Anti-vax docs called out
A small group of Melbourne doctors have been accused of helping families dodge ‘No Jab, No Play’ laws.
At least three doctors are allegedly being investigated for granting families exemptions from the laws designed to improve immunisation rates.
The scheme allows medical exemption on the basis of lowered immunity or a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine.
Very few children satisfy the criteria for a medical exemption, but reports say the doctors have helped hundreds of families duck the new policy.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has no sympathy for doctors that take an anti-vaccination position.
“I am astonished that there are any people who have been through medical degrees who would deign to stoop to the level of supporting the anti-vaccination movement,” Mr Hunt said.
“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.”
Associate Professor Julie Leask - a Principal Research Fellow in the School of Public Health at The University of Sydney - says the current policy may be encouraging the anti-vaccine movement.
“Doctors should only sign a valid exemption,” Dr Leask says.
“There are very few genuine medical exemptions to vaccination. Vaccines save lives and are generally safe, with some side effects and very rarely more serious reactions.
“Some families unfortunately fear vaccines more than the diseases. This happens for a range of reasons – bad experiences with the system, mistrust, alternative beliefs.
“No policies will make them change. No Jab No Play effectively shuts out their children from enrolling children in childcare or pre-school. Some families are experiencing many difficulties.
“No Jab No Play is putting tremendous pressure on the system and enlivening activism. There are and have always been some doctors who are against vaccination in general. They will be the ones non-vaccinators will flock to when they have no other options.
“It would be better to have very strict and hard to reach exemptions for vaccine refusers so the policies don’t drive parents to these particular doctors and become even more disengaged with mainstream services.”