Reporter: John Stewart
Australia’s most prominent anti-vaccination group has lost the right to make public appeals for money.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Australia’s most prominent anti-vaccination group has been stripped of its charitable status.
The Australian Vaccination Network will no longer be able to make public appeals for money after NSW authorities moved to restrict the organisation’s fundraising ability.
Leading vaccination experts have welcomed the move and say the group’s dangerous, but the vaccination network’s leader has vowed to fight on.
John Stewart reports.
JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: The Australian Vaccination Network is run by Meryl Dorey on the North Coast of NSW. The AVN provides anti-vaccination information through its website, magazines and seminars.
In July, the Health Care Complaints Commission accused the AVN of providing inaccurate and misleading information about vaccinations to parents, but the criticism was dismissed by the group.
MERYL DOREY, AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NETWORK: This was not an independent investigation. This was an investigation by an organisation that set out to support government policy, which is pro-vaccination.
JOHN STEWART: The Health Care Complaints Commission ordered the AVN to publish a statement on its website, saying that the group is against vaccinations and its information should not be read as medical advice.
But the group refused to publish the warning.
Today the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing revoked the group’s charitable status, stopping it from making public appeals for money.
Meryl Dorey says the decision was politically motivated.
MERYL DOREY: This is the way that they handle dissent: by shutting organisations down that don’t agree with their policies, and it’s not the sort of move that you would expect in a democratic nation.
JOHN STEWART: But vaccination experts like Professor Robert Booy from Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney say the group is spreading a dangerous message and discouraging parents from vaccinating their children.
ROBERT BOOY, NATIONAL CENTRE FOR IMMUNISATION RESEARCH: Children on the North Coast of NSW have died of pertussis. Only last year a child died. Only last year another child in NSW died of varicella, or chicken pox. And these are vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s a tragedy.
JOHN STEWART: Meryl Dorey says her group will continue, regardless of the new fundraising limits.
MERYL DOREY: It may make things more difficult, but it’s not gonna stop us. We have a right to operate. Parents have a right to the information that we offer them.
ROBERT BOOY: They are certainly a danger to public health. I’ve been very concerned for quite a long time about the fact that the very thing they say they’re doing, which is providing people with options, with choice, is the very thing they take away, by being completely subjective, non-evidence-based and not supportive of the truth, which is that vaccines are generally beneficial and have some side effects.
By being that way, they have reduced people’s choices, convinced people not to vaccinate and children have died.
JOHN STEWART: The AVN says it will keep going by using private donations.
John Stewart, Lateline.