A doctor's experience of polio

2 June 2017

Dr Margot McLeanIn response to the widely publicised onstage interruption by Dr Lance O'Sullivan of the Kaitaia Vaxxed screening, Hauora Tairāwhiti Dr Margot McLean has weighed in on the anti-vaccination debate. The following was published as a Letter to the Editor in the Gisborne Herald, June 2, 2017.




Lance O’Sullivan was right on the mark with his stand against the movie Vaxxed. 

The movie is designed to terrify and misinform parents, not help them make an informed decision. 

The film is directed by a discredited doctor, Andrew Wakefield, whose medical registration was withdrawn because of fraudulent research. The top medical journal, the Lancet, withdrew his article and apologised for ever publishing it. 

Immunisation is the best way to protect children from diseases such as whooping-cough, measles, polio, diphtheria and tetanus. People don’t realise, or forget, how serious the effect of these diseases can be. When I was a medical student in the 1980s, I met a woman who had been lying in hospital, in an iron lung, since she was paralysed by polio as a child in the early 1960s. 

After the introduction of polio vaccination there have been no more cases of polio in New Zealand since 1964, but it was too late for her. I will never forget her, alone in a room with a machine doing her breathing. Other vaccine-preventable diseases are still around, and when people choose not to vaccinate their children, all children are more at risk, because you need a high coverage rate to protect the whole community. 

A film like Vaxxed does not help parents make up their mind in an informed way. It is junk science relying on conspiracy theories to scare people. You could say the movie is a bully.

Ka pai hoki koe, e Lance O’Sullivan