Vaccination supporters slam De Niro over anti-vax comments
"I wouldn't take acting lessons from an immunologist, the way I wouldn't take vaccination advice from an actor."
That's what Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters are saying following a viral interview given by acting legend Robert De Niro in which the Oscar winner spruiks the anti-vaccination cause.
Global media organisations have already widely panned Mr De Niro, but NRVS spokeswoman Alison Gaylard said the damage was done.
"I was shocked," she said.
She described what De Niro said and other celebrities of his ilk as a "public health hazard".
"We live in a celebrity era, and people do seem to go to them a lot more than they do the correct and factual forces," Ms Gaylard said
"I'm really hoping that if people are drawn to the issue because of someone like him making this unfounded statement, that they'll then go and look at a reliable source of information and realise how wrong it is."
Mr De Niro was speaking shortly after being forced to pull the anti-vaccination film Vaxxed from his Tribeca Film Festival after an outcry from the festival's fellow film makers.
He blamed that move on a "knee jerk reaction" and told NBC's Today that the movie was "something people should see".
"I'm not anti-vaccine, I want safe vaccines," he said, adding that they were "dangerous to certain people".
Asked if he believed in the scientific consensus that there was no link between vaccination and autism, Mr De Niro said he believed it was "much more complicated than that".
Ms Gaylard said this was music to the ears of the anti-vaccination supporters.
"They seem to get excited when somebody with such a high profile comes up, like De Niro, like Jim Carrey, Alicia Silverstone," she said.
"They jump on to it like a dog with a bone."
She said people were not engaging their critical thinking skills and falling for pseudo-science.
"There have been thousands and thousands of studies now to show that there is no link whatsoever between vaccines and autism, and these have all been written by people who are experts on those fields, and they've done meta analysis as well.
"A real critical thinking person questions and then they look for the correct source of information not one that just confirms their bias."
Mr De Niro, who has an autistic son, has refused to rule out vaccination as a cause.
Ms Gaylard said many people she spoke to who had children on the autism spectrum were furious at having their children classed by some as "vaccine damaged".
"They know it's nothing to do with vaccines and if only we could stop spending money on repeated research for autism being related to vaccines that money could actually then be put towards research towards autism and how it occurs," she said.