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WARNING: What Queensland Health just did will break your brain.

There’s a reason we go to real doctors and not Doctor Google.

It’s because we trust that they’re going to be accurate; that they’re going to keep us safe, and that whatever information they give us is going to be supported by the latest scientific research.

At least that’s what we’d like to believe.

Pregnant mother-of-one Lucy Fisher was shocked this week when she was handed a leaflet from the Gold Coast University Hospital, which promoted the Australian Vaccination-Sceptics Network as the reliable source – and the ONLY source – for information on vaccinations.

For those of you who don’t know about the AVN, they’re the group who peddle misleading and dangerous, anti-vaccination rhetoric to new parents. 

Fisher was pretty unimpressed by what she found in the leaflet, and took to social media to try and bring the issue to the attention of the hospital and Queensland Government.

Queensland Health soon responded with the following tweet:

Mrs Fisher told the Gold Coast Bulletin, “I was surprised that something on a Queensland and Gold Coast Health letterhead would promote something so against what they are trying to do.”

“For first-time mums it could be really confusing and it is the question of how long that form has been in circulation.”

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Mamamia reached out to Gold Coast Health for a comment, and were told that over the last three years an extensive revision of health documents had been undertaken – but the document handed to Lucy Fisher had not yet gone through the process. It has since been withdrawn from circulation.

“The good intention to provide women with access to information around choice in maternity has mistakenly resulted in this website listed on this sheet,” said Gold Coast Health Associate Professor Anne Sneddon, the Director of Women’s and Babies Health.

“The AV-SN provides a view on immunisation which is not consistent with current recommendations,” Associate Professor Sneddon explained. “Gold Coast Health supports the immunisation program in every aspect and this is reflected in the other clinical guidelines and policy documents used within the service.”

“Gold Coast Health unreservedly apologises for the inclusion of this website if the result was that Gold Coast Health appeared in any way to support non vaccination of newborns and children.”

The Australian Vaccination-Sceptics Network – previously misleadingly named the Australian Vaccinations Network – promotes erroneous information on their website that links autism to vaccinations (a claim that has absolutely no scientific backing) and encourages readers to “make an informed choice.”

Prior to the AVN name change, it would have been all too easy for parents to stumble across their website, and assume it was a legitimate source of information on vaccinations. Network sounds pretty official, right?

The “misleading” name of the AVN has encouraged parents not to vaccinate their children in the past.

Indeed, in March 2013 a mother gave evidence against the AVN in a tribunal, saying that the “misleading” name of the controversial lobby group had convinced her not to vaccinate her daughter.

The mother told the tribunal, “It was only due to the insistence of my mother that I looked further into the issue and found that not only did [immunisation] not cause autism, I had been lied to by this organisation … I put my much-loved and much-wanted daughter’s life at risk because I believed this organisation was giving me legitimate medical information.”

If Gold Coast Health have fallen for it, how many other parents have when looking for science-based information to help them make informed decisions about their children’s health?

That’s what makes the AVN’s scaremongering so truly scary.

Are you worried that parents might stumble across AVN misinformation, and think it is legitimate? How else can people be protected from their scaremongering?

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