10 September 2010
Although it’s very unusual for an ambitious politician to tell a potential voter to not communicate with him (“not to waste politician’s time”), in Ireland at least, highlighting the “not appropriate” subject of vaccine safety can provoke such a response.
When a campaigner wrote two short emails to a Wexford local politician in late 2008 raising concerns about the HPV vaccine Gardasil and suggesting he do some research into the associated side effects, the local politician’s response was “Please refrain from sending me any further misinformed and unrequested junk spam”.
Mairead Hilliard, of Irish Vaccine Informed Parents, wrote to Counciller Joe Ryan (now Mayor of Wexford, pop 18000), after she noticed that he had joined an online Facebook group campaigning for reinstatement of the cervical cancer mass vaccination program in Ireland.
She informed him that one of her own children was damaged by a vaccine and that she believed parents should first be given the vaccine manufacturer’s leaflet to read before giving their consent: “You cannot expect parents to play russian roulette with the health of a 12 year old child” she concluded.
Mayor Ryan replied saying: “It is an outrageous insult to suggest that a parent who wants to protect their child plays roulette of whatever type. It is precisely to take the risk out of my daughter’s [lives] that I want them to receive a vaccination, which would not have been offered to parents in 2008 unless it had been approved beforehand by the HSE and the Irish Medicines Board. Please refrain from sending me any further misinformed and unrequested junk spam.”
In a subsequent article in the Sunday Tribune on the above-mentioned Facebook group named “(Minister) Harney must reinstate cervical cancer vaccine” (which eventually counted over 19000 members), Mayor
Ryan’s email comments were published in relation to the censorship of Ms Hilliard from the group for going “Off Topic” (by posting comments disagreeing with the stated objective of the group).
After the article came out Mayor Ryan appeared on a local radio station to defend his position:
“(She) accused me effectively of playing Russian Roulette with my children’s health. As a parent that’s a very insulting thing to say to anyone. I decided the nature of her contact wasn’t appropriate…Miss Hilliard is opposed to the vaccine, I don’t see what the point was in debating the matter with her..I’ve concluded that the organisaton effectively is spreading misinformation and that they have an agenda at undermining confidence in vaccines.”
Fortunately for us, Mayor Ryan’s has decided to counteract the spread of such misinformation by taking it upon himself to reveal the true science and statistics behind the HPV Vaccine, via a self-penned article on his personal website. A qualified Science teacher himself, he is scornful of claims coming from those less qualified to comment on the subject: “What has the world come to that I’m expected to indulge someone who peddles bad science.”