A Bangalow, NSW based group known as the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) had earlier maligned the nation’s immunization campaign calling vaccines unsafe on their website. The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission had then issued a warning to them to include a disclaimer that the contents of the sites webpages should not be taken as medical advice. AVN failed to heed to the warnings and now the HCCC has issued a safety warning against the group.
According to the highly regarded Lismore-based pediatrician Chris Ingall and reported by the ABC, there has been a rise of whooping cough cases and a dramatic fall of immunization rates since the activities of AVN have come forth. Pertussis [whooping cough] is a deadly but vaccine preventable disease.
Australia faced a whooping cough epidemic last year. More than 19,000 cases were reported and three babies died, including four-week-old Dana McCaffery from the NSW north coast. Dr Ingall said, “They spook many young families into believing that vaccinations are bad, that the risk outweighs the benefit, which is quite wrong… Ever since the AVN became active up here, the immunisation rates have fallen. We're the lowest in the state, we have pockets below 50 per cent vaccination… Those are the pockets where the whooping cough outbreaks succeeded. Unfortunately it rolls out to the entire community, so everyone gets affected.”
HCCC in its statement agreed that a healthy debate on vaccination is important. “However, the AVN provides information that is inaccurate and misleading…The AVN's failure to include a notice on its website of the nature recommended by the Commission may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate, and therefore poses a risk to public health and safety.”
According to AVN spokeswoman Meryl Dorey people have the right to make informed choices. She added, “We already have two of the three items that the Health Care Complaints Commission asked us to put up on the website and we've had these things up there for years…The only thing that the AVN refuses to put up on the website [is] the Health Care Complaints Commission wants us to state that we are anti-vaccination…We are not, never have been, anti-vaccination. We are pro-information, pro-choice and a health safety watchdog…We do refuse to put [the anti-vaccination statement] up and surely this is censorship at its highest level to insist that we [do so].”
Many feel that it is time the federal government stepped in to handle the issue. Mr. Ken McLeod said, “It's not the job of people like me, or even the McCafferys to counteract the propaganda of the anti-vaccine community, it's the job of government…It's the job of our health ministers and senior bureaucrats to do that and they have been conspicuous by their absence…I think it's possible for the HCCC to go to court and apply for a court order to have the disclaimer put up, they don't need enabling legislation to do that, so I'll be writing to the Commissioner eventually asking them to consider that.” The McCaffereys lost their four week old infant daughter to whooping cough because she was too young to be vaccinated. The AVN allegedly has been harassing them since then.