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University health experts speak out against anti-vaccination film


Friday 7 April 2017 11:56am

Staff at the University of Otago have roundly condemned the contents of a movie “vaxxed” to be shown using a University facility, saying it is “anti-child.”

The movie erroneously attempts to scare people into questioning the effectiveness of the scientifically validated and internationally-tested MMR vaccine. The vaccine has successfully combated, and all but eliminated in countries that use it, a range of fatal diseases that can decimate populations because they are infectious.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences Professor Peter Crampton told staff in an internal email to all University departments today that the decision to allow the venue booking at the University to go ahead has been made with the strong recognition that the University firmly upholds the right to free speech as one of its core values.

‘Vaxxed’ is a movie directed by Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who had his medical licence revoked in the UK after being found guilty of fraudulent research about vaccinations.

“The screening here is able to go ahead simply to uphold the principle of free speech, but the University does not condone the movie or its contents.

“The group organising the screening does not represent the University or the views of its health experts in any way, shape or form. The messages and "information" in the movie are condemned by me and many other health experts at the University of Otago who have strong moral and scientific objections to the content of the movie. We believe the makers and distributors of this movie are scare-mongering, and behaving in an anti-child manner, showing no regard for the health and well-being of children.

“We will, at every possible opportunity, seek to provide the public with relevant scientific evidence showing the benefits of vaccination that is not presented in the movie.”

University of Otago Immunologist Dr Jo Kirman says new parents are especially vulnerable to this misinformation about the MMR vaccine because they “genuinely want what is best for their child, so they want to double-check that they are doing the right thing.”

“But when they are given the wrong information that results in the parent becoming opposed to vaccination of their child, then this leads to that child becoming vulnerable to infectious diseases that we thought we had made inroads into.

“And if that child sits on a bus with whooping cough next to the mother with a newborn baby who hasn’t yet been vaccinated for whooping cough, that threatens the life of that other child, and makes the population unsafe.”

Vaccination rates of 95% are considered a safe level of vaccinating in the community. But when those rates drop, and get down as low as 85%, then the community starts to become threatened again from diseases previously all but eradicated thanks to vaccination.

“Currently we have an outbreak of measles and mumps in Auckland – these are vaccination-preventable diseases. The sad thing is, though, that when we prevent diseases, they are not visible anymore, and they suddenly don’t seem so dangerous.”

“When the anti-vaccination views reached prominence in the early 2000s there massive outbreaks of infectious diseases in the UK, diseases we thought were under control.”

Dr Kirman says the people who believe in the misinformation and inaccurate statements espoused in the film are often “reasonable people.”

“But they are too easily swayed by this type of scaremongering. But I like to think New Zealanders are a smart bunch. It’s a very small group that this type of film might appeal to.”