News & Current Affairs
07 January 2015
by Julia Medew
Doctors want to bar anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny
Sherri Tenpenny, in a photo taken from her website.
Doctors are calling for the federal government to stop a high-profile American anti-vaccination campaigner from entering Australia for a planned speaking tour in March.
Sherri Tenpenny, a trained emergency physician and osteopath, is due to begin a series of lectures about vaccines in Melbourne on March 1. The author of Saying No to Vaccines is expected to be joined by Australian homeopath Isaac Golden, who controversially promotes the use of natural products to prevent disease.
But three months after former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison cancelled the visa of self-described "pick-up artist" Julien Blanc for allegedly spreading his derogatory views about women, Australian doctors are calling for Dr Tenpenny to receive similar treatment.
John Cunningham, a Melbourne surgeon and spokesman for pro-vaccination group Stop the AVN, said the government should not allow someone of such poor character into Australia to spread fear, paranoia and misinformation.
Australian Medical Association's Council of General Practice chairman Dr Brian Morton also supported the call for her to be blocked from entering, saying her views were inconsistent with overwhelming scientific evidence supporting vaccination.
"Sherri is one of the highest-profile anti-vaccine liars in the USA, and we should be sending a strong message to these loons that in Australia we rely on facts, science, and rational and considered opinion by people with expertise," Dr Cunningham said.
Dr Cunningham said her tour had been arranged by Stephanie Messenger, author of the controversial anti-vaccination children's book Melanie's marvellous measles.
"Stephanie is organising the tour through the Get Rid of SIDS Project Inc and the GanKinMan Foundation, which are both dubious organisations. The money paid for tickets is going straight into her pockets," Dr Cunningham said.
Stop the AVN, a group of health professionals and scientists who have been trying to stop vaccination sceptics, formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network, are running a social media campaign that is trending under #StopTenpenny.
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the minister was taking advice on this matter and would make further comment when appropriate.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Public discussion on immunisation is welcomed but parents should always ensure they are fully informed with accurate, scientifically based information on the benefits and risks of childhood immunisation."
Ms Messenger defended the tour and said hundreds of tickets had been sold. "This is about free speech and informed choice," she said.
It would be laughable for the government to block Dr Tenpenny's entry to the country, she said.