One Northern Rivers councillor wants to ban anti-vaccination groups from council venues.
One Northern Rivers councillor wants to ban anti-vaccination groups from council venues.

Bid to ban anti-vaxxers from council venues

BYRON Shire's shockingly low rates of vaccination will be under the spotlight again at next week's council meeting with a motion looking to ban anti-vaxxer groups using council owned venues to promote their views on the agenda.

The motion was put up by Labour's Paul Spooner who warned children on Nauru may be at lower risk of contracting vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, than those in Byron Shire.

His move to change council policy follows an outcry over last month's screening of the anti-Gardasil film Sacrificial Virgins at the council controlled Mullumbimby Civic Memorial Hall.

The event was presented by the The Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network Inc (AVN) a group that is still subject to a 2014 Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) warning for disseminating misleading, misrepresented and incorrect information about vaccination (that) engenders fear and alarm.

Cr Spooner is concerned the AVN's activities have contributed to the shire's dangerously low rates of childhood immunisation citing figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, reporting vaccination rates in recent years within the Byron Shire may be as low as 48.4%.

"People go on about Nauru being a dangerous place but Byron Shire may well be an even more dangerous place for kids in terms of public health," Cr Spooner said.

"I have been approached by parents, who live here, and others considering a move here, concerned that we have such a large group of children unprotected.

"This is not a theoretical debate, council needs to make it clear that it does not support a group that has a major public health warning out about it.

"It will be interesting to see what other councillors have to say on the matter, its absolutely mind-blowing how low our vaccination rates are."

World Health Organisation figures indicate the rate of vaccination within parts of the Byron Shire is at a lower rate than the latest available figures for South Sudan (59%), Afghanistan (81%), Iraq (85%) and Nauru (87%). The global average for immunisation is 85%.

Councillor Spooner's motion says that while ever the Public Warning issued by the Health Care Complaints Commission is in place council should not accept bookings at any council facility from anti-vaccination groups or individuals, and in particular the Australian Vaccination Risks Network, formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network for the purposes of promoting an anti- vaccination message.

"This is not a freedom of speech issue its about making sure that we don't support a dangerous group such as this," Cr Spooner said.