Mar 11, 2021

Healthcare workers face harsh penalties for spouting anti-coronavirus vaccine claims

Nurse sitting at home and giving online advices. On table there are tablet and laptop.

As Australia’s vaccine rollout amps up, healthcare workers have been warned of harsh penalties should they spread anti-COVID vaccination claims.

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists found to be spreading anti-vax information will be held accountable by the medical watchdog. 

In a joint directive, the national medical boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) warned healthcare workers that spreading this false or deceptive information to patients or on social media about the vaccine would lead to regulatory action.  

Supported by every national health profession board, including the medical, nursing and midwifery, pharmacy, dental, chiropractic, Chinese medicine, paramedicine and osteopathy boards of Australia, the statement outlined expectations for health professionals in the release of vaccination information. 

“There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims including on social media, and advertising may be subject to regulatory action,” a spokesman for the medical boards and Pharmacy Board chairman Brett Simmonds said.

In the joint statement, it was outlined that any health practitioner found to be disseminating any anti-vax information that contradicts the best available scientific evidence, or which actively goes against and undermines the national immunisation campaign may be subject to investigation and regulatory action. 

“National Boards have developed social media guidance to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media. The guidance explains that registered health practitioners must make sure that their social media activity is consistent with the regulatory framework for their profession and does not contradict or counter public health campaigns or messaging, such as the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy,” says the statement. 

“Health practitioners are reminded that it is an offence under the National Law to advertise a regulated health service (including via social media) in a way that is false, misleading or deceptive. Advertising that includes false, misleading or deceptive claims about COVID-19, including anti-vaccination material, may result in prosecution by AHPRA.”

Within the statement, it was made clear that, unless in the case of conscientious objection or medical contraindications otherwise, health practitioners are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine and serve as examples to their communities. 

“National Boards support the vaccine program and encourage all registered health practitioners to get vaccinated unless medically contraindicated.

“The codes of conduct for each of the registered health professions explain the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention,” Mr Simmonds said.

So far, around 100,000 Australians have already received their vaccinations, as a further half, a million doses of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine doses arrived in the country this week. What has been described as the “workhorse” of the national vaccination program by Australia’s chief health bureaucrat Professor Brendan Murphy, the AstraZeneca vaccine will become the one most widely administered to Australians. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant rolled up their sleeves to receive their doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this week, as a further 414,000 doses arrived last Sunday, March 7. 

There were 14 new cases reported nationally yesterday, all from overseas travellers, and zero locally acquired cases reported in the last 24 hours as the country’s vaccination rollout continues, with the plan to have 4 million Australians vaccinated by early April.

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