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 http://www.avn.org.au/.