B.C. health minister looking into funding for charity spreading anti-vaccine claims
Health Action Network Society denies that it's an anti-vaccination organization
B.C.'s health minister says he's following the news that a Vancouver charity with a history of spreading anti-vaccine disinformation has received provincial funding for more than a decade.
As CBC revealed, the Health Action Network Society (HANS) has received $428,500 in Community Gaming Grants since 2007, the earliest year included in online records for the program.
Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters Thursday that he was aware of the news.
"I'm looking into it," he said. "What I try and do is not make this a debate [with] a very small group of people who are opposed to immunization, but to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get immunized so we can raise the levels for everybody."
The grants come from gambling revenue and are administered by the housing ministry. Housing Minister Selina Robinson says she has directed staff to review the funding for HANS.
"Any time an organization goes against government policy, in this case, against vaccination policy, it certainly raises concern," she told reporters.
She said she's currently waiting for further information on why HANS has been awarded these annual grants. The grant program has been around since 1998.
This raises important questions about the quality of review for “health” related grant funding. Perhaps it’s time for a national discussion on how to ensure that best available scientific evidence is known and applied in funding decisions <a href="https://twitter.com/McGillOSS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@McGillOSS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/DrPChouinard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DrPChouinard</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/picardonhealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@picardonhealth</a>—@StanKutcher
HANS representatives have not responded to CBC's question about what the grant money was used for. Last year, a $40,000 gaming grant amounted to about one third of the charity's revenue.
Ted Kuntz, the president of the board for HANS, told CBC that he is simply fighting for informed medical consent and more research into vaccine safety. He denied that the organization is anti-vaccination.
"I'm fighting so children don't die from vaccines," he wrote in an email. "I'm simply asking the question — is what we are doing working?"
HANS has also posted a response on its website to CBC's reporting, which it described as an "inaccurate and defaming portrayal of HANS as an anti-vaccination organization." The charity says it disputes any association with an anti-vaccination stance.
However, in the years the group has received the gaming grants, it's often shared anti-vaccine posts on its social media channels and promoted anti-vaccine events from groups like the Vaccine Resistance Movement.
HANS also hosted the Vancouver premiere of the notorious anti-vaccine film Vaxxed, a documentary that tried to prove the long-debunked theory that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine causes autism.
A 2016 review published in the charity's magazine claims that Vaxxed "may be the most important film of our generation" and asserts that the US. Centers for Disease Control is covering up the alleged link between vaccines and autism.
With files from Tanya Fletcher