Meryl Dorey being interviewed in Byron Bay recently by a national news network over moves by the AVN to advise conscientious objectors how to avoid the government’s legislation banning unvaccinated children from childcare centres and preschools.
The NSW opposition claims a loophole in the NSW government’s proposed changes to child vaccination laws is being exploited by anti-vaccination campaigners in order to gain exemptions, and it wants the legislation tightened up.
But the Greens say the legislation, which they support, won’t force people objecting on philosophical grounds to vaccinate their children if they want to use childcare centres.
A recent report found that less than half of young children in the Mullumbimby area were fully-immunised.
Opposition leader John Robertson says the Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) is advising members and supporters on ways to claim an exemption from the legislation by encouraging its members to join a new-age style church to avoid the NSW government’s vaccination legislation.
Under the legislation, parents will be able to claim an exemption on ‘religious grounds’ in order to allow their children to attend childcare without being vaccinated.
Childcare centres face fines of up to $4000 if they don’t check if children enrolled have been vaccinated.
Mr Robertson said that AVN recently posted a link on its facebook page encouraging its members to join the Church of Conscious Living to avoid the vaccination legislation, which was introduced in state parliament’s lower house last week.
The AVN, according to their post, said ‘the tenets of this church absolutely oppose forced medication including vaccination’.
Mr Robertson said that while the opposition also supports the legislation, the government ‘has created a loophole large enough for anti-vaccination supporters to drive a truck through’, which was ‘a victory for the AVN’.
‘The health minister needs to explain what steps the government will take to close this loophole that allows anti-vaccination campaigners to claim an exemption and refuse vaccinations,’ he said.
‘It’s clear that members of the AVN and their supporters will use any means available to avoid protecting children from whooping cough and measles. The credentials of the Church of Conscious Living as a genuine religious organisation is completely dubious, yet its members will be able to use it to gain an exemption.’ ?But NSW Greens spokesman, MLC Dr John Kaye, said anyone with profound philosophical objections wanting to send their children to childcare could still not vaccinate their children.
Dr Kaye told ABC north coast this week that there needed to be ‘a robust conversation’ with people who don’t want to vaccinate on the basis that ‘they don’t understand the evidence’.
He said he thought objectors were ‘being misled by mischievous websites’ but did not blame them, ‘but the people behind those websites’.
The AVN’s founder and former president Meryl Dorey was unable to be contacted yesterday for comment.
But the AVN facebook site says the legislation leaves too many questions unanswered, which it lists, and that ‘should it be decided that this issue is worth fighting, a case can be taken to the High Court of Australia to oppose and revoke this legalised discrimination’.
The article, which is not bylined, says that on ‘first reading of this bill, it is easy to see how little thought has gone into it’ and ‘calling it a knee-jerk reaction would be putting it mildly’.
‘This is legislation driven by a sector of the media with close ties to vaccine manufacturers and run on the back of a hate-filled vilification campaign which Australia has never seen the likes of before,’ it says.
‘This campaign has gone beyond all reasonable boundaries expected in a civilised society. Comparisons can be drawn between the current situation in Australia and historical social conflicts such as the McCarthy Era in the US and Hitler’s vilification of the Jews during the 1930s and 1940s. ‘At least with these issues, there was plenty of public debate going on. Today, there is censorship and suppression of any discussion which is not in line with government and medical opinion on the subject. Should this blatant discrimination continue, history and the world will not judge Australia well.’
The article questions whether ‘teachers and staff members of preschools, childcare centres and daycare facilities also have to show that they are fully-vaccinated against all diseases?’
‘What about school bus drivers and parents who volunteer to help in these facilities? If they do not need to show this proof, how can the government be claiming that this policy is protective rather than putative?’ the article says.
The article also says that the bill ‘does not mention natural immunity. If a child has already contracted and recovered from one of the illnesses for which we currently vaccinate, thereby gaining lifelong immunity to the disease (something which no vaccine can provide), will they still be required to be vaccinated? Upon what basis?’
The Public Health Amendment (Vaccination of Children Attending Child Care Facilities) Bill 2013 is set to be debated in the Upper House in two weeks time, and if passed it will come into effect on January 1 next year.
The Bill allows exemptions for conscientious objection based on personal, philosophical, religious or medical belief as well as for medical reasons.