Media Release, August 5, 2009, Embargoed until 10.00pm AEST

Australian parents urged to get the real facts on vaccination

Businessman, aviator, and explorer, Dick Smith, has funded an Australian Skeptics’ advertisement to urge parents to access factual information on vaccination, in the wake of the country’s largest Whooping Cough epidemic.

The advertisement warns people to avoid advice from groups such as the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), which state that they are ‘pro-choice’ but are opposed to vaccination and spread misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

“Dick Smith Foods has funded this advertisement in the public interest, to ensure parents access unbiased, accurate advice from reputable medical sources. The Australian Vaccination Network is no such source,” said Mr Smith.

The advertisement – placed in the Thursday, August 6 edition of The Australian newspaper – warns parents that the AVN is spreading false claims including that vaccines contain toxic quantities of mercury, aluminium, and formaldehyde; that vaccines cause conditions such as autism, and that the AVN is providing incorrect information about the risks of childhood illnesses.

Following the tragic death of three babies to Whooping Cough, Australian Skeptics has established an information page with information on the myths and realities of vaccines and links to reputable sources.

The parents of four-week-old Dana McCaffery, who died from Whooping Cough in March, have welcomed the Skeptics’ actions.

“We implore parents to access reputable sources for information about vaccination. We thank the Australian Skeptics for presenting this information, which informs parents about the risks of preventable illnesses, addresses fears of vaccines with proven evidence, and debunks common myths. It is vital all Australian governments act now and implement comprehensive education campaigns to fully inform parents about the importance of vaccination,” said Toni and David McCaffery.

Eran Segev, president of Australian Skeptics Inc, said: “Australian Skeptics believes strongly that the public should have access to full and factual information so that they can form their opinions and choices in life, not half-truths, mistruths and fantasies.”

The Australian Skeptics has several thousand members across Australia, and investigates paranormal and pseudo-scientific claims from a responsible scientific viewpoint.

Further information: Australian Skeptics

Media contact: Tim Mendham, 0432 713 195

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