Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged parents to “disregard” what he described as “dangerous messages” from Nationals MP George Christensen after the Queenslander said “do not get your children vaccinated” against COVID-19.
In an online video interview for his own program, Mr Christensen declared “do not vaccinate your children. I probably could not say that clear enough”.
The backbench MP claimed the government’s program to vaccinate children aged 5 and above was “nuts”.
In a statement issued late today, the Prime Minister said: “I strongly disagree with the message sent out by Mr Christensen regarding children’s vaccinations. It is contrary to the official professional medical advice provided to the Government.”
“I urge parents to disregard his dangerous messages in relation to vaccines.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told 9News.com.au “I disagree with George and I imagine many others do as well.”
Other Nationals MPs have been far more critical.
“George Christensen’s comments are irresponsible and inappropriate,” Deputy Nationals Leader David Littleproud tweeted.
“The only advice parents should take on vaccinating their children is from a doctor.”
Former minister for defence personnel Darren Chester urged Australians to “listen to the experts and ignore George Christensen.”
“If you have any concerns about COVID vaccines for you or your family members, ask your GP,” he said, on social media.
“Mr Christensen’s comments are reckless, irresponsible and ill-informed.”
Earlier, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said of Mr Christensen’s remarks: “I would flatly plainly disagree with anyone who said that.”
Not referring to Mr Christensen specifically, Mr Hunt said: “Frankly the anti-vaxxers aren’t only losing the debate, they’ve lost the debate. We’re at a 95 per cent national 16-plus vaccination rate, that’s being the conception of almost any commentator or observer.”
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said while he “won’t comment on other people’s comments”, “if people could listen to the Chief Medical Officer and my colleagues in the states we’re all of agreement the ATAGI group which is I would say among the best experts on immunisation in the world certainly in Australia we are of one voice it is very important for children now down to the age of 5 to be vaccinated.”
The federal government says almost 400,000 children in the 5-11 age group have received their first dose of the vaccine since the program was launched on January 10.
Professor Kelly was at pains to point out the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations for children.
“We don’t have any medicines are any vaccines in Australia that have not gone through the full process of the TGA,” Professor Kelly said.
He added the TGA had looked at “real world experience of roll outs in other places. We had the advantage of watching multiple millions of children of that age group 5-11 get their first and their second doses in the US they have not seen a single issue in terms of severe safety signals.”
Sharing a post from Mr Christensen, Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler said: “This is what Government MPs are putting out on Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic. Scott Morrison needs to put an end to this and take responsibility for the actions of his backbenchers.”
In his rebuke of Mr Christensen, Mr Morrison said “vaccinations are our primary weapon against this virus”.
“More than 90 per cent of Australians aged over 16 are fully vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated against the virus you are more likely to experience severe illness and die. Getting vaccinated saves lives,” he said.
Mr Christensen has announced he’s leaving parliament at the next election.