Suspended after vaccine ‘poison’ comments

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A health professional has been reprimanded after he took part in a YouTube video called “Nazi vaccine regime in Australia”

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has heard the case of a Melbourne chiropractor who participated in a YouTube interview called “Nazi vaccine regime in Australia” and screened the film, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” at his clinic.

During the YouTube interview, the chiropractor said that it was extraordinary that “they” were attempting to silence the film, “Vaxxed,” and that as a result, people had to resort to secret screenings at home.

He encouraged people to attend a screening of the movie in Melbourne.

During the interview, in which he referred to himself as a chiropractor, the man made a number of assertions about childhood vaccination, including likening it to “poison”.

“We could not find one shred of evidence to show the efficacy of childhood vaccination,” he said in this interview. “It’s a nanny state…

“Parents are trusting their gut and saying, ‘I don’t want to do this. I can’t inject this poison in my baby’s body and be okay with that’,” he said.

He also claimed that, “the evidence is not there to suggest that people are safe and our kids are safe”.

“I’m, under my regulation and registration requirements, not allowed to talk about vaccination. But under the laws of this country I have to do what’s right… You have to tell the truth… And so, although I may be stepping over the line of what I’ve agreed to do with my regulator, I have to tell people the truth, as a health practitioner, as a leader, as a father, as a community member.”

After the interview, which was recorded in early November, the chiropractor allowed the film Vaxxed to be screened at his clinic, in early December.

Vaxxed was directed by former doctor and anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield, the author of a 1998 paper on vaccines and autism which was fully retracted by The Lancet following a General Medical Council inquiry.

This film contains material which is contrary to the Code of Conduct for chiropractors, and the Board’s statement on advertising. The chiropractor was aware of the content of the film before this screening.

When the Chiropractic Board of Australia became aware of the interview, which was recorded in late 2016, it suspended the chiropractor’s registration, in September 2017.

He admitted the conduct, but claimed that it could not amount to unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct, as it had not taken place during the course of his professional practice. He said that at most, the conduct could be characterised as unsatisfactory professional performance.

However the Tribunal said it had “no hesitation” in making a finding of professional misconduct, given the “flawed, inaccurate and dangerous statements” the chiropractor made and endorsed in the YouTube interview.

The Tribunal noted that the comments made and promoted by the chiropractor “are entirely outside evidence-based science and medicine”.

His statements “about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations for children and adults are not based in science or known facts,” it said.

Even though the chiropractor did not actively promote the film screening at his clinic, the fact that it was held there aligned him to the content of the film, the Tribunal said, given his previous comments on vaccination.

The Tribunal further considered that when the chiropractor made the relevant arrangements for the screening, he was engaged in providing information about a public matter and was making an implicit public statement discouraging vaccination… especially given he did not provide any other evidence-based information on vaccination to provide balanced information to attendees.

The chiropractor was found guilty of professional misconduct and reprimanded. His registration was suspended for six months, from October 2021.

When he presumes practice, he has been ordered not to display, promote or provide any anti-vaccination materials or information to his patients.

He has also been ordered not to make public comment discouraging vaccination. If he is asked by a patient or prospective patient for information about vaccination, he is to refer that person to an appropriately qualified health professional, the Tribunal ordered.

The Tribunal also ordered specifications for a clearly visible sign he must display at any place he practises, saying that he “does not provide any patient with advice regarding vaccination”.

He will also be subjected to random practice inspections, which can include inspection of any social media account he uses in his practice.

“We concluded that it was necessary to send a clear message to the profession that anti-vaccination opinions have no place in professional practice,” the Tribunal said.

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said that the finding was important especially given the current concerns around the spreading of information related to COVID-19 and vaccines.

“While this matter predates the pandemic, I note the Tribunal’s consideration of the responsibility of chiropractors and other health practitioners in public discourse and that “there is a potential for significant harm to the community when false claims are made which can directly impact public health”.

“This is something that Ahpra and the National Boards are acutely aware of as is reflected in our vaccination position statement,” he said.

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