Druggie meme set up to enflame vaccination rage
UPDATE: MEMBERS of the online community have claimed responsibility for an internet meme linking vaccination to drug abuse.
The meme found its way on to Sunshine Coast Facebook pages- some for and some against the messages the meme was sending.
The sharing of this images prompted outrage from Sunshine Coast doctors.
The image flies in the face of experts driving a campaign to boost vaccination rates across the Coast.
The Sunshine Coast has the lowest vaccination rate in the state and the third lowest in Australia, with only 87% of five-year-olds fully immunised.
An alarmingly low 64% of five-year-olds in the 4552 region - which takes in Maleny, Conondale, Witta, and Crystal Waters - are fully immunised.
The image, which depicts a drug addict slumped in a corner with the text "their first injection was a vaccination: protect your children from vaccinations", has gone viral on social media and has recently found its way to Coast news feeds.
A post explaining the meme said: "... the most effective satire is nearly impossible to distinguish from the truth. As such, occasionally a graphic or quote which has been created as a parody is shared on social media, creating confusion, fear and outrage among a wide range of people… particularly those not familiar with the source and their particular brand of humour.
"One such example is currently doing the rounds; a graphic which appears to be an anti-vaccination claim, which seems to suggest that childhood vaccination leads to heroin use, due to needles being regarded as something positive.
"I'd like to reassure anybody concerned that this has not been created by an anti-vaccinationist (though, being familiar with the wide range of bizarre claims made by anti-vaccination campaigners, I can understand why it could be read as real).
"Furthermore, in case I need to clarify this, there is no known causal link between vaccination and intravenous drug use later in life.
"This graphic was created as a part of Something Awful's Photoshop Phriday in 2013, in which SA forum participants tried to create over the top parodies of anti-vaccination posters.
"After showing some examples of actual anti-vaccination memes, the SA admins issued a challenge: "If they can take anti-vaccination posters to this level of absurdity, imagine what we can do!"
"Unfortunately, this one has escaped its context and repeatedly gone viral..''
Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association president Dr Di Minuskin described the image as "outrageously incorrect" and reiterated that vaccinations remained a safe and effective measure of protecting children and the larger community.
"I am horrified that this type of message should gain any validity," Dr Minuskin said.
"If anyone receives this image via social media I would recommend they swiftly assign it to the trash box where it belongs.
"Not only is the information outrageously incorrect, it is irresponsible to be creating unwarranted fear about such an important issue."
The image, which is not new, but has recently gone viral across the Coast, comes just weeks after anti-vaccination campaigner Meryl Dorey was allowed to deliver a 90-minute address at the Sunshine Coast Healthy Lifestyle Expo.
Ms Dorey declined to comment about the image.
Sunshine Coast Public Health director Andrew Langley said while vaccination rates had been on an upward trend since the 1990s, the current level in the region should be higher.