This news is more than two years old, but I only just found out about it.
Nurses in Australia are regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), an agency under the government’s Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. NMBA members are appointed for three years by the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council.
In October 2016, NMBA released new vaccination standards cracking down on nurses and midwives who “promote” anti-vaccination to patients and the public via social media. The new standards are justified on the grounds that promoting false, misleading or deceptive information is an offense under national law — the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 — and is prosecutable by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
On October 20, 2016, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) released a statement threatening to take action against any nurse or midwife who promotes anti-vaccination via social media. The statement, “NMBA position clear, we will take action on anti-vaccination promoters,” reads:
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and AHPRA take their responsibility of public protection very seriously, and will take regulatory action on nurses or midwives who promote anti-vaccination statements to patients and the public.
The recently published NMBA position statement follows the Board’s awareness that a small number of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives have promoted anti-vaccination statements to patients and the public via social media which contradict the best available scientific evidence. Current evidence indicates that preventative measures such as vaccination are a clinically effective public health procedure for certain viral and microbial diseases….
The NMBA’s Social media policy also provide clear guidance to nurses and midwives when using social media and is unambiguous in stating that when using social media, in any context, the National Law, the NMBA’s code of ethics and code of conduct, and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services apply….
If the NMBA decide to take action on a nurse or midwife’s registration they can issue a caution, accept an undertaking or impose conditions which limit their practice in some way. If a nurse or midwife’s registration is restricted, this will be published on the public online register of practitioners.
The NMBA refer allegations of the most serious examples of professional misconduct to tribunals. Once a matter is referred to a tribunal it usually becomes public, and decisions are published online.
The NMBA statement also urges members of the public to report nurses or midwives who “promote” anti-vaccination.
According to The Guardian, Dr. Hannah Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and the spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, said vaccination was essential to public health and safety, and that it is “concerning” that some midwives and nurses “are taking to social media in order to express a position not backed by science.” However, Dahlen added she was worried the crackdown may push people with anti-vaccination views further underground: “The worry is the confirmation bias that can occur, because people might say: ‘There you go, this is proof that you can’t even have an alternative opinion.’ It might in fact just give people more fuel for their belief systems.”
The World Health Organisation claims that vaccinations prevent up to three million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles.
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