Anti-vax increase observed
Researchers have reported a ‘massive uptick’ in anti-vaccination activity.
Immunisation researcher Associate Professor Margie Danchin says there has been a 900 per cent increase in media reporting of anti-vaccination activity in the last few weeks.
She says this is evidence of an increase in the campaign against vaccine science.
“We have a drop in routine vaccination coverage; we don't necessarily know if it's related to anti-vaccination activity. We think it definitely looks like it [routine vaccination uptake] has dropped,” Dr Danchin said.
While this may be due to fear of attending clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also appears that anti-vaccinators are using paranoia about the pandemic to their advantage.
“COVID-19 has really rallied — and provided almost the perfect storm for — anti-vaccination activity,” Dr Danchin told reporters for The Age.
“They are using strong language and play on emotion and fear in the middle of a pandemic when people concerned, frightened and know there are no cures.”
Medical experts say that decades of progress on immunisation is now at risk.
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone says the government should “act now” to ensure that immunisation science is communicated above conspiracy theories.
The anti-vaccine sentiment is expected to be compounded by an upcoming Australian tour of the US film, Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe.
The Australian Vaccination-risks Network recently issued a media release titled “Australian Vaxxed Bus Mobilises the Truth About Vaccines”, in which it thanked members for funding a 10-metre bus that will tour the country to “bring support and information to every area of this vast nation”.
The bus will be filled with ‘citizen journalists’ collecting information on vaccination, while also screening Vaxxed and Vaxxed II: The People's Truth.
Vaxxed is directed by former physician Andrew Wakefield and consists largely of conspiratorial and pseudoscientific allegations about the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the debunked link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The director is best known for a fraudulent 1998 study that falsely claimed a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
Despite his dishonest and deceptive research being retracted and his being kicked off the British medical register, there has still been a sharp decline in vaccination uptake after the claims, with outbreaks of measles following.
Associate Professor Danchin says Vaxxed “really undermines the public health message around vaccines and them being safe and effective”.
“People, when they're frightened have a lesser ability to distinguish what is scientific.
“If measles vaccination drops and pockets of low coverage emerge, once international travel returns potentially you can have returned travellers bringing measles back into the country and disease can spread. Measles is my main concern.”