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Anti-vax group struggles to make a name for itself

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The Australian Vaccination Network, which argues that vaccination is unsafe and has links to autism, has reportedly struck trouble in its attempts to find a new name after authorities ruled its existing name was misleading.

The Australian newspaper reported that the organisation tried to “reserve” the name ‘Australian Vaccination – Sceptics Network’, with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, but failed.

The newspaper reported that in the wake of the failed attempt, other members of the public rushed to register the name, as well as ‘Australian Vaccination Skeptics’.

The NSW Department of Fair Trading last year ruled that the anti-vaccine group’s existing name was misleading and ordered it to be changed by February.

When the AVN appealed the decision, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal backed the Department, directing the Network to change its name and develop one that accurately reflects its scepticism about vaccinations.

NSW Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts welcomed the Tribunal’s decision to make the AVN change its name.

“Fair Trading acted in this matter after receiving numerous complaints, including from the Australian Medical Association, that the AVN name was misleading given its overwhelming focus on the publication of anti-vaccination messages and information,” Mr Roberts said.

“The time has come for AVN to find a name which reflects its anti-vaccination stance.”

The controversy comes amid fresh warnings that vaccination coverage in some parts of the country is so low that there is risk of a sustained outbreak of serious diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

An outbreak of measles in Victoria last year prompted the AMA Victoria to make a renewed call for parents to vaccinate their children. And health authorities across the country were on alert in December following an outbreak of measles among participants at a Sydney dance competition attended by more than 200 people.

AMA Victoria President Dr Stephen Parnis said in the last 10 years there had been 954 measles cases in Australia.

He said the latest figures from the National Health Performance Authority show there are several areas in Australia where immunisation coverage is below the 93 to 95 per cent coverage required to prevent measles outbreaks.

“People need to understand the dangers associated with measles,” Dr Parnis said. “Many older Australians will remember the measles outbreaks which caused devastating illness, deaths and long-term neurological disability, as there was no vaccine at the time.

“This virus must be taken seriously and parents need to vaccinate their children.”

He said every vaccine used in Australia had been thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness, approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and was subject to ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

President of the Australian Vaccination Network, Greg Beattie, told the northern NSW based newspaper The Northern Star that there was “no truth whatsoever” to reports that the organisation had a failed attempt at finding a new name.

He told The Northern Star that the group had reserved a name with the NSW Department of Fair Trading last month, but that five days after they reserved the name, two members of the public registered the same name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The AVN was not certain whether this meant they cannot use the reserved name.

“It’s simply an attempt to silence us,” he said. “The important thing is that we’re going to keep on doing what we do.”

Debra Vermeer