I’ve long held green views, and have always voted green — I believe climate change, damage to the environment and pollution are extremely serious problems, especially for Ireland. At the same time, I also believe that science and technology has a key place in a better, greener future — a Viridian, bright green / electric green viewpoint, in other words.
Given this, I was really shocked and appalled to hear (via the lovely C) of an interview on Today FM with Patricia McKenna, a Green Party candidate for my local constituency of Dublin Central — one I’ve voted for before, no less! — in which she revealed that she believes in the thoroughly discredited scaremongering regarding a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and has taken the appallingly irresponsible position of not allowing her children to be vaccinated.
This blog post discusses the interview, which was broadcast on Today FM’s The Last Word show on Tuesday 13 March. Here’s an archived podcast of that interview so you can listen to it yourself, and here’s a local copy of that WMV file in case that first link expires any time soon.
Here’s a transcript of the part of the interview once the issue of vaccination is brought up. Matt Cooper is the host of the show. Keith Redmond is an opposing candidate, for the PDs. The timestamps are in minutes and seconds from the start of the audio file.
8:30: Patricia McKenna: Parents have the right to choose what they opt to do, and in relation to some vaccinations, there are serious question marks hanging over them but that’s not what we’re talking about here…
8:44: Matt Cooper (clearly annoyed): No its not, but now that it’s up there, couldn’t it be irresponsible for parents not to vaccinate children against serious issues (sic), if they don’t have reputable scientific facts to back up the decision not to vaccinate?
8:54: Patricia McKenna: Many parents in this country have chosen not to vaccinate their children in relation to the MMR because of the links to autism.
9:00: Matt Cooper: Utterly untrue, totally unproven, absolutely bogus and false.
9:02: Patricia McKenna: Hold on a second…
9:03: Matt Cooper: Andrew Wakefield has been utterly and totally discredited in relation to that. Anyone who doesn’t give the MMR vaccine to their children because of a fear of autism is almost in danger of endangering their child themselves. We’re going to have a rise of measles again in this country because of people not actually giving the vaccine.
9:17: Patricia McKenna: First of all, we’re moving away from the issue…
9:22: Matt Cooper: Yeah we are, but it’s come up now, let’s deal with it…
9:23: Patricia McKenna: It’s come up, right. Eh, have you had the measles? I’ve had the measles, and I’ve got over them well, I have a strong immune system, my 10 year old son has had the measles…
9:30: Matt Cooper: And you are aware that unhandled the measles can have very serious side effects?
9:33: Patricia McKenna: Look — the side effects that are linked to the measles are in relation to… there are other things linked to it in relation to the child’s well being initially. Now you just look at the number of people when you were young, all of your peers I would say have had the measles as with mine, and I think we have a tendency to over-indulge in vaccinating our children and vaccinating ourselves, because what we need — our immune systems are getting weaker and weaker by the day, it’s a — I think we need to be very careful about how we actually approach this so that when medicines are necessary, we will not be immune to them…
10:08: Matt Cooper (interrupting): Do you know that children have died of the measles in this country in the last 5 years?
Keith Redmond: because of views like that.
Patricia McKenna: Well I’m saying is that, as far as I’m concerned…
10:18: Matt Cooper (repeats): Do you know that children have died of the measles in this country in the last 5 years?
10:30: Patricia McKenna: The children that have died of the measles because of other complications (sic), not the measles themselves.
Keith Redmond: that have not been vaccinated.
Patricia McKenna: Not the measles themselves, but other complications, right? Now if you’re saying that parents should — it’s a bit like –
Keith Redmond: Matt, can I just come back to…
10:32: Matt Cooper: Sorry, one second Keith. Would you also concede Patricia, that there is absolutely no link between the MMR and autism, that that link was a bogus link put up by Andrew Wakefield who has been completely and utterly discredited and it has done an awful lot of damage, the misrepresentation of his views in relation to the MMR and autism.
10:50: Patricia McKenna: Well in relation to the MMR, I am not satisfied that it’s safe, and I am not satisfied with the idea of lumping a whole lot of vaccines — different vaccinations together en masse, inducing them (sic) to our children — but having said that, parents should have the right to choose and decide what is best for their children…
11:06: Matt Cooper: But would you concede that Andrew Wakefield, who is the man that pushed that whole agenda, was exposed as a fraud?
11:11: Patricia McKenna: But the jury is still out in relation to…
11:15: Matt Cooper: No, it’s not.
11:16: Patricia McKenna: Yeah well I’m sorry but the jury is still out in relation to how safe the MMR is. And I think it’s unfair to label all parents who decide for their own children’s safety, that they may not want to go down the route of vaccination, that they’re being irresponsible, because I wouldn’t consider myself irresponsible, I would consider I want what’s best for my child.
11:37: Keith Redmond: [again says something]
Matt Cooper: Give Keith a chance to come in.
11:41: Keith Redmond: This totally exemplifies the Greens’ approach to any kind of science. We have a woman there who knows, in her heart of hearts, that her argument is wrong but refuses to admit it because it relies on science. Now, we have exactly the same issue with flouridation — we know the science, we know the facts, and we still have this scaremongering every now and again. And the Green Party are totally irresponsible and you’re right, they are frightening parents across the country right now and it’s absolutely reprehensible.
My god, this insanity has me agreeing with a feckin’ PD!
This is luddism, pure and simple. Matt Cooper is spot on the money – children are dying in Dublin because of this “my child, my rules” selfishness and simple inability to understand the science surrounding vaccination as a public health policy.
This is appalling. To put it bluntly, there is no fucking way I’ll be voting Green if this kind of cargo-cult, anti-science superstition is the kind of shite they’re espousing these days. …and if you think I’m feeling strongly about this, you should hear my (zoologist) wife.
But it goes on — here’s a letter to the Irish Independent on this issue from Feb 9 2007, which raises another worrying factor:
… until two days ago, there was a statement on the Green Party website informing voters that there were “serious question marks about the benefit of mass vaccination programs”.
Furthermore, the party promised that there would be a “major review” of vaccination if they were returned to office.
Now that these statements have apparently been removed from the Green party website are we to take it that they are no longer Green policy?
This blog posting at Winds and Breezes also notes this. So — is this official Green policy or not?
Update: In the comments, it was noted that McKenna is pretty much acting alone in this; it, apparently, is not Green Party policy at all. I’ve updated the title to reflect that it’s only one constituency’s candidate that needs to be shunned.
Also, Conor O’Neill has a great idea over here:
I was thinking further on this yesterday and I realised what the Greens need to do in order to be taken seriously… They need to become the â€œParty of Scienceâ€. Proper environmentalism is based on rigorous science and strategic thinking. Every policy they define should be backed up with rock-solid science and a detailed long-term financial analysis proving why it is in our best interests to adopt them.
Man, I would love to see that!