Joanne Howard, a nurse and fervent anti-vaccination campaigner, has had conditions put on her nursing registration by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
The conditions include that “The Practitioner is to undertake and successfully complete a program of education, approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia [NMBA] and including a reflective practice report, in relation to evidence based practice.” She must also provide proof that any place she works is aware of the conditions.
A ‘condition’ aims to “restrict a practitioner’s practice in some way, to protect the public”. It can be placed on a practitioner’s registration for disciplinary reasons, such as because a National Board has found that a practitioner has departed from accepted professional standards.
Howard has for some years espoused her anti-vaccination stance on a series of Facebook pages, defying the NMBA’s position on vaccination. That position, issued in a statement last year, is that the NMBA “recognises the Australian National Immunisation Handbook 10th edition 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 supports the use of the handbook by registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives who are giving vaccines.”
Among Howard’s Facebook posts – covered in depth on the Reasonable Hank website – are her support for views such as that herd immunity is a “flawed science” and that vaccines cause SIDS and autism. She has also promoted the dangerous product Black Salve.
She has said a mother who had shared her story about her baby contracting whooping cough – so as to warn other parents of the danger posed by the disease – was a “silly mumma”, derided those who dare criticise her as “a bunch of arrogant pricks”, and shared a range of sites claiming vaccination conspiracies.
It is not as if she is making her stance known only on closed Facebook pages. Howard has said that “I have made the educated conscientious choice to not consent to a medical practice. The hospitals I work at are well aware that I have made this decision and it is not an issue.”
The NMBA says in last year’s statement that “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 via social media which contradict the best available scientific evidence. The NMBA is taking this opportunity to make its expectations about providing advice on vaccinations clear to registered nurses, enrolled nurses and midwives.”
The suggestion that it is a “small number of nurses” is contentious, as there have been a large number of complaints made to AHPRA against nurses espousing an anti-vaccination stance. Howard herself has said that “there are a lot of us out there”.