Anti-vaxxing was in the headlines in Australia this week, with revelations that at least three Victorian doctors are under investigation for granting unwarranted exemptions to parents of unvaccinated children.
The Herald Sun reports that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is investigating claims of an “underground network of anti-vaccination doctors” who have “helped hundreds of families avoid compulsory immunisations”. The newspaper reports that one doctor, Dr. John Piesse, has allegedly helped over 600 families to avoid compulsory vaccination.
The Australian Federal Government introduced controversial vaccination legislation in 2016 that makes access to childcare services and welfare payments conditional on the vaccination of children.
The doctors are said to have assisted families in sidestepping the new requirements. Dr. Piesse addressed a gathering of anti-vaxxers at a screening of the film Vaxxed in Melbourne earlier this month, telling attendees that he had “been working hard for 18 months to try and help parents get exemption from ‘vaccinated pain for vaccinated play’”. He advised audience members to get in touch with anti-vaxxing organisation Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network if they were seeking an exemption.
Some healthcare experts believe Australian vaccination laws are too harsh. Dr Margie Danchin, a Senior Research Fellow at the The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, told media this week that the current system is placing severe pressure on doctors and families:
“What we need is fairer polices that are less punitive that remind and encourage all parents to vaccinate, whilst retaining non-medical exemptions but making them very hard to get! That is, an exemption signed every year by the families' GP stating their reasons not to vaccinate.”
Yet the Federal Government believes that tough measures are necessary. “Vaccination saves lives and it protects lives”, said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. “...if it is accurate that there are registered doctors who are advocating an anti-vaccination position then they will have the full force of the authorities come down on them,” he said.
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