Anti-vaxxer filmmaker Joan Shenton cancels Australian tour ahead of film screening

By @chelean on
An illustration picture shows a Gardasil anti-cervical cancer vaccine box displayed at a pharmacy in Strasbourg November 25, 2013.
An illustration picture shows a Gardasil anti-cervical cancer vaccine box displayed at a pharmacy in Strasbourg November 25, 2013. Reuters/Vincent Kessler

British broadcaster Joan Shenton has cancelled her planned trip to Australia ahead of the scheduled screenings of her controversial anti-vaccination film “Sacrificial Virgins.” The film, which opposes the Gardasil vaccine given to school children, is dubbed by Health Minister Greg Hunt as spreading “false and reckless claims.”

Shenton’s visa for Australian entry is still “under consideration,” but it appears she wouldn’t be needing it anymore as she has already cancelled her tour. Australian Vaccination-Risks Network, which had organised her tour, said the deadline for her flight had passed while the Home Affairs considered her visa application.

“Sacrificial Virgins” claims HPV does not cause cervical cancer. It also opposes the use of Gardasil vaccine, which protects against forms of HPV and is administered to girls and boys 10 years and older. It is scheduled for screening at a few locations in the country next month.

Hunt said Shenton’s film targets the Australian government’s cancer prevention program. “The science is in and the medical experts advice is absolute — vaccinations save lives and protect lives and they are an essential part of a healthy society,” he told Fairfax Media. “I have no time for the false and reckless claims made by anti-vaxxers and I will continue to call out their dangerous claims.”

A Home Affairs spokesperson has confirmed to SBS that Shenton has applied for a visa but they have not made a decision on it yet.

“All non-citizens seeking to enter Australia must meet the character requirements set out in the Migration Act 1958 and can be refused a visa if they fail to do so,” the spokesperson said. “For visitors who may hold controversial views, any risk they may pose will be balanced against Australia’s well-established freedom of speech and freedom of beliefs, amongst other relevant considerations.”

While Shenton said she was “very disappointed” that she would not be able to meet families who want to know about the “risks” of HPV vaccinations, she said she would still be appearing live on screen during the screenings.