In light of the large number of measles outbreaks that have occurred this year, new information has come out that suggests the BC government has granted over $400,000 to a group that spreads anti-vaccine ideas. This money was allegedly given to the anti-vaccine group over a 12 year period after through grant money.
For over a decade, an anti-vaccine group in Vancouver known as the Health Action Network Society (HANS) has been given $428,500 by the BC government. This money was given to the group through the Community Gaming Grant offered by the BC government. Since 2007, the group has received over $400,000 worth of these grants.
According to CBC, this anti-vaccine group has actively shared content from anti-vaccine websites. It has also screened movies that centered around anti-vaccine ideologies and "complained about censorship from a social media company that blocked this type of information." According to HANS' Facebook, they label themselves as a non-profit organization that "provides information on preventive medicine and natural therapeutics."
Due to the group receiving over one third of its funding from the provincial government, Dr. Eric Cadesky, a family physician and president of Doctors of BC, told CBC that the grant program needs some reviewing. "I think it's important to review the ways that we assess where money is going,” said Cadesky.
Cadesky also told CBC that HANS has “become so good at using scientific-type language, they have become so good at using flashy, professional websites, that it's very difficult for anyone who wants to get good information to know the difference between a good source of information and a source of misinformation.”
He further stated that much of the vaccine-related information shared by HANS is false. However, since CBC released this information on the morning of March 28, 2019, HANS has publicly responded. In their online statement, HANS refutes any association with the anti-vaccination position.
“HANS serves to remind the CBC and all Canadians of the founding principles of medical ethics: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence,” writes HANS.
Despite their claims, a simple search on the HANS Facebook page has revealed that the group has publically screened the movie Vaxxed in February 2017. This movie is known for its attempt to link the MMR vaccine to autism.
According to their latest Instagram post, HANS is also supporting the public screening of Magic Pills. "Our current medical system is broken. It focuses on profits and disease, rather than people and wellness. Homeopathy could be one of the more affordable and effective forms of medicine available," writes the caption.
It wasn't that long ago that the Canadian government issued a new warning about the dangers of homeopathic alternatives to vaccines.
Groups like HANS will now also have a much more difficult time posting about anti-vaccines on platforms like Facebook due to recent changes. Recently, the social media platform announced that it would no longer run ads or promote information about anti-vaccines.
“We are exploring ways to give people more accurate information from expert organizations about vaccines at the top of results for related searches, on Pages discussing the topic, and on invitations to join groups about the topic,” stated Facebook.
Since the beginning of 2019, there have been 20 confirmed cases of measles in BC alone. Throughout all of Canada, there have been 27 confirmed cases of the preventable disease.