Industry regulator cracks down on nurses and midwives who promote anti-vaccination via social media
Nurses and midwives who ignore scientific evidence by promoting anti-vaccination to patients and the public are being cracked down on in a tough new position statement from their industry regulator.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia released the vaccination standards in response to what it described as a small number of nurses and midwives promoting anti-vaccination via social media.
The board is taking this opportunity to make its expectations about providing advice on vaccinations clear to registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives, the statement reads.
The board expects all registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives to use the best available evidence in making practice decisions.
The statement also urges members of the public to report nurses or midwives promoting anti-vaccination. Promoting false, misleading or deceptive information is an offence under national law and is prosecutable by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
The board will consider whether the nurse or midwife has breached their professional obligations and will treat these matters seriously, the statement said.
Dr Hannah Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and the spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, said vaccination was essential to public health and safety.
Midwives and nurses are highly regarded and trusted members of society and people take their advice very seriously, she said.
I agree that they have a very serious obligation to provide the best available evidence, and it is of course concerning that some are taking to social media in order to express a position not backed by science.
However, Dahlen added she was worried the crackdown may push people with anti-vaccination views further underground.
The worry is the confirmation bias that can occur, because people might say: There you go, this is proof that you cant even have an alternative opinion. It might in fact just give people more fuel for their belief systems.
The position statement from the industry follows the launch of a comprehensive campaign this month by the Australian Medical Association in conjunction with the health minister, Sussan Ley, and the Australian Academy of Science to promote the evidence for and benefits of immunisation.
The campaign included the release of a booklet launched by Professor Peter Doherty, winner of the 1996 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, containing the latest science on vaccination.
The AMA president, Dr Michael Gannon, said the booklet was the perfect response to the lies, misinformation and fear that is peddled by the anti-vaccination movement.
Immunisation saves lives, he said. That is an undeniable fact.
Gannon said since the introduction of the governments No Jab No Pay policy, 6,000 children whose parents were previously registered as conscientious objectors to vaccination were now fully immunised.
But he said it was concerning there were still pockets in the community, including in the Gold Coast, western Sydney and the north coast of NSW, with lower than average immunisation rates.
According to the World Health Organisation, vaccinations prevent up to three million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles.
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