Another attack has been launched on the Australian Vaccination Network, this time from a most unexpected quarter.
NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye has said that the state government must take aim against the ‘voodoo claims and conspiracy theories’ that he accuses the network, amongst others, of spreading.
He was speaking after new statistics released yesterday showed that together with some of Sydney’s most exclusive suburbs, Byron and Ballina shires have among the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
Less than 85 per cent of children in our region have been vaccinated, leading Dr Kaye to state that ‘educated people’ were ‘falling prey to misinformation’.
Dr Kaye recognised that in taking the stand he would fall foul of some Greens voters but told Echonetdaily this morning, ‘I welcome the diversity of the debate that comes from the north coast but where the health and safety of children is concerned there is an overriding public health responsibility to ensure all children are vaccinated.
‘This goes beyond politics. This goes to the agony of watching a child struggling to breathe with whooping cough and it goes to the risk of an outbreak of a terrible disease like polio.
‘People have done their own research. I don’t blame people who come to the wrong conclusion based on what they see on the internet. The trouble is there are too many sources on the internet that grotesquely mislead parents seeking answers to the complex questions around vaccination.
Dr Kaye said the government must do more to increase the uptake of vaccination on the north coast and throughout the state and recommended a social media campaign to get honest answers out to people who were concerned.
‘I think the O’Farrell government has an obligation to run a campaign in the electronic media certainly, but even more so on the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etcetera, to ensure that every parent knows the risk to their own children, and others’, of not vaccinating,’ he told Echonetdaily.
The founding head of the Australian Vaccination Network (which opposes all forms of vaccination), Meryl Dorey, lives in Bangalow.
Dr Kaye described the organisation as ‘disgraceful’.
‘The Australian Vaccination Network insists it is telling both sides of the story. However the individual and community benefits of vaccination are a matter of fact, not opinion. Spreading misinformation about childhood immunisation could be deadly,’ he said.
He said that ultimately the responsibility must lie with the health department to combat the ‘conspiracy theories’ and urged the premier to boost budgets to stretched regional local health districts.
‘Cuts to the state’s health budget will make matters much worse. The already over-stretched [health] department struggles to service rural and remote NSW and get the message out to all parents that they should ignore the conspiracy theory idiocy of the anti-vaccine campaigners.
‘Together with more resources for rural and remote areas to ensure that every child has access to an immunisation program, health minister Jillian Skinner must put more effort into a counter-offensive that shows parents the consequences of whooping cough, measles and polio.
‘It must be made clear to parents that waiting until a child gets sick is unfair on their own offspring and on others around them.’