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A FORMER federal health minister has dismissed as "crackpots and conspiracy theorists" those who would actively discourage Australians from having their swine flu vaccine.
Michael Wooldridge says the anti-vaccination movement was leading a push against Australians taking up the offer of the free vaccine, but their opposition was putting more people at risk.
"We are of course dealing with the first pandemic of the internet age which poses its own problems," says Dr Wooldridge, who says a misinformation campaign was now underway on the internet.
"The number of people who are actively opposed to immunisation is tiny, in the order of two per cent, but that group is disproportionately heard.
"The media often feels it has to present both sides of the argument ... (but) one side of the argument is almost universally held by the medical profession and most people think the rest are crackpots."
"Their message is poisonous and insidious ... they sow seeds of doubt in the public's mind about what is essentially the single greatest advance in public health in the last 200 years," Dr Wooldridge says.
"This group has the potential to do enormous damage, and my personal view is they should treated as the crackpots and conspiracy theorists that they are."