On the day a north coast based anti-vaccine lobby faces a deadline to change its name or risk being shut down, a leading immunisation expert has urged for compulsory vaccination of schoolchildren to prevent outbreaks of measles and other infectious diseases.
The director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance says Australia’s status as a relatively measles free country is at risk due to low immunisation rates in areas such as northern NSW and southeast Queensland, regarded as trouble spots by health authorities.
Professor Peter McIntyre suggested to ABC North Coast this morning that immunisation programs should be stepped up in the region to prevent outbreaks of measles and other diseases which vaccination kept in check.
Dr McIntyre said the lower rates of immunisation in areas such as the north coast were a concern and placing Australia’s measles free status at risk.
He said immunisation rates in these areas were dropping ‘because of conscientious objectors and people actively working against immunisation’.
‘We will see outbreaks in areas where immunisation rates are falling… and we’ll have to close schools and need to do all sorts of things to actually decrease or stop that happening,’ he told the ABC.
Dr McIntyre said a ‘logical approach’ would be to form a ‘true partnership between education and health’ authorities so that full immunisation was seen as vital and necessary for all children at school.
Immunisation has been credited for wiping out the potentially fatal measles disease in Australia, although there are occasional outbreaks carried by visitors from overseas.
Echonetdaily sought comment from the Bangalow based Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) but was unsuccessful. A recorded message on their phone number said the message bank was full.
Meanwhile, AVN has until close of business today to come up with a new name for the group.
The NSW Department of Fair Trading last year ordered the organisation to rename itself to more accurately describe its stand against immunisation, following complaints from medical groups that the network’s name was misleading to the public.
The Australian Medical Association says the name gives the impression the network provides unbiased information for and against immunisation.
The group recently came up with half a dozen names which were all knocked back by the Commissioner for Fair Trading.
An investigation of the AVN website by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission found it ‘provides information that is solely anti-vaccination, contains information that is incorrect and misleading, and quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous’.
The commission then warned the public not to get their medical advice from the AVN but the network challenged the public warning and won.