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June 6, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s interruption of the Kaitaia screening of the 2016 documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe on May 22 is part of a wider and ongoing dispute over vaccinations, that began with 1998 research now declared fraudulent.

Directed by Andrew Wakefield, Vaxxed aims to “[bring] to the public a dark and uncomfortable truth” of the alleged causal link between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

In 1998 Wakefield, alongside 12 other authors, published an article in the medical journal The Lancet making the claim about the MMR vaccine. However Wakefield’s research has been largely refuted for its unethical methods and the inability of his results to be verified by other scientists and doctors.

The article was fully retracted in 2010 with support from ten of the original authors. In the same year the General Medical Council found Dr Wakefield guilty of “serious professional misconduct” and removed him from the Medical Register.

A year after the retraction, The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) observed that “the damage to public health continues, fuelled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals, and the medical profession.”

According to O’Sullivan, Vaxxed continues the spread of misinformation that began with the 1998 paper.

In his impromptu speech before the screening, O’Sullivan said that “this idea of anti-immunisation has killed children around the world” and this would continue if “parents are put off immunisation because of misinformation […] based on lies.”

O’Sullivan has been criticised for having such a strong opposition to a film he has not seen. When asked if no good really could come from watching Vaxxed, O’Sullivan told Salient, “there is no science behind it, we know that it’s widely discredited […] It’ll be, for me, like watching a video on a dummies guide to racial harmony made by Donald Trump.”

The Māori Party have publicly declared their support of O’Sullivan. Māori Party President Tukoroirangi Morgan said “he is a man of great mana and we all should be listening to his message.”

O’Sullivan expressed his frustration, noting that “it shouldn’t take an angry doctor from Kaitaia” for political parties to address the issue of the low immunisation rates in Aotearoa.

“The rates of immunisation, in my opinion, should be close to 100% and they’re not. And because they’re not, children will die, children will be maimed. […] And campaigns like this are contributing to that.”

“I’m very passionate about this. There are not many things that I’d get arrested for, but I’d get arrested to protest against this.”

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