Lot's of publicity for the anti-vaxxers lately.

(Yes, another post about the Australian Anti-vaccination campaign.)

The Australian Vaccination Network has been getting plenty of attention lately. This is after all their last year in existence so lets make it a good one. Recently the AVN has been slammed in parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia. We are hoping to see them condemned in all six states and both mainland territories. As usual I’ve highighted (bold font) my favorite parts..

The NSW slamming by Dr Andrew McDonald is especially interesting:

The Australian Vaccination Network is a fervent and highly virulent anti-immunisation group. Its name and website are designed to mislead unsuspecting community members to believe that a balanced view about immunisation is being presented. When provoked, Australian Vaccination Network’s fellow travellers can and do behave reprehensibly. The police have been called to my office on one occasion following threatening emails after I raised concerns about the practices of the Australian Vaccination Network.

The bill amends section 7 of the Health Care Complaints Act to make clear that a complaint can be made against a health service if the health service affects, or is likely to affect, the clinical management or care of an individual client. This will mean that if a person or group acts as health service providers in a manner that is likely to affect an individual, even if one has not been identified, the Health Care Complaints Commission will have the necessary jurisdiction to investigate a complaint against that health service provider. The Australian Vaccination Network website is a mixture of scientific fact, half-truths and unproven allegations that only an expert eye can pick.

As I said earlier, this is a group that vehemently opposes immunisation. Groups or persons such as the Australian Vaccination Network are entitled to their views because we can all agree to disagree. However, the Australian Vaccination Network is a health service provider and should accurately reflect what those views are—in this case anti-immunisation. Like all health service providers it also should accept the consequences of its provision of health services on individual patients. NSW Parliment Transcript, Page 58

I took particular interest in: “When provoked, Australian Vaccination Network’s fellow travellers can and do behave reprehensibly. The police have been called to my office on one occasion following threatening emails after I raised concerns about the practices of the Australian Vaccination Network.”

Over the years the Australian Vaccination Network in particular it’s former president Meryl Dorey has repeatedly accused critics of inciting others to behave in a less than civilised manner. I won’t go into details about that now (More in a future blog post) but I thought it was an interesting observation.

Then came the slamming in South Australian parliament (full transcript):

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (15:33): As members of parliament, we have a great privilege in shaping the policy and laws that guide our state, but with that, I believe, comes a responsibility to base what we do on the best available evidence and on scientific consensus. Science is central to our understanding of the world. Good, accepted science is testable, can be replicated, peer reviewed, unpicked, examined and reconstructed, but it is also open to new ideas and is self-correcting when better evidence is presented and properly tested.

However, science regularly finds itself under attack. As Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist for Australia, recently noted:

As a society, we should be challenging those who, regardless of reason or factual basis, mock science and scientists for their spurious ends, whether it’s a headline or avoiding an inconvenient truth.

And he is right. The Hon. Ann Bressington has been making quite a name for herself recently in her assaults on accepted science. From her Agenda 21 conspiracy, which seems to hold that scientists and policy makers across the world are secretly involved in an elaborate conspiracy to control all aspects of our lives, to supporting the chemtrail conspiracy, which claims aeroplanes deliberately drop chemicals on the population for some reason. Apparently, it happens right here in Adelaide. To quote the Hon. Ann Bressington, ‘from two unmarked plain white small aircraft that often land at Parafield Airport after a morning spray’.

Many such conspiracy assaults on science can be mildly amusing and, apart from encouraging others to abandon reason and critical thinking, do not necessarily do much external harm. However, some anti-science irrationality actually causes harm—potentially, great harm.The Hon. Ann Bressington is a well-known and vocal opponent of the fluoridation of water. I am not an expert in this area of science, so I rely on the overwhelming scientific consensus. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organisation are strong supporters, and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have called fluoridation of public water supplies one of the 10 most important public health achievements of the 20th century.

It is suggested that fluoride is dangerous because it is toxic. This falsehood comes from a very fundamental misunderstanding of the idea of toxicity. Toxicity is dose dependent; it depends literally on how much you have. The water to which fluoride is added is toxic in high enough doses; when consumed in large quantities, people die from water intoxication. Respected scientists, experts in their field, those whose research is properly peer reviewed, overwhelmingly agree that the levels of fluoride added to public water supplies are safe and have a very positive dental health effect.

Then there are some anti-scientific pursuits that can actually lead to deaths, such as the anti-vaccination movement. The Hon. Ann Bressington commented on Twitter as recently as last month that vaccines are about population reduction. Nothing could be further removed from reality. Vaccines save the life of an estimated three million people every year.

As with the fluoridation of water, over time individuals, groups and researchers dwelling at the fringes of science have criticised the efficacy of vaccinations, or they have falsified or overstated potential side effects of vaccinations. Perhaps the best known example is that of Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose claim against the scientific consensus that the MMR vaccine might be linked to autism saw vaccination rates in England drop considerably. The dangers of relying on bad, not accepted science were highlighted when this particular doctor, who was found to have falsified his results, was struck off as a medical practitioner and massive conflicts of interest in his research were revealed.

The Australian Vaccination Network is a fearmongering anti-vaccination group pushing this life-threatening nonsense in this country. They have been the subject of various adverse findings and orders by health authorities, government departments and Liberal government ministers in their home base of New South Wales. I congratulate the New South Wales authorities for tackling this dangerous group.

The risks posed by the anti-vaccination movement are real. Millions die unnecessarily. Children too young to have their full course of vaccinations and the herd immunity that prevents the uncontrolled spread of horrible disease are put at risk. On vaccination the science is clear; the debate is over. The benefits of vaccines are so immense that the morality of advocating against them without very good evidence needs to be questioned. When bad science is promoted such that it can cause great harm, we have an obligation to call it out. We cannot stand idly by and let such claims go unchecked.

I note that the Hon. Rob Lucas is down to speak after me, and I invite the shadow health minister, who sits in this chamber, to join with me in condemning dangerous anti-scientific approaches to public health that can endanger lives and cause death. South Australian Parliment Transcript

Then came New South Wales MP John Kaye:

New South Wales MP John Kaye says it’s time for the state government to take strong action against groups like the north coast based Australian Vaccination Network.

A report released yesterday showed the north coast and more affluent areas of Sydney were at risk of infectious diseases due to low immunisation rates.

Mr Kaye says normally rational people are being brainwashed by vaccination fears. ABC News

Additionally the president of the Australian Medical Association had this to say:

Unvaccinated children should be held back from school and groups spreading anti-vaccination messages should be punished, according to the federal president of the Australian Medical Association.

Dr Steve Hambleton said a report released on Thursday detailing national immunisation rates raised concerns about parents in certain areas not following vaccination guidelines.

”We should certainly make it difficult for [unvaccinated] children to get to school,” said Steve Hambleton, responding to new national statistics on immunisation rates.

There is also a worrying undercurrent of vaccine objectors who believe conspiracy websites and reject public health guidelines.

These vaccine objectors ”should be ashamed of themselves” for spreading misinformation and should be sanctioned, Dr Hambleton said.

”We need to look at the groups providing those anti-vaccination messages and we need to make sure we stop them . . . They are putting the community in danger.” Sydney Morning Herald

I agree, anti-vaccination campaigners need to be stopped and punished. (That’s currently being worked on.)

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