There is “no truth” in the anti-vaccine campaign and the ongoing myths around it are putting Australian lives at risk, Australia’s chief medical officer has said at the launch of a new campaign in Melbourne.
Professor Brendan Murphy said research that suggested autism might be linked to vaccines was “completely false and has been debunked”.
A film, Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, has been causing controversy by linking the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism.
The Australian Government launched a $5.5 million immunisation education campaign to counter the views of the anti-vaccination lobby with evidence-based information that parents could easily access.
“With social media and other channels, those who are critics have more of a voice,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said of the launch.
“That’s why we’re having this campaign, to say to parents, it’s safe, it’s vital and it will protect your child and it will protect other children.”
Nationally the immunisation rate is 93 per cent but it can be as low as 60 per cent in some parts of the nation.
“Some of the areas that have lower vaccination rates are the hinterland from the Gold Coast, parts of rural Tasmania, and in particular inner-city Adelaide,” Mr Hunt said.
“What happens is, you can have a message in a community that spreads and our job here to say that message is false, untrue, incorrect.
“As we have seen in Western Australia at the moment, in relation to a [measles] breakout at a local school, there are real risks when you have a community that has a lower level of vaccination.”
The campaign includes at TV commercial featuring the parents of Dana McCaffery, a one-month-old baby who died because she was too young to be vaccinated.
Her family lived in an area with low immunisation rates.
“Our baby Dana died from whooping cough. She was only one month old and too young to be vaccinated,” mother Toni McCaffrey said.
Doctors said diseases like measles could be wiped out through immunisation.
But Professor Murphy said nearly eradicated diseases like polio could also spread again if immunisation rates dropped.
“Many young parents wouldn’t have been around when the scourge of polio had people in iron lungs, seeing the horrible complications from measles,” Professor Brendan Murphy said.
“Parents need facts and that is what this campaign does. Get the facts.
“Immunisation is incredibly safe, and it does save lives.”