Thu. May 19th, 2022

Doctors and pharmacists say they are facing an increase in harassment from anti-waxxers, including fake legal letters that threaten to deprive them of their indemnity unless they stop administering COVID vaccines to the public.

Alvin Wee runs a vaccination clinic on weekends during his surgery in Rockingham, south of Perth.

He recently had a four-wheel drive cruise past the clinic — which is held outside so people can socially distance themselves — and blames anti-vaccination moods over a speaker for his patients.

“They did not stop us physically, they did not actually harass us in that way, but in a way it was [harassment[ because it was drive-by shouting … a drive-by announcement on loudspeaker … ‘read the fine print, are you sure you want this’ and stuff like that,” Dr Wee said.

“For the patients, mums and dads with teenagers, who have brought their kids … they shouldn’t have been subjected to something like that.”

The following day Dr Wee came back to find the entrance to his surgery plastered with anti-vaccination stickers.

A sticker saying  'The media is the virus' 
Anti-vaxxers often believe the media over-represents the threat of COVID to public health.(

ABC News: Supplied

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He and his colleagues were left shaken by the incident.

“You have this anxiety because next week, we’re going to do the same thing [run the clinic], “Said Dr. Wee.

“Will we be goals again next week?

A white door with stickers that say 'the media is the virus' and resist the new normal'
Conspiracy theory stickers were plastered on Dr Wee’s practice.(

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“This is another thing that you do not see us doing is to cover the emotional part of COVID.

“Basically, it adds more stress.”

Doctors targeting fake legal letter campaign

Dr. Wee also recently received a letter personally addressed to him demanding that he “cease and cease” administering COVID vaccines, just like other employees at his surgery.

Writing on a page
The letter claims that doctors will be punished “to the fullest extent of the law” if they continue to administer COVID vaccines.(

ABC News: Rebecca Trigger

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“If you continue in silence or otherwise administer the said vaccines, there can be no legal excuse for your action,” the letter reads.

“There can be no compensation.

“You will have committed a crime that will eventually be investigated and you can expect to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

While he had heard about the letters from other doctors and realized it was a bluff, he said they were still worrying.

“It’s stressful,” he said.

“It’s like it’s an official lawyer’s letter, legal letter, and the first thing you do is think ‘what did I do wrong?’

“In the medical world, every time someone reads something like that, it scares the hell out of them because we do things so as not to be sued, but we know it’s part of the deal, basically we’ll be open to some lawsuits. . “

Vaccination agreements hijacked

Another Perth doctor, who asked that her full name not be used, said someone had handed in a personally addressed termination and handed over a letter to her practice.

“It was a little disturbing,” she said.

A doctor listens to a patient's heart with a stethoscope on his back.
This doctor says she had people who ordered vaccination appointments and did not show up, which affected other patients who needed care.(

ABC News: Rebecca Trigger

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“It was two sides that threatened legal action if we continue to vaccinate.

“I was shocked at first because I thought, why?

“Why are we being threatened with lawsuits when we’re just trying to keep our patients safe and our communities safe by vaccinating against COVID?”

She said other members of society found other ways to make their feelings known.

“We’ve got people making appointments to actually come in and confront us about vaccinating,” she said.

“We’ve had some cases where patients make appointments to get in and get vaccinations, but they don’t show up, so basically the appointment is wasted.”

“We are very happy about that.

“We just get a little tired of people taking our appointments and coming in and trying to change our minds and trying to get us to stop vaccinating.”

She said wasted appointments meant uncomfortable people and those with chronic health conditions were forced to wait longer to see their doctor.

She said all staff – including reception staff who often bore the heads of people’s dissatisfaction – had worked hard over the past 18 months as the pandemic unfolded.

“We are here to help and I really encourage people to go and talk to their doctors if they are concerned about the vaccination,” she said.

“We’re just trying to keep our patients safe and our family and our friends safe.

“We do not have an agenda. We just want people to feel good.”

Harassment campaign extends to pharmacies

Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA branch president Andrew Ngeow said his members had reported receiving the letters and although frustrated, they did not think they posed a threat of any significance and it did not stop them from doing their jobs.

A professional headshot by Mr Ngeow.
Pharmacy guild of Australia WA branch president Andrew Ngeow says the anti-wax letters are just “background noise”.(

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“The letter has no legal status at all,” he said.

“There is a bit of noise in the background.

“Anti-vaxxers have a right to an opinion, we know they exist, but when it comes down to it, we’re moving towards 90 percent.

“That’s our goal, and it has not changed.”

Currently, just over 60 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 are vaccinated.

Ngeow said the only way out of the pandemic was to raise that rate.

“More and more, we see this as a disease in the non-vaccinated,” he said.

“As we have seen abroad, we can see the restrictions lifted with the proviso that we can see large portions and large percentages of society vaccinated.”

Where do the letters come from?

The letters appear to be part of a national campaign led by anti-vaxxers targeting not only health professionals but also schools, the police, the ADF, major organizations and the media.

One such group identified by ABC claims to have sent out more than 30,000 letters.

A channel created on the encrypted, anonymous messaging platform Telegram promotes termination and abolition of letters, suggesting that members send them to doctors and others in their community.

The administrator of this channel is anonymous.

A site where the letters are hosted is also registered anonymously, but some of the uploaded letters contained metadata, which contained the names of individuals.

The letters received by doctors speaking to ABC included a return address — a mailbox in the southeast Brisbane suburb of Gumdale — as well as all the letters hosted on this site.

ABC understands that until recently this mailbox was owned by a non-commercial construction company, but it changed hands in August.

A person with the same name as the one registered in some of the metadata of the uploaded letters, and also a profile posting in the group’s Telegram chat, has a number of companies and an association registered on a property in Gumdale.

Two other people who share this last name and have their names or videos posted in the Telegram chat have companies registered on the same property. One of them has a company that collapsed last year due to hundreds of thousands of dollars to creditors and the Australian tax office.

In videos posted to the Telegram chat, one of these people identifies as a former Queensland police officer and wears medals on his chest, meaning they were awarded during his police service.

The Queensland Police Service would not confirm whether the person had served with them or had been assigned during that service.

ABC tried to contact these people and others involved in the operation of the group, but was unsuccessful before the deadline.

ABC understands that at least one state police agency has made inquiries about the Gumdale mailbox listed on the letters.

Closed groups reinforce radical messages

UWA academic Remco Heeson studies the effects of group dynamics on the dissemination of ideas.

He warned that the debate over vaccination was polarized and people were more likely to believe information from those who already shared their views.

Dr.  Heeson leans against a stone balustrade, a flowering shrub behind him
UWA academic Remco Heeson says closed online groups can intensify certain ideas and perpetuate misinformation.(

ABC News: Rebecca Trigger

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This can turn closed online groups of like-minded communities into echo chambers, where individuals found their views more and more entrenched.

“The characteristic feature of the closed app groups, I would say, is that you can create a community around common interests or like-minded people to a much more extreme degree than was previously possible,” said Dr. Heeson.

Protesters gather in a park where a woman is holding a red sign reading "Not anti-wax, pro choice, my body my choice"
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked anti-vaccination protests around the world.(

ABC News: Phoebe Hosier

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“Before you had those kinds of groups, your main network around you, from which you take information, could have been the physical community you live in, and almost necessarily would have been much more diverse in the ideas you get from them.

“Misinformation in such a group can have a much stronger effect in the form of, for example, radicalization of the group than in another form of community.”

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