AN anti-vaccination billboard on Brisbane Street in Perth is an “appalling anti-health message”, says the Australian Medical Association WA.
Emblazoned on the billboard are the words; “Do you know what’s in a vaccine?” and the website “learntherisk.org” which cites long-discredited fraudulent research by UK former-doctor Andrew Wakefield.
The anti-vaccine activist’s 1998 paper argued there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and autism.
The British General Medical Council upheld three dozen charges against him, including several counts of dishonesty, and the publishing journal pulled the paper saying they had been “deceived” and that his article was “utterly false”.
He was barred from practising as a physician in the UK, but the damage was done – MMR vaccinations rates fell, and instances of the disease rose in the UK and US.
AMA WA president Omar Khorshid said there had been a “worrying” increase in infectious diseases like mumps, measles and whooping cough in Western Australia in the last few years.
“These misleading campaigns undermine confidence in evidence-based vaccination programs and could be linked to a resurgence of preventable infectious diseases,” Dr Khorshid said.
“It is completely unacceptable that billboards promoting lies and conspiracy theories are up on busy streets in Perth.
“This propaganda is not only anti-health, it jeopardises the safety of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“I urge anyone who has concerns about vaccines to speak to their GP, not visit sites peddling misinformation.
“If you want to Google the safety of vaccines, visit reputable sites, or better yet have a look on YouTube and watch a video of infants in ICU struggling with whooping cough.”
Perth Labor MP John Carey, who alerted us to the sign, says he is “deeply concerned” about the billboard.
“I know the Perth community is highly engaged and educated on this issue, but it is terrible to see this kind of rubbish being billboarded,” he said.
“The facts are very clear: The World Health Organization says that vaccinations save between two to three million lives a year.”
“It is not just about the individual child; when you get low vaccination clusters in a community – you may have seen stories about Byron Bay – it can remove the herd immunity.”
Herd immunity is when enough people are vaccinated that the disease all but disappears.
“I’m just appalled by it – it’s utter rubbish,” he says of the billboard.”
We contacted learntherisk.org to ask how one of their billboards ended up in Perth. They offered to put us on the phone with their founder, Brandy Vaughan, but didn’t let us know who’d put up the billboard here.
The billboard is on private land but managed by APN Outdoor. We got in touch to ask if they had standards about what they allow in their advertising. They told us they have guidelines that relate to the content of the billboard, but they don’t extend to the content of the website itself.
by DAVID BELL