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21 Sep 2016

Transcript: AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, ABC Central Victoria, 21 September 2016

Subject: Anti-vaccination film Vaxxed screening at Film Festival


FIONA PARKER: Dr Michael Gannon is the President of the Australian Medical Association. Michael Gannon, good morning to you.

MICHAEL GANNON: Good morning Fiona.

FIONA PARKER: What do you think of David Thrussell's arguments about screening that film and standing by that screening?

MICHAEL GANNON: I've heard his arguments about censorship, and it's against my natural instincts to ever argue against censorship, and I believe, in most circumstances, of giving adults the opportunity to make informed decisions. Sadly, what you'll see when you screen a film like this, you'll see confirmation bias. You'll see people who want to believe that there's something wrong here, and that will just get in their head. There are people who - for some strange reason - like believing in conspiracy theories.

I think in this film - and again I haven’t seen it, I've got better things to do with an hour and a half to be honest - but I think that what is so unfair on this is not only the potential carnage that might befall unvaccinated kids, but again those families around Australia that struggle with the hardship of dealing with children afflicted by autism spectrum disorder, blaming them, setting them up, saying that they did something to injure their child's brain development. I think that is so unfair.

FIONA PARKER: What about the idea, though, of treating people like adults and putting forward this argument and showing what this whistle-blower says?

MICHAEL GANNON: Well, I think that we've had a light shone on these arguments for a long period of time. One point I will concede is that it's so important that we don't look at vaccination programs like the United States and Australia as if they're unitary. It's so important that every individual vaccine is subject to the closest level of scrutiny as to its effectiveness, both for individuals and a population level, and it's safe. And I can assure your listeners that the health authorities do take this stuff extremely seriously.

I mean we're in the middle of a debate at the moment about the pros and cons of a new meningococcal vaccine. And the Government has very seriously looked at the risks, the benefits, the side effects, the cost of that, in making a decision, as it stands, not to put it on the schedule. It is so important that the community has faith in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination program.

FIONA PARKER: So why shouldn't people be watching this film then, if someone has said that there is a cover-up linking autism with a particular vaccine, this former employee at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says that there is this cover-up happening?

MICHAEL GANNON: Well the director of the film's an ex-colleague of mine called Dr Andrew Wakefield, who's obviously decided that running a wellness clinic in exile in Cuba's no longer floating his boat, and he's going to make anti-vaccination films, having potentially damaged thousands of children in England and Wales with his false MMR scare campaign. He's entirely discredited. Anyone he hangs around with is discredited.

FIONA PARKER: That's the director of the film though. What about the whistle-blower's story?

MICHAEL GANNON: Well the whistle-blower can get an airing in the appropriate channels…

FIONA PARKER: [Interrupts] Isn't a documentary film an appropriate channel?

MICHAEL GANNON: Not when it's made by a charlatan, not when it's made by someone who's been entirely discredited by the scientific world, the medical world, someone who was struck off the medical register for having harmed people and been seen as being a danger to the community. That's not the kind of person I'd be getting my scientific information from. And that's not the kind of person who I would trust to fairly vet the claims of one person within a bureaucracy of tens of thousands of people.

FIONA PARKER: So finally, what would you say, as head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Gannon, what would you say to the creative director of the Castlemaine Film Festival and David Thrussell, the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival Director, who's standing by his decision to screen the film?

MICHAEL GANNON: Well look I think that film festivals are a wonderful bit of art and part of their job is to challenge us and to be edgy, and occasionally seek controversy. But I would say to him that even small pockets of people who choose not to vaccinate their children, there is a cost to be had there. One, two, three per cent reductions in vaccination rates harm children. They put them in intensive care, they kill them. This is not scare-mongering. It is so important to maintain vaccination rates well above 90 per cent. It's irresponsible to do anything that might threaten the public's health.

FIONA PARKER: You think that's what David Thrussell's doing?

MICHAEL GANNON: It's a different job, protecting the public health, from running a film festival. We've got different jobs, I respect the artistic principle of free speech. But this is one area where, against my better instincts, I would say censor and ban this rubbish.

FIONA PARKER: Thanks for joining us this morning.

MICHAEL GANNON: Pleasure.

FIONA PARKER: Dr Michael Gannon, the President of the AMA, the Australian Medical Association.

 


23 September 2016

CONTACT: John Flannery                            02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
                 Kirsty Waterford                       02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 21 Sep 2016