Parents warned off high profile anti-vax campaigner
NORTHERN Rivers Vaccination Supporters have warned parents against hearing a high profile anti-vaxxer from the United States speaking at Byron Bay next month.
Spokesperson Heidi Roberston said although David 'Avocado' Wolfe was expected to speak on topics of nutrition at Jing Organics on Thursday March 16, the group was concerned his controversial anti-vaccination views would also be aired.
"Our concern is he has over 10 million followers on his Facebook page, he's a celebrity and a well-known, out spoken anti-vaccination advocate and if he gets on the topic of anti-vaccination and spreads lies, Mr Wolf may influence vulnerable parents who are already hesitating," Ms Robertson said.
"We believe venues have an obligation not to give a platform to people who spread misinformation to our community, which already has a dangerously low vaccination rate."
Ms Robertson said anecdotal evidence from local GPs suggested the region was responding well to the No Jab, No Pay policy, and anti-vax sentiment could destroy those efforts.
"We don't frame this is as a debate at all, as far as scientific consensus is concerned there is no debate on the safety or efficiency of vaccinations.
"The risks associated are so minuscule that vaccination is the greatest public health initiative ever created.
"It's not like he's putting forward an alternative view that is relevant in anyway, it's all lies, so it's not helpful."
Ms Robertson said the Northern River Vaccination Supporters' network had several parents of children that died as a result of diseases which could have been vaccinated against, such as whooping cough.
"I used to be paramedic so I understand the devastation these diseases can cause," she said.
"When I moved to this area I had no idea about the low vaccination rates, when I found out I was really scared for my children."
Here's Northern River Vaccination Supporters' Facebook post from today:
"We wish to bring your attention to the upcoming talk that David 'Avocado' Wolfe has been booked for in Byron Bay.
We have concerns that in this region of already dangerously low vaccination rates, a known anti-vaccination activist will be given a platform to spread his misinformation surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccination.
As you are aware, the Northern Rivers and in particular Byron Bay, is visited by almost 2 million tourists annually. This puts the region at an increased risk of travellers coming in from countries where vaccine preventable diseases like measles and diphtheria are endemic. If a traveller comes in already infected, and stays in an area of low vaccination uptake, it is placing the whole community at risk of an outbreak.
At the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters, we are committed to providing the community with accurate information about vaccination, and correcting misinformation where we see it. (In fact, we have recently been endorsed in this capacity by the World Health Organisation and now appear on their website as a trusted source of information on the safety and efficacy of vaccination.)
Hosting anti vaccination activists in this area does nothing to help accurately inform the community about vaccines; but it does place them at risk by exposing them to falsehoods that could easily lead them to stop vaccinating themselves and their children.
We see this as a Public Health issue and ask that you support us in our efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation like that which Mr. Wolfe has spoken about in the past.
We would like the venue booked, and indeed any other potential venues, to reconsider hosting Mr. Wolfe with his conspiratorial, dangerous ideas.
We will be accused of trying to suppress free speech, however, Mr. Wolfe's free speech is hardly being suppressed when he still has plenty of other outlets on which to publish his opinions, such as his Facebook page which has over 10 million followers. We believe that as a community group we have the right to ask that venues in our region do not further assist him by providing him with a platform here, directly at odds with what we have been working so hard to achieve."