An anti-vaccination group that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently has been stripped of its charitable status after the state government found its fund raising appeals had not been conducted in good faith. The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) came into news when in July it was ordered to publish a disclaimer on its website stating the group was anti-vaccination and its material should not be read as medical advice.
This Thursday, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) finally took away the charitable status of AVN on the grounds it had failed to publish the disclaimer as recommended by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). The office sent a letter to the AVN saying, “This has led to appeals not being conducted in good faith…The organisation's website is misleading in that it may lead people making donations to believe they are donating to a cause which promotes vaccination, whereas the organisation adopts an anti-vaccination position.”
The incidents started when the HCCC investigated AVN's website after complaints including one from a couple whose four-week-old daughter died from whooping cough. The parents after the death of Dana McCaffery's found that their story was being used as part of an anti-vaccination campaign when their daughter was too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough. The vaccine for this deadly disease is given after six weeks of age and Dana was only four weeks old.
Robert Booy of the National Center for Immunization and research said, “Children on the North Coast of NSW have died of pertussis [whooping cough]. Only last year a child died. Only last year another child in NSW died of varicella, or chicken pox. And these are vaccine-preventable diseases. It's a tragedy.”
At present AVN is appealing the HCCC's decision to the NSW ombudsman. According to spokeswoman Meryl Dorey, AVN is now “investigating its options” regarding a possible appeal of the OLGR's decision. She insisted the Australian Vaccination Network was not anti-vaccination and “This is a great injustice…It's not the sort of action you'd think a democratic government would take,” she said. AVN has lost the ability to appeal for donations from anyone other than the alleged 2,500 AVN members but the group insists it will continue campaigning.