News Coronavirus Madonna King: Time to end the dangerous anti-vaccination conspiracy theories

Madonna King: Time to end the dangerous anti-vaccination conspiracy theories

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The silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud is how communities across our nation have bonded.  

Families are looking after aged-care residents they’d never met – until they discovered they had no one visiting them.

Neighbours are routinely grocery shopping for those worried about the daily threat of infection.

Psychologists are staying open, late at night, to listen to anxious children tearfully explain their inability to sleep.

Nurses and police, and paramedics, and teachers, and scientists are fronting up to work, worn out, in a bid to bring certainty back to our lives.

It’s a unique brand of ‘COVID Kindness’ that should headline this tumultuous time in history.

But the theme – in policy and practice – has been to look out for someone else. Whether that’s in helping out or social distancing, in our work practices or at home.

And that makes the false and fanciful arguments about the vaccine rollout, currently being spread by a merry band of ignorant anti-vaxxers, particularly foul.

Do they genuinely believe that those receiving the jab are being secretly injected with a chip to allow Bill Gates to track our every move?

Or that our chances of having children are doomed by a prick, that has been tried and tested across the globe?

Do they really, genuinely, think that vaccines – which have killed off smallpox, polio and dozens of other diseases – turn into mutant murderers in some people?

In journalism, you meet a lifetime of conspiracy theorists. Often it makes good dinner party talk, and that’s where it ends.

But when the conspiracy arguments threaten the health – and lives – of others, the joke loses its punchline.

Yes, we’ve played at the periphery in dealing with those trading in mistruths. “No jab, no play. No jab, no pay”. But that’s not enough any more. 

Those thousands and thousands of Australians who refuse to immunise their children – and risk spreading disease to others – need to be held to account in a stronger way.

Inciting violence is a crime. So is hate speech. Why isn’t the refusal to vaccinate against those diseases that can spread to others? Like COVID?

Protesters who believe vaccines are poison and 5G networks spread COVID-19 take to the streets in Sydney.

COVID-19 has brought this issue into sharp focus.

The anti-vaccination gang are already preying on the vulnerable, and those anxious about a vaccine that’s come, via science, to the market quickly.

Surveys in some areas overseas have shown the numbers of those lining up for the jab are not high enough to immunise local communities.

The reach of those promoting anti-vaccine messages is also rising sharply on social media. On Instagram, for example, a UK study showed big anti-vaccination accounts grew almost five-fold last year.

But in good news, vaccination rates are also rising as more doses become available.

That cannot afford to be stopped by the risk of what many are calling ‘a vaccine hesitancy’; a risk the World Health Organisation nominated in 2019 as one of the top-10 threats to global health.

Vaccine priorities

This week, debate has revolved around the priority list for early vaccination in Australia.

Front-line workers. Those manning quarantine and borders. The ill. The vulnerable. The aged. It all makes perfect sense. And we cannot allow it to be undermined by the ignorant, brash, and bizarre claims of those now letterboxing homes, calling talkback radio or promoting rants on Facebook.

(Truly, if Facebook wanted to do something to make itself relevant again, it could perhaps bring back news of the pandemic and remove the fake news around it!)

Our politicians have handled this pandemic in wildly different ways; but each of them – despite their politician affiliation – has done what they think is best to stop its spread.

It’s time they turned their attention to a small, loud and ignorant group that is working to kill the kindness so many others are growing in our communities.

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