Australian nurses and midwives who attempt to spread awareness of the dangers of vaccinations either in person or on social media are being warned that they will be investigated and could face prosecution.
Those who ignore the scientific evidence by promoting anti-vaccination to patients and the public are being cracked down on by the industry regulator.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia who issued the warning has also urged members of the public to report nurses or midwives who spread “misleading and deceptive” materials.
“With no exceptions we expect all registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives to use the best available evidence in making practice decisions.This includes providing information to the public about public health issues,” Chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) Dr. Lynette Cusack said in a statement.
The NMBA has called on Australians to report nurses or midwives promoting anti-vaccination – ‘anti-vaxxers’, as they’re known colloquially.
“The board will consider whether the nurse or midwife has breached their professional obligations and will treat these matters seriously,” the statement said. “Any published anti-vaccination material and/or advice which is false, misleading or deceptive which is being distributed by a registered nurse, enrolled nurse or midwife (including via social media) may also constitute a summary offence under the National Law and could result in prosecution by AHPRA [Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.]
One of the strongest supporters of vaccination, Victoria’s Health Minister Jill Hennessy, has fallen prey to a stream of attacks from anti-vaccination campaigners on social media. She has released some of the messages, in which anti-vaxxers call her a “whore” and a “Stinky stinky liar!” as well as one that said, “You should get all the poison Vaccines the child get in one Shot! Hope you get cancer soon!”
“I’m absolutely up for a full-and-frank debate, but I’m not up for a political culture that continues to degenerate into the realm of threatened violence, sexism and hysteria and at some point we’ve got to push back on this,” Hennessy said, the ABC reported.
The minister said she decided to record a Herald Sun video, highlighting messages she receives from anti-vaxxers, in order “to shine a light on the fact that the anti-vaccination movement is not a peace-loving group of hippies.”
“They are an organized movement, largely stemming from the United State of America that are hell bent on misleading parents that vaccinations are unsafe.
“That’s a dangerous message and one I’m going to continue to fight. Vaccinations save lives,” the minister concluded.
According to the new laws, which took effect on January 1, 2016, parents who don’t immunize their kids may stop receiving childcare benefits. Only people with solid medical reasons are exempt from the crackdown.
“If you always vaccinate your child on time, you provide them with the best protection possible and don’t have to worry,” the government says.
Not all parents choose to subscribe to the no jab, no play legislation in Australia, however.
Dr. Judy Wilyman, who has studied the vaccination topic since 1993, when she vaccinated her first child, says that the “injection of substances into the human body is an individual’s choice and if people are being refused jobs, welfare benefits or places in schools then this discrimination is infringing on our human right to choose what we inject into our own bodies – our right to bodily integrity.”
Wilyman said that when she attempted to debate her academic research, the media chose “not report the other side of the vaccination debate,” adding that she was attacked by consumer lobby groups and that “media censorship” on this issue is “preventing proper debate of this health issue in Australia.”