Doctors face penalties for anti-vaccine claims


Doctors, nurses and pharmacists could be stripped of their ability to practise if they are found by the medical watchdog to be spreading COVID anti-vaccination claims.

The punishment is part of a string of harsh penalties health practitioners face after the national medical boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) released a joint directive warning on Tuesday.

The alert said practitioners risked regulatory action if they spouted false or deceptive misinformation to patients or on social media which could undermine Australia’s vaccination program.

It comes as the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout begins, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant expected to get their jab on Wednesday.

“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,” spokesman for the medical boards and Pharmacy Board chairman Brett Simmonds said.

AHPRA chief executive Martin Fletcher urged all of Australia’s 800,000 registered practitioners and 193,800 students to follow the guidelines.

“If you’re a registered health practitioner or student, the best thing to do is to read our joint statement,” he said.

“It explains the National Boards’ expectations of registered health practitioners about receiving, administering and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccines.

“It’s important you understand these expectations so that patients and communities are best protected against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”

The joint statement was supported by every national health professional board, including the medical, nursing and midwifery, pharmacy, dental, chiropractic, Chinese medicine, paramedicine and osteopathy boards of Australia.

The boards’ joint position statement also urged registered health practitioners to get vaccinated against COVID-19 “unless medically contraindicated” and to get the necessary training and accreditation to administer vaccines.

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