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Anti-Vaxx Group Running Senate Candidates As Measles Outbreak Worsens

Queensland authorities issued a new measles alert on Tuesday, April 17, after the thirteenth confirmed case of the illness this year amid growing concerns about the impact of anti-vaccination campaigns in Australia. The campaigns commonly gain traction on social media, and an anti-vaxx political party, which plans to contest seats in the federal election, has been formed. Storyful analysis can reveal Australian anti-vaxx Facebook pages and groups have appealed to thousands of people in the week since the election was called. The Facebook page No Vaccines Australia has recorded more than 6,000 interactions in the past seven days alone – a more than 130 percent increase on the previous week. Interactions include likes, reactions, comments and shares. One Facebook group, Bring Vaxxed to Australia/New Zealand, which promotes the documentary by the discredited former doctor and anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield, recorded between 4,000 and 7,500 interactions a week as election coverage increased over the past month. Meanwhile, the Involuntary Medication Objectors Party (IMOP) has announced it is planning to run candidates in the Australian federal election. The Facebook page of the party recorded 3,400 interactions over the past week – an increase of more than 67 per cent. According to its website, IMOP said it stands for the “tens of thousands of Australians who have been ignored by the government and vilified by the press for their informed choice to reject the highly questionable government sponsored Vaccination Program.” The party said it was putting forward at least seven candidates in the May 18 election – including for the senate in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, and for the lower house in New South Wales. In a Facebook video, party founder Michael O’Neill spoke about government collusion and “media-orchestrated campaigns of persecution” against people who claim to have suffered from vaccines. O’Neill, who is running for the NSW Senate, has also referred to the media’s “Nazi-style approach”, which he claims protects the interests of big pharmaceutic companies. On Wednesday, the thirteenth case of measles was confirmed in Queensland so far this year, compared to 12 cases for the whole of 2018. On April 8, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was concerned about the recent increase in the highly contagious virus reported in Australia. Government figures show there had been 83 measles notifications in Australia between the start of the year and April 5, compared with 103 for the whole of 2018 and 81 for the whole of 2017. Measles outbreaks have been reported in the Ukraine, Madagascar and the US, and the World Health Organisation on Tuesday said the number of measles cases around the world had quadrupled in the first three months of the year compared to last year. Last week, former boxer Anthony Mundine came under fire over anti-vaccination comments on social media, including: “Don’t vaccine your kids period! The government bully you into vaccine!” Credit: Involuntary Medication Objectors Party via Storyful
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