Anti-vaccine group accused of harassing parents
The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) has compiled a damning report into Australia’s most prominent anti-vaccination group, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN).
The HCCC accuses the AVN of providing inaccurate and misleading information and selectively quoting research out of context to argue against vaccination.
The report has also noted accusations that the AVN harassed the parents of a child who died of whooping cough last year, after the parents advocated the importance of childhood vaccination.
Meryl Dorey runs the AVN from a home office on the north coast of NSW.
The AVN provides anti-vaccination information through its website, magazine and seminars.
An investigation by the HCCC into the AVN has found the information it provides to parents is inaccurate and misleading.
But Ms Dorey told ABC1’s Lateline the investigation was biased.
“This was not an independent investigation – this was an investigation by an organisation that set out to support government policy, which is pro-vaccination,” she said.
“We do not agree that the HCCC has any jurisdiction over us and we have been telling them this from the very beginning, and we are seeking legal advice on this issue.”
Ken McLeod is the man who took the initial complaint against the AVN to the HCCC.
He says the AVN’s anti-vaccination stance is indefensible.
“I remember as a six-year-old seeing the look of horror on my father’s face as the doctor told him my sister had polio, and my mother just being so shattered,” he said.
“I remember going to the hospital ward in Townsville and it was an entire ward full of dozens of kids, little babies with polio, and it was awful – absolutely awful.
“Only a year or so later the polio vaccine came and this just disappeared. It was like magic and it was just wonderful, and all these years later you now find people who are trying to set the clock back 50 years.”
Mr McLeod says the AVN are “a bunch of ratbags”.
“I mean reason and science just does not break through [to them],” he said.
“They’re not interested in reality, they’re interested in conspiracy theories and junk science.”
More and more people rely on the internet for health care information.
If you Google “vaccination”, the AVN comes up second on the list of sites. But nowhere on its website does the AVN declare it is an anti-vaccination organisation.