Anti-vaccination group declared unsafe

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.

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. H. Green H. Green Australia says:

    It's about time focus shifted to this dangerous mob residing in northen NSW, with an obviously hidden agenda. The whole north coast of NSW, Byron Bay, Bangalow, Nimbin etc appears to be where anyone who can't find a job elsewhere heads to, just to purely set up shop as a naturopath, homeopath or any other new found trendy 'path'. No one questions their credentials or training it's a case of print a business card, post a few ads and rip of the community (especially the elderly) with their wonder cures (in colourful bottles of course) for $60 a hit.

  2. Greg Beattie Greg Beattie Australia says:

    Wow. You covered a bit of ground there. I have been following this story. I personally think it's important to have groups like this. The info we are fed by our publicly paid authorities is too often not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Groups such as AVN have alerted us to some of the failings of our publicly paid officials in providing information which might be of concern to us. For that I commend them.

    As for harassment no-one has been able to provide any evidence that it occurred. No contact can be substantiated between the group and the couple. Medical records were apparently NOT requested by the group. An enquiry was made to the health unit regarding the validity of the diagnosis. Hardly harassment.

    I have read through both the complaint and the response (posted on their website). In my opinion the AVN made the complainant and the HCCC look a tad silly. As for taking the matter further, I couldn't imagine them committing their enquiry to judicial scrutiny.

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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