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Scientists writing for the New Zealand Herald argue that an anti-vaccine movement has grown to the point where it threatens Māori health
A group of scientists has asked Māori anti-vaccine protesters to stop using a haka to disrupt talks at the anti-vaccine conference where the haka originated.
The haka protest started in 2013 when a doctor described the vaccine as a “horrible disease”.
It gathered steam when an anti-vaccine activist linked it to the pain her child experienced after the MMR vaccine caused autism.
Now, four New Zealand scientists have written in the New Zealand Herald against the use of the haka, arguing that Māori health is under threat.
Māori make haka to protest anti-vaccine movement Read more
“Recent developments would appear to show that the anti-vaccine movement may have reached a tipping point,” the scientists wrote in the July edition of the Herald.
“It is worrying to us that so many activities are now seen as anti-Māori or anti-government, and it’s an old question whether to call a pro-government event a public meeting or a private function. The latter is unlikely to be in the public interest.”
On Friday a group of Māori passed a hui on the skilling of young people and antiscience activity.
It called for anti-vaccine protestors to stop using haka to bully doctors and said young people in their late teens and early 20s were losing their lives because they did not have access to health services.
Anti-vaccine activists at the World Health Organisation conference in New York in April. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The scientists have asked anti-vaccine activists to stop using the haka.
In recent months the anti-vaccine movement has run into a series of problems in the US, where quacks have been targeting doctors and accusing them of making decisions for “uninformed” patients.
Richard Thorp, a conservative Mormon politician, was suspended and fined in March after tweeting that polio-free Māori had “certain moral obligations that can sometimes be hard to explain”.
A few days later doctors began to withdraw as speakers at several anti-vaccine conferences because of concerns about the attendance of conspiracy theorists.
On Friday one of the protesters at the conference demanded that the vaccine “end”. He was chucked out of the conference by organisers.
The protesters are calling for the vaccination to be made optional. They are based on Danish studies linking the MMR vaccine to autism and other diseases and are claiming “members of the medical profession are in the dark about this and every child is at risk”.
There is a need for educational campaigns and anti-big pharma campaigns, they say.
A White Paper on vaccination and health, published in 2016 by the Department of Health, found that flu vaccination rates among Māori were very low, while Māori children and Māori adults use contraceptive methods at three times the rate of non-Māori.