Diet & Nutrition

What really happens at an anti-vaccination meeting

The Weekly reporter Clair Weaver goes undercover at a wellness conference

By Clair Weaver
A doctor has used a celebrity-endorsed alternative health forum to voice controversial claims against vaccinating children.
Last month The Weekly went undercover at a conference in Sydney where three high-profile speakers claimed vaccination is dangerous based on links to autism.
Among them was keynote speaker Natasha Campbell-McBride, who told the audience at the three-day Mindd International Forum, that vaccinations “do nothing” to improve babies’ immunity - and children should be allowed to experience vaccine-preventable infections from “Mother Nature”.
“This is a multi-million dollar business,” she said. “Pharmaceutical companies make a Frankenstein genetically-modified virus and put into your babies.”
Criticisms of vaccination were also aired by two US-based speakers, Dr Nancy O’Hara and Dr Jerry Kartzinel (who co-wrote a book with Hollywood actress and anti-vaccination activist Jenny McCarthy.)
But the Australian Medical Association has hit back at the claims, warning failing to vaccinate children could put both unvaccinated kids and the greater community at risk of potentially fatal diseases like whooping cough.
“Not only do I consider these ideas to be complete rubbish but they [may be] harmful as well,” said Dr Stephen Parnis, an emergency physician and vice president of the AMA.
The Mindd Foundation is a non-profit alternative health organisation that focuses on theories based on the gut-brain connection. Well-known ambassadors include celebrity chef Pete Evans, supplement mogul Marcus Blackmore and organic skincare Terese Kerr, mother of supermodel Miranda Kerr.
Dr Campbell-McBride, a Russian-trained doctor, championed the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, which is based on bone broth, animal fats, meat and vegetables.
She claims kids with unbalanced gut flora can get autism from vaccination - but can recover on her diet.
In another statement that appears to challenge longstanding scientific evidence, she claimed most autistic children are not born with the condition but develop it as a result of exposure to “toxins.”
Dr Darren Saunders, a scientist from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research who accompanied The Weekly to the event, said she was peddling what he considers to be potentially “dangerous myths”.
Andrew Wakefield - the disgraced ex-surgeon barred from medicine for his fraudulent 1998 research that first claimed a link between a vaccine and autism, which led to a catastrophic decline in immunisation rates - was quoted as an expert during the Mindd Forum event.
Controversial US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny was forced to cancel her planned Australian tour earlier this year amid security concerns. Several venues cancelled because of concerns from the public.
To read The Weekly’s full investigation into the dark side of the alternative wellness industry, see the new issue of the magazine out today.
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