The HSE says it has “no jurisdiction in relation to privately held events” that promote anti-vaccination messages.
Recently, a UK-based GP who supports Andrew Wakefield — a former doctor who falsely linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism — has been giving a number of Irish talks.
Dr Jayne Donegan, who is on the UK General Medical Council (GMC) GP register, was advertised to speak on ‘Vaccination’ at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, Naas Road, Dublin, on 3 April. The first lecture asked ‘Did vaccines stop people dying from diseases? Do they stop you from getting the disease?’ The event was hosted by ‘Irish Vaccination Awareness’.
Dr Donegan’s website includes a statement of support for Wakefield, whose false claims in The Lancet in 1998, which the journal withdrew, led to a fall in MMR vaccine uptake and deaths. Dr Donegan’s website says: “I support Andrew Wakefield. He is a champion of academic and scientific integrity.” In 2010, Wakefield was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the medical register by the GMC.
In addition, an advertisement for another talk by Dr Donegan, on ‘How to nurse children through illness’, was due to take place at the ‘College of Naturopathic Medicine’ in Dublin on 4 April. The leaflets advertising this talk were on the counter of Holland and Barrett’s store in Rathmines, Dublin. Dr Donegan is also due to speak at the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, on 30 May.
The Managing Director of the Bush Hotel, Mr Joe Dolan, said it had “strong social responsibility policies”. He added that “we are neither experienced or qualified to make such professional screening or judgement” and suggested that the Medical Independent relay concerns to the relevant statutory authorities “with whom we would co-operate fully and indeed abide by their recommendations”.
However, a HSE spokesperson referred to its previous statement about not having jurisdiction over privately-held events.
According to the HSE, it is “aware of anti-vaccine groups operating in Ireland”. The HSE “actively campaigns on social media and elsewhere for parents and individuals to seek information on vaccines from reputable science-based sources like www.immunisation.ie”.
The spokesperson added: “The recent welcome increase in HPV vaccine uptake rates provides an example of the HSE campaigning in partnership with other stakeholders to promote vaccines and improve vaccine rates. The HSE website www.hpv.ie is the only source of HPV information in Ireland approved by the World Health Organisation.
“The HSE regularly reviews research, revises information and continues to work to improve vaccination rates in Ireland.”
The new IMO President Dr Padraig McGarry recently warned that widespread misinformation regarding vaccination programmes poses a huge danger to Irish people and must be combated throughout society.