By Annalise Pennisi
Produced for online by Natalie O’Brien
Thirty-seven new cases of whooping cough have been recorded in northern New South Wales as the anti-vax movement continues to grow around the country.
Children living in popular holiday destinations such as Byron Bay, Brunswick Heads, Ballina, and Kingscliff have some of the lowest vaccination rates in Australia.
Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Tony Bartone says the Internet is to blame for spreading misinformation and giving the anti-vax movement more exposure than it deserves.
“It’s a case of a number of people being subjected to misinformation that’s given the status of scientific precedence, without the due process, without due fact, without due evidence behind it,” he says.
Bond University’s professor of public health Chris Del Mar, says low vaccination rates are leading to epidemics in communities with low vaccination rates.
He says the anti-vax movement is growing because parents do not know where to get advice.
“The people who say they don’t want vaccines are often quite well educated, they’re just anxious about these treatments and they probably heard a lot of messages, some of them give conflicting advice,” he says.
Four-year-old Chase Walker-Steven made headlines last week after he was taken from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane by his mother and taken to a wellness centre in northern New South Wales.
The mother, who promotes her anti-vax view, posted a video to Facebook claiming the hospital was making their son sick.
Dr Bartone says the Government has resorted to incentives like “No Jab, No Pay” because anti-vaxxers are so strong in their beliefs.
“If not enough people have got antibodies to the illness then you can get a little epidemic in the community, and it sounds like that’s what’s happened in northern New South Wales,” he says.
He says says these government measures are seeing the rise of no-vax childcare centres, which is highly dangerous.
“It’s really very problematic, not only because its creating an area where misinformation can be fostered and further perpetuated, but also because of the danger it proposes to having such a large group of children together without any vaccination protection,” he says.