A prominent lecture theatre in Australian National University's science department played host to a screening of a controversial American anti-vaccination film on Monday night.
The film was screened on campus in the Leonard Huxley Lecture Theatre, a screening apparently run by the Australian Vaccination Sceptics Network.
That network has since uploaded videos of the event to social media showing some of those involved apparently claiming the event was implicitly endorsed by the university, when it was not.
The Canberra Times understands the network or its associates hired out the lecture theatre to host the event without informing ANU senior management that the film, Vaxxed, would be screened.
An ANU spokesman said in a statement that the event was a private booking and "not in any way endorsed by the university".
"Any claim made by the hirers that claims ANU endorsement is false," he said.
One person who attended the event in order to hear the other side of the debate on vaccinations left "really disappointed" with the anti-science, anti-government and anti-vaccination messages spoken of during a question and answer session after the film was screened.
The source said a panel of prominent American anti-vaccination campaigners made various misleading and incorrect statements, including claiming "that the government was killing our babies and that science was corrupt".
That person also said they were surprised between 200 and 300 people attended the event, and that it was allowed to occur on ANU campus.
"They're entitled to hold their opinions, but by holding it there, it did kind of lend credence to these people's views," the source said.
Dean of the ANU's Medical School, Dr Imogen Mitchell, said vaccination was "probably the most successful medical intervention ever devised" and the wide knowledge of the safety of vaccines revealed "an overwhelming benefit and an extremely small risk of side-effects".
She said that in countries, like Australia, where most people underwent vaccination, "a small but zealous minority can argue against vaccination with relative impunity, because their personal risk of infection is so low".
"But effectiveness also depends on sufficient members of the population having immunological memory, often by virtue of vaccination, which prevents the infection taking hold within the community," she said.
"Nevertheless, the actions and statements of the anti-vaccination minority, which are equally untouched by both biological and statistical principles, jeopardise disease eradication," she said.
The ANU spokesman did not answer questions about what due diligence processes it undertook when hiring its theatres and infrastructure out to third parties for events.
Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times
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