Letter to Simon Fraser University concerning “Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013” at SFU Harbour Centre.
March 5, 2013
Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia
Canada V5A 1S6
Dear President Petter,
We are deeply disappointed to see Simon Fraser University (SFU) lend its credibility to dangerous anti-vaccination propaganda by renting space to the upcoming “Vaccine Summit: Vancouver 2013” at SFU Harbour Centre.
University campuses are, and should be, venues for the free exchange of ideas. We recognize that one of your vital duties is to be a place where controversial ideas are allowed a fair hearing; but a university also has a duty to educate the public.
The “Vaccine Summit” is billed as a “transparent discussion about vaccines”. It actually promises to be nothing more than a platform for discredited scare-mongering about vaccination.
Vaccination is one of the most successful public health interventions of the modern world. The benefits of vaccinations are clear: smallpox has been eradicated, polio is on the verge of eradication, and infectious diseases that were endemic are now in retreat. Billions of lives have been saved because of vaccination. Vaccines are safe: the known minimum risks are greatly outweighed by the benefits.
This is not the message that the attendees at the “Vaccine Summit” will hear.
They can expect to be told that vaccines cause autism—despite this claim having been comprehensively refuted. (Andrew Wakefield, the champion of this claim, was found to have committed wilful research misconduct including falsification of data and misappropriation of funds. Wakefield was barred from medical practice in the UK, and his 1998 publication in The Lancet was retracted.)
They will be told that vaccines are dangerously toxic, and that unproven naturopathic and other alternative treatments are more effective.
Most tragically, they will be told to deny their children the protection provided by vaccines.
As misinformation has spread, vaccination rates have declined. Regionally-eliminated diseases, such as measles, are making a swift return to North America and Europe, including an outbreak of pertussis (“whooping cough”) here in Vancouver just last autumn. B.C. has also seen recent outbreaks of measles: in most cases, direct attributable to falling rates of childhood vaccination.
SFU is a respected centre of learning, and it should be doing everything in its power to educate the public about the vital importance of routine vaccination. It should counter the falsehoods spread by those who confuse correlation with causation and insist on unproven links between vaccination and autism. It should be concerned with, and actively campaign against, the types of misinformation and ignorance that put the province’s children at risk of preventable disease. It should listen to its own colleagues in SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, who, on their website, have unequivocally denied endorsement of the Vaccine Resistance Movement or its activities.
It should not, for the pittance of a space rental fee, implicitly endorse an event dedicated to the spread of misinformation that will help create a Canadian public health crisis.
We call on Simon Fraser University to strongly and unequivocally declare that it does not support the anti-vaccination message of the Vaccine Resistance Movement, and to acknowledge its mistake in allowing the promotion of inaccurate information and dangerous quackery to happen on its grounds.
Director, Centre for Inquiry Vancouver
National Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada
Iain Martel, PhD, & Steve Livingston, BSc, MA
Co-Chairs, Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism
Board Member, Centre For Inquiry Canada
Nienke van Houten, PhD
Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU
Joshua Nero, BSc
MD Candidate, Class of 2015
Faculty of Medicine
University of British Columbia
Robert Tarzwell, MD, FRCPC
Clinical Assistant Professor
Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Monika Naus, MD, MHSc, FRCPC, FACPM
Medical Director, Immunization Programs and Vaccine Preventable Diseases
BC Centre for Disease Control
Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Ian Cromwell, MSc
Health Economist, British Columbia Cancer Agency
PhD Student (Population and Public Health), University of British Columbia
Logan Trenaman, BSc
MSc Student (Population and Public Health), University of British Columbia
David Scheifele, MD, OC
Director, Vaccine Evaluation Center, BC Children’s Hospital
Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Thomas Kerr, PhD
Director, Urban Health Research Initiative
British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Associate Professor, Dept. of Medicine
University of British Columbia
#1 neil ludlam (Guest) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 at 2:31pm
to befollowed by a creation science lecture proving the earth is 6000 yrs old. i think you dropped the ball on this one. i can only hope that the students and public attend and take them to task for their anti-vaccine position. i would encourage you to rethink giving these people a venue. not so respectfully yours,neil
#2 Cynthia Stark (Guest) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 at 2:13pm
Like any medical procedure, vaccines can injure and kill. Billions have been spent in compensation. Since the first Vaccine Injury Compensation claims were made in 1989, 3,050 compensation payments have been made, $2,354,402,849.25 disbursed to petitioners and $92,790,487.47 paid to cover attorney’s fees and other legal costs.
#3 Neil Miller (Guest) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 at 9:24pm
The Centre for Inquiry claims to promote…“freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavour.” Apparently this only applies to endeavors that conform to the members’ own opinions. Advocating for censorship by bullying institutions that truly promote freedom of inquiry is neither rational nor civilized.
#4 Tim Farley (Guest) on Thursday March 07, 2013 at 8:46am
The Dean of the Faculty of Health Science at Simon Fraser has already issued a letter disavowing institutional support for this event, and explaining that they merely leased the space.
Here it is (Adobe PDF):