Anti vaccine group has only a week left to heed to HCCC’s warnings

Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission disapproves of the anti vaccination reports from a Bangalow, NSW based Australian Vaccination Network. The HCCC said in its statement on 7th of July, “The commission recognizes that it is important for there to be debate on the issue of vaccination…However, the AVN provides information that is inaccurate and misleading.” The confidential report of the commission read that AVN “provides information that is solely anti-vaccination” and it “quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.”

Parents went on to complain to the HCCC that this group has been harassing them after one of them lost their infant to whooping cough before she could vaccinated because she was just 32 days old. The HCCC had advised AVN to place a warning or disclaimer on their website and has given 14 days to the AVN to put it up. The disclaimer needs to say that the “information provided by the AVN should not be read as medical advice” and a parent's “decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.”

AVN feels that it cannot be censored. According to AVN spokeswoman Meryl Dorey, “This is not just an issue about vaccination, this is an issue about whether or not an organization or an individual... has the right to freedom of communication and freedom of speech in Australia and whether a government department that is supporting government policy has the right to censor anyone.” She is unsure that she would follow the HCCC directive. She stated AVN’s point of view saying, “A decision will be made shortly but the AVN says what it has always said, that in order for any parent to make a decision about vaccination they need to access information on both sides and make an informed choice.”

AVN has published HCCC’s directive in its website and is seeking legal advice. AVN says, “We will be definitely be fighting against any efforts to censor, suppress or stop the distribution of our information…As a government department, the HCCC would be required to uphold government policy which is pro-vaccination….It is therefore no surprise that they have found against the AVN, a body that questions government policy and urges informed choice on this issue.”

The Australian Vaccination Network website can be found here

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Greg Beattie Greg Beattie Australia says:

    Will somebody please report this issue with a little depth?

    The AVN is accused of harassing a family yet no details of the harassment are made known. An ABC lateline program indicated the only 'harassment' that took place was a letter from the Director of Public Health writing to inform the parents that an enquiry had been made regarding diagnosis.

    The enquiry is surely not 'harassment'. It is in the public interest. The letter, on the other hand, seems outrageous. Why don't reporters ask the obvious question.... What was the purpose of writing a letter to the parents to tell them there had been an enquiry? Then ask... What, of substance, did the AVN do to harass anyone?

    We deserve to know these things. After all, a community group is about to be censored in a move that bypasses all that we hold dear concerning democracy, and you are giving us no substance to make any judgement for ourselves.

    Let's also examine the motives of the Director of Public Health in writing to the parents. Dig a little deeper, please!

  2. Kieran Kieran Canada says:

    Coverage by the ABC goes into the harassment. Here's a URL:

    The AVN contended the fact that Dana McCaffery died of pertussis, including accusing her parents of making it up. There's plenty of detail in that article.

    This also isn't the first infant pertussis death related to falling levels of immunisation.

    Also, I've seen no plan to prevent the AVN from speaking out, merely to force them to put a disclaimer on their website. It's no more censorship than putting warning labels on cigarette packets.

  3. Greg Beattie Greg Beattie Australia says:

    I'm sorry Kieran but there is no detail of any contact between the family and the group in that article. There is, however, reference to a letter sent from the Director Public Health to the family advising that Ms Dorey made enquiries.

    To me, the enquiry doesn't seem out of place. The letter, on the other hand, does seem without purpose.

    From what I can make out the family appear to have become activists in a sense by joining a group called 'Stop the AVN' and speaking out about them. When the AVN defended themselves the family have cried 'harrassment'. I can see no other evidence of harrassment, at least nothing of substance.

    Claims are being reported without being backed up with substance. You may have a different opinion. I see there is a very organised movement to destroy the AVN. Whether or not that is a noble cause is entirely seperate from the issue of integrity in reporting.

  4. Kieran Kieran Canada says:

    The claims are that they made public comments denying that the death was due to pertussis, despite there being no medical evidence to support that. Admittedly, these are supposed to be on blogs and Facebook, and I haven't yet seen hard links (or screenshots), so who knows. There's some implication that they've received harassing emails too.

    Anyway, the family involved have made a formal complaint to the HCCC, who I'm sure will do a more thorough investigation.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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