Civil Liberties and the Critics of Safe Vaccination: Australian Vaccination Network Inc v. Health Care Complaints Commission (2012) NSWSC 110
(2012) 20 Journal of Law and Medicine 44
15 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2013 Last revised: 22 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 1, 2012
Public immunisation programs have, time and again, demonstrated their effectiveness at reducing mortality and morbidity from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and pertussis. Governments, health agencies and almost all health practitioners regard vaccines as safe and cost-effective treatments with a low risk proﬁle. Nevertheless, despite, or perhaps because of, their success, immunisation programs and vaccines have increasingly been questioned by various lobby groups, sceptical of the safety of vaccines and the motives of those who administer them. Whereas the reach of these groups would have once been limited by the cost of postage, the internet has delivered a global audience. The extent to which these anti-vaccination advocates are expected to comply with the ethical and professional standards applied to registered health professionals remains unresolved in Australia. As demonstrated in the case of Australian Vaccination Network Inc v Health Care Complaints Commission  NSWSC 110, the ability of professional oversight bodies to regulate the information promoted by these lobby groups is limited by traditional conceptions of the doctor-patient relationship and the clinical setting in which medical advice is delivered. Acknowledging that vaccines, like all medical treatments, involve some level of risk, this article explores the relationship between the state, parents, family, medical professionals and such lobbyists within a human rights framework, suggesting that most public immunisation programs deliver beneﬁts in “the best interest of the child” that, on balance, provide a good result for the civil liberties of Australians.
Keywords: public health, vaccination, Australian Vaccination Network, HCCC, NSW, anti-vaccination, fluvax
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