. Argued October 12, 2010 – Decided February 22, 2011.
    2 Business Wire. NVIC Press Release: National Vaccine Information Center Cites “Betrayal of Consumers by U.S. Supreme Court Giving Total Liabilty Shield to Big Pharma. February 23, 2011.

  4. Ian Hargreaves says:

    There is no vaccine against bureaucratic stupidity.

  5. Bernie Zerman says:

    You not only need a PhD in immunisation, but you also need to able to be able to respond to those with a PhD in intimidation!

  6. Dr. A. Vogelsang - Sharman says:

    loved this piece. At last something to laugh about in re to vaccines and the complexities 🙂

  7. Dr Bao-Tram Lam says:

    Funny writing and serious messages! Thank you.

  8. Geoff HARDING says:

    Aniello, that is about the best article I have read in a long time. You run the risk of being burnt at the stake – but I’m sure you are aware of that.
    I’ll put my money in the plate for you.
    Dr Geoff Harding

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