Michael Leunig On Vaccination: “I Think The Science Is Incomplete, I Honestly Do”
"I think the science is incomplete, I honestly do."
As he’s best known for making whimsical musings about a small crudely-drawn duck, Michael Leunig last month found himself in unfamiliar territory facing serious accusations of being negligent about public health. Following on from the government’s controversial “No Jab No Pay” policy, one of his cartoons in The Age appeared to defend mothers who choose not to vaccinate their children and, in turn, he faced widespread criticism.
On social media a number of people called him out as an anti-vaxxer, some argued it was irresponsible for The Age to publish the cartoon, and others whose family members had suffered from preventible diseases took personal offence.
Note to Age: I'm sure Grandma loved my Uncle. But he was one of the 40,000 Australians who contracted paralytic polio pic.twitter.com/5NI8cyZSWv
— Chris Uhlmann (@CUhlmann) April 15, 2015
Though Leunig himself refused to clarify his thoughts on the issue itself, a spokesperson told us, “His cartoon on the subject addresses the issues of hostility towards those who choose not to have their children vaccinated and defends their right to a personal position”.
Now, in an interview with ABC News Breakfast this morning, he’s finally expounded on that view. Though he was invited on air to talk about his new cartoon collection Musings From The Inner Duck, the conversation inevitably turned towards this controversial issue (around 1.05).
Virginia Trioli counters Leunig’s concerns, pointing out that any scientific evidence against vaccination has been totally debunked — to which Leunig responds, “Well, science thalidomide: society once accepted the use of that drug, which caused mass birth defects in the 1950s and ’60s. (Though, as Trioli points out, this was due to a cover-up by the pharmaceutical company which manufactured it).arents are entitled to be wary of the practice, he says, comparing it to the drug
With many viewers regarding these comments as further confirmation of the cartoonist’s opposition to vaccination, social media has been united almost unanimously against him.
There are those that are flagging his comments as hazardous misinformation:
It's not "conscientious objection" like Vietnam, Leunig. It's not a moral or noble issue. It's science denial& abject recklessness. #stopsvn
— Mia Freedman (@MiaFreedman) May 28, 2015
So Michael Leunig compares vaccination to thalidomide. Anyone still want to defend this scumbag?
— Bernard Keane (@BernardKeane) May 28, 2015
Leunig's claim that pro-vax isn't truly motivated by pub health is either deluded or unintentional overstatement. http://t.co/qYzBgRHoBJ
— Dr Vyom Sharma (@drvyom) May 29, 2015
“Is the science (on vaccinations) complete yet? Do we know utterly?” Yes we do, Leunig. Shut up. https://t.co/zyFpcoeNMh
— Petra Starke (@petstarr) May 29, 2015
Some renewing calls for his employer to take action against him:
So…. When does Fairfax sack Leunig? SBS sacked McIntyre for far less.
— Dr. Matt Esq. (@DownIsTheNewUp_) May 29, 2015
And others who just feel a little jaded by the new meaning this all gives to his iconic cartoons:
*Leunig draws a picture of a man looking sadly at a fallen tree* Man: Jet fuel can't m
— Ben Jenkins (@bencjenkins) May 28, 2015
Leunig draws sad man with a sad duck. Man is sad because his kid died of polio. Duck is sad because even he understands anti-vaxxers suck.
— Craig Reucassel (@craigreucassel) May 28, 2015