Written by By Holly Rubenstein, CNN
The Facebook page for the New Zealand Vaccination Awareness Network, an anti-vaccination group, has uploaded an anti-vaccination video, The Harshest Advice From an Anti-Vaccination Expert, that includes misrepresented quotes from its creator Michael Ross Reynolds.
The video is titled “What’s the cost of fake news?”
The anti-vaccination movement, which derives its name from the “hostility” they say they face, holds a “critical mass” in New Zealand, where doctor’s offices do not prescribe vaccinations for non-medical reasons, according to The Harshest Advice From an Anti-Vaccination Expert
“We’re not preaching to the choir, either,” Michael Ross Reynolds told CNN. “Many people are against vaccines because of misconceptions and deliberately misinformed beliefs that propagate misinformation and misinformation to cause fear. I’m trying to educate, my purpose is to get this message out there.”
We caught up with Reynolds after being contacted by CNN via Facebook Messenger. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.
CNN: Do you feel you’ve achieved your goal, to educate New Zealanders?
Reynolds: You know, it’s been three months, so I just recently finished it. My original intention was to do it for three months and then move on to different things but I think I’ve done enough to the credit of people who were actually taking steps against vaccines. So I’m really satisfied with my effect, so I’m not really going to continue my course for anymore.
CNN: Do you have any regrets?
Reynolds: No, I think I’ve said all I had to say. I just showed the world that vaccine shillry is everywhere.
CNN: How do you feel about Facebook taking down your page?
Reynolds: I think it’s a step in the right direction. My message of vaccine is right. I guess I’m just an expert opinion on the subject, I try to educate, get my facts correct, I don’t like to make claims without evidence to back them up. I’ve been quite honest with all my views and I would have very little respect for someone who makes up stories and fails to back them up with data to substantiate their claim.
CNN: Your anti-vaccination movement is growing. How do you feel about that?
Reynolds: I’ve not experienced any change or any new supporters, that I can see, because people just find that the claim that I’m a modern day witch doctor or yenta really doesn’t ring true. So most people don’t understand how it works … Their information is not reliable at all.
CNN: Have you been followed by anybody?
Reynolds: I haven’t been followed by anybody. The only contact I’ve had is my daughter, but the rates of vaccinations have plummeted in our country in recent years. We had another anti-vaccination group that tried to start up another non-vaccination movement within my borders. It’s funny, I can’t talk to my daughter without them following me… People still don’t understand what the word vaccineism means. They don’t understand how they are not only a vaccine but that for themselves and my wife, there’s an emotional attachment and a healthy commitment to our children.
CNN: Is your wife helping out with the page?
Reynolds: She’s helping out with the fact that she’s my wife. She’s on the site and I’m the one who puts it out there. But she’s directing it … and she’s really annoyed with the fact that it’s my page and she takes credit for it all … When people tell her that she gets really upset.
CNN: What are your thoughts on a report, published in the Journal of Public Health Communication, that said your group may have influenced New Zealanders’ decisions?
Reynolds: I think my anti-vaccination page is a whole lot more effective than a mainstream news organization. If we had a mainstream news article that talked about this I think you would see an increase in vaccination rates. Most people that are vaccinated are doing so because they hear a mainstream news article and want to protect their children.
CNN: You have not been banned from Facebook or Instagram and have not been specifically named. In fact, the anti-vaccination movement in New Zealand has enjoyed very little attention and the average person would be hard pressed to find your page. What does that tell you?
Reynolds: It tells me that people see what I’m doing and what my goal is. It’s a voice of reason, we’re bringing a reason to our people that weren’t heard and found it so beneficial that they want to do that