RACGP calls for anti-vaxxer crackdown after GP receives death threats

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

1/02/2022 3:29:08 PM

A Queensland GP has pulled out of the vaccine rollout for children aged under 12 amid safety concerns for himself and his colleagues.

A woman using her mobile phone at night.
Dr Wilson Chin’s Gold Coast practice has been inundated with abuse and death threats amid a misinformation campaign led by anti-vaxxers.

‘Poisoning kids.’
‘Kid killer.’
‘F**king dog.’
These are just a few of the abusive comments contained amid a slew of violent death threats directed at Queensland GP Dr Wilson Chin and his colleagues after two children fainted at the Gold Coast practice.
The episode occurred while the two young girls were under observation having each received a paediatric dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The practice was soon flooded with abuse via social media and telephone calls after a second-hand account of the incident was posted to a community Facebook page and went viral, claiming that the children had experienced ‘violent convulsions’ and died in the waiting room – both of which are false.
Others on the social media platform added to the misinformation, commenting that the children had been ‘unresponsive when ambos got there’ and encouraged others online to ‘share [the information] everywhere’.
Dr Chin, who was brought to tears over the incident during a television interview, has since pulled out of the vaccine rollout for children aged 5–11, together with his colleagues.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price has strongly called out the behaviour and said that a GP receiving death threats simply for doing his job and trying to keep the community safe is ‘completely unacceptable’.
‘I won’t stand for it,’ she said.
‘Dr Chin had to stay at a friend’s place because he was so concerned for his safety and there have been sleepless nights for fellow GPs, the practice manager and the other members of the practice team.’
A nearby practice mistaken for Dr Chin’s clinic, which has never offered COVID-19 vaccinations to children, has also reported receiving death threats.
‘[This] shows you how reckless anti-vaxxers can be,’ Dr Price said.
‘Facts, reason, and rationality don’t matter – only their twisted agenda.’
Further inciting the threats against Dr Chin is a video published on the BitChute Platform encouraging people to ‘keep up the pressure’ on practice staff, warning that ‘they are coming after our kids’ and to contact the Health Ombudsman’s office to ‘report all GPs jabbing children in Qld’.
Since it was published on 21 January, the video has attracted more than 600 views and over 30 abusive comments, mainly directed at Dr Chin.  
RACGP Vice President and Chair of RACGP Queensland, Dr Bruce Willett told newsGP Dr Chin’s experience is an extreme example of what ‘almost all GPs are having to deal with at the moment’. 
‘It’s absolutely abhorrent behaviour by quite a small minority of people … who really are trying to make a political statement and are willing to use GPs, nurses and particularly reception staff as fodder to make some sort of point,’ he said.
‘We’re all seeing a number of patients who come into the practice looking for a fight about masks or vaccination, seeking to have a confrontation, and it’s really wearing GPs down in general and particularly the reception staff at a time when everyone’s working extra, extra hard with an increased workload.’
Dr Willett said that in Queensland the threatening behaviour reached fever pitch once the state’s borders opened, and mandates were simultaneously introduced for masks and vaccination.
‘During those first couple of weeks, in my practice I had at least two receptionists in tears every day from abusive behaviour from patients,’ he said.
‘Then the childhood vaccinations came in just after that and so that became a focus for the anger. So I think it was really trying to use some emotive stuff around childhood vaccination to make a bigger political point.’
The RACGP, which has previously urged social media companies such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Twitter to do more to counter the spread of medical misinformation, is strengthening its calls for the platforms to crack down on anti-vaxxers.
‘Meta … has a real opportunity here to walk the walk and back up their rhetoric by removing anti-vaxxers from the platform and making a concerted effort to counter anti-vaxxer misinformation and threats, including in private Facebook groups,’ Dr Price said.
‘We cannot allow people like Dr Chin to experience threats, abuse and intimidation simply for doing his job.’
Dr Willett agrees, and says as well as social media companies stepping up, that the behaviour needs to be readily, and continually, called out publicly by politicians and health authorities. A number of Australian politicians, including members of the Federal Government, have been accused of spreading misinformation about COVID and vaccines.
‘At the end of the day, anything inciting hatred and violence is unacceptable,’ Dr Willett said.
‘There needs to be recognition of the enormous pressure that practices – the receptionists, the nurses, and the doctors – have been under, and the great job that they’ve done.’
Dr Price said that she has been in contact with Dr Chin and made clear that he has the RACGP’s full support.
‘We will do anything necessary to back him against these malicious anti-vaxxer bullies,’ she said.
‘The college will also work with Dr Chin to provide guidance for other GPs and general practice team members who find themselves in a similar position.’
Dr Price said she hopes this sends a strong message to other anti-vaxxers to ‘back off and leave hardworking GPs and general practice teams alone’.
‘They are the unheralded heroes of the vaccine rollout working tirelessly to keep people safe from harm and they don’t deserve this,’ she said.
‘Everyone deserves a safe workplace and none more so than GPs giving their all during a global pandemic.’
The threats have been reported to police, and a man was questioned by police over the death threats but has been let go without charges.
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Dr Paul Gerard Egan   2/02/2022 11:02:41 AM

Great dr Chun getting support from college. Politicians need to speak up. Just as relevant as Djokovic publicity

A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   2/02/2022 6:58:59 PM

What a horrible situation.

Dr Julia Ann Conway   2/02/2022 8:45:48 PM

A good time to review personal safety in a consulting room situation. I think most of us have had conversations about this turning at least slightly unpleasant. What has happened here is devastating and shocking and my thoughts go out to the practice and the families involved. It doesn't help that so many questions about general health were asked for data collection purposes when you got a vaccine at a vaccine hub. This made many people think there must be a lot of room for exemptions and added to suspicions about big brother data collection. My husband and daughter were both surprised when they were asked if they called themselves a man or a woman-not sure what that has got to do with Covid vaccination!

Dr Allan Michael Fasher   3/02/2022 10:23:45 PM

Dear Wison Chin
Here is a big hug from me and all of your colleagues