Nurses could face regulatory action for spreading COVID-19 anti-vaccination claims

Nurses and other registered health practitioners could be stripped of their ability to practise for promoting COVID-19 anti-vaccination claims that seek to undermine the national vaccine rollout.

The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) released a joint position statement this week warning registered health practitioners that they could be subject to investigation and possible regulatory action if found spreading COVID-19 anti- vaccination statements, including via social media.

“There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of ant-vaccination claims including on social media, and advertising may be subject to regulatory action,” Co-chair of the Forum of NRAS Chairs, and Pharmacy Board Chair, Brett Simmonds said.

The joint position statement provides information for health practitioners and students around giving, receiving and advising on, and sharing information about, COVID-19 vaccines.

It describes vaccination as a crucial part of the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and says registered health practitioners will play a vital role in the nation’s vaccination rollout, including educating the public about its importance, as well as the safety of the vaccines.

According to the position statement, registered health practitioner and students remain critical to the success of the national vaccination rollout as it progresses by being vaccinated against COVID-19; being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised; and providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination.

When it comes to sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination, the National Boards and Ahpra state that promotion of anti-vaccination statements, which contradict evidence, and seek to undermine the nation’s vaccination campaign, including via social media, could be subject to investigation and lead to regulatory action.

National Boards created a social media guide to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media. The guide states health practitioners must ensure their social media activity reflects the regulatory framework for their profession and does not undermine public health campaigns, such as Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Mr Simmonds said all registered practitioners must provide accurate, evidence-based information to patients about COVID-19 vaccines. Codes of conduct for each profession outline public health obligations, including health promotion and meeting obligations on disease prevention, he added.

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said it was important Australia’s 800,000 registered practitioners and 193,800 students understood what is expected of them as part of the national response to the pandemic by reading the position statement.

“It’s important you understand these expectations so that patients and communities are best protected against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”

Read the joint position statement here

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