Vaxxed: Health Minister Jonathan Coleman backs doctor's stance

  • 25/05/2017

The Northland doctor who stormed the stage at the screening of an anti-vaccination film has suggested making kids who aren't vaccinated to wear masks at school.

Dr Lance O'Sullivan has also lambasted anti-vaccination campaigners who targeted his family, including his disabled son.

Dr O'Sullivan, who was crowned New Zealander of the Year in 2014, was invited to a screening of Vaxxed - from Cover-up to Catastrophe in his hometown of Kaitaia earlier this week - but he hopped up before the film was screened to issue a stern warning.

"This idea of anti-immunisation has killed children around the world, and actually will continue to kill children whose parents are put off immunisation because of misinformation - misinformation based on lies, quite frankly," he told the audience.

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday morning, Dr O'Sullivan said the anti-vaccination movement is "vile".

"There's people in their movement that have said incredibly hurtful things to a lot of people, including myself. One of them even went so far as to start making comments about my son, who has a serious, serious medical condition, and making light of that in the context of vaccinations. So quite frankly, they're low-lifes."

He said he had nothing to gain personally from his actions, and screening organiser Tricia Cheel has a "personal agenda" against him.

"I'm just wanting to save kids' lives," he explained. "Their presence, this movement will cause children in New Zealand to be harmed and to die, and I won't accept that."

Dr O'Sullivan has seen first-hand what happens when parents choose not to immunise their children.

"We know that rates of disease, in particular these infectious diseases that are preventable, have dropped since we've introduced immunisations. My great concern is we've seen immunisation rates affected by this campaign."

Why vaccination works

When the vast majority of the population are vaccinated, infectious diseases struggle to spread from person-to-person. Known as 'herd immunity', this protects people who aren't immunised because of a genuine health reason, or they're simply too young.

As Dr O'Sullivan told the crowd on Monday: "Fraudulent people for their own reasons have decided that they would put forward false information that actually causes harm to children. Your presence here will cause babies to die."

To stop this from happening, he's suggested making unvaccinated children wear masks to reduce the likelihood they'll act as vectors of disease - if making vaccinations compulsory isn't feasible.

"This should be something that should be up for discussion in an election year. I believe we should be talking about whether we should make immunisation compulsory, and if not compulsory, then maybe their children should be going to early childhood centres and schools with masks on."

Government's support

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman backed Dr O'Sullivan, saying vaccination is a "good thing".

"Good on Dr Lance O'Sullivan for taking a stand on the Vaxxed movie," the Northcote-based MP wrote on Twitter.

"I totally support Lance in what he's saying. Vaccination is a good thing."

Dr O'Sullivan says his efforts led to two people deciding against watching the film, directed by disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield. Mr Wakefield's paper linking vaccines and autism, published in 1998, was later found to be fraudulent.

Ms Cheel, a homeopath, said Dr O'Sullivan was showing "threatening behaviour", and that doctors are "misinformed" about the truth behind vaccines.

Ms Cheel took to Facebook late on Wednesday night to accuse Dr O'Sullivan of bullying.

"He has blasted DHB employees for being there, saying he would fire them if he could. What exactly is he teaching these young people and is this also at the expense of tax payers? This was the start of Bullying-Free Week. Was he giving them an example of what NOT to do?"

She also called his actions a "deliberate smear campaign" against the film.