Nursing board warns anti-vax members

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) has issued a statement making “its expectations about providing advice on vaccinations clear to registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives”.

This is in response to recent reports of nurses who have publically espoused anti-vaccination stances in social media and elsewhere.

“The NMBA has become aware that there are a small number of registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives who are promoting anti-vaccination statements to patients and the public … which contradict the best available scientific evidence,” the statement says.

The NMBA is responsible for the regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions, and has approved registration standards, codes and guidelines and competency standards that define the Board’s expectations while guiding the professional practice of nurses and midwives in Australia.

The Board says those standards include recognising the Australian National Immunisation Handbook as providing “evidence-based advice to health professionals about the safe and effective use of vaccines and the public health benefits associated with vaccination”.

The NMBA says it supports the use of the handbook by registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives who are giving vaccines, and “expects all registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives to use the best available evidence in making practice decisions. This includes providing information to the public about public health issues.”

This particularly refers to its social media policy and guidelines for advertising regulated health services.

The statement asks “What should I do if I notice a nurse or midwife is promoting anti-vaccination material?” and suggests that “If you have concerns about a nurse or midwife you can make a complaint to AHPRA.”

“The NMBA will consider whether the nurse or midwife has breached their professional obligations and will treat these matters seriously. Any published anti-vaccination material and/or advice which is false, misleading or deceptive which is being distributed by a registered nurse, enrolled nurse or midwife (including via social media) may also constitute a summary offence under the National Law and could result in prosecution by Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.”

2 thoughts on “Nursing board warns anti-vax members”

  1. I expect they promote anti-vaccination material for the same reasons that they themselves object to vaccinations. Healthcare workers can be surprisingly anti-vaccination.

    The Influenza Specialist Group has reported on reasons why healthcare workers don’t get immunised themselves. There’s an interesting pattern in influenza immunisation. Medical staff have the lowest rate of vaccine uptake, followed by nursing staff – The highest vaccination rate occurs with allied health and laboratory staff.

    So why do direct care staff appear to be neglecting their duty of care? General reasons for rejection of immunisation by healthcare workers are the perceptions about the risk of personal harm from influenza, lack of personal vulnerability due to general health, and social justifications based on colleagues and superiors not being vaccinated.

    There ya go. Systematic issues. Other reasons for rejecting vaccines was concern over adverse reactions, including a rather common minority belief that vaccines could cause influenza. This furthers signals that better education may be valuable (live viruses are not used in Australian influenza vaccines).

    There are also concerns about vaccine efficacy – particularly the strength of evidence and the
    ambiguity of guidelines. Similarly, this could be improved by better education and better
    communication within clinical guidelines.

    Importantly there are also reports from healthcare workers that vaccination services are not offered in a convenient manner or that they are unaware how to access the services at all. That I am not so sure is an anti-vax matter.

  2. Nurses do need to be watched on issues like these. About 10 years ago a unit of study on Complementary Medicine was introduced into the nursing course at the university I worked in. It was not designed as an academic analysis of complementary medicine but to promote its use in nursing. At about the same time, I was diagnosed with cancer and it is interesting that the only people who suggested I try “complementary” remedies were academic staff in the Faculty of Nursing.

    Part of the problem is that university nursing courses do not promote critical thinking to the extent that medical and science courses do, and do not train their students to reject nonsense. Instead there is of a policy of tolerance, especially in areas of potential political sensitivity. In particular, I noticed a willingness to accept Chinese medicine, acupuncture, naturopathy, and even such bizarre practices as reflexology and reiki as part of such nebulous concepts as “cultural inclusiveness” and the “treatment spectrum”.

    Nurses need to become more hard-nosed on these issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please make sure to read our comments policy before contributing.