A book written by an Australian doctor in the 1970s has re-emerged as a pivotal text for Australia’s anti-vaccination movement. The out-of-print book has found a second life online. Well-known Australian and international anti-vaxxers are distributing digital copies to support their arguments, particularly in Indigenous communities.
The obituaries when Dr Archie Kalokerinos died in 2012 spoke glowingly of his service to Indigenous health. The Sydney Morning Herald credited him with cutting the infant mortality rate to zero in some regional NSW communities. Neos Kosmos — which named Kalokerinos the Greek Australian of the century — called him a “brave humanitarian who knew no bounds”.
Former prime minister John Howard praised Kalokerinos for his “consistent and selfless efforts”. This Is Your Life did an episode on him.
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What wasn’t mentioned was Kalokerinos’ history as a crank scientist and conspiracy theorist who claimed vaccinations were a cause of vitamin C deficiency. His proposed treatment for almost every malady was large doses of the vitamin to boost the immune system.
While large doses of vitamin C can help with scurvy and other deficiencies, there is no evidence to suggest it can help with strokes and diabetes — ailments Kalokerinos nevertheless tried to treat with it.
He was reported to have given speeches at events run by Australia’s longest running anti-vaccination group, the Australian Vaccination Network.
He spoke about how the World Health Organization and Save the Children Fund were deliberately committing genocide through a mass vaccination program, and how the US government was conspiring to kill certain populations by encouraging those with known heart problems to get vaccinated.
Anti-vaccination magnum opus
Kalokerinos’ 1974 autobiographical book Every Second Child encapsulates his legacy. Its 143 pages chronicle his work in Indigenous communities, where he talks in great detail about the people he treated and the harms of vaccination.
It has a foreword by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling who said Kalokerinos “deserves much credit for having made these discoveries”.
Every Second Child is long out of print. But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a core text for today’s anti-vaccination campaigners. Copies of the paperback are listed for sale on Amazon at more than $900 for Australian buyers.
The Australian Vaccination Network (which has since been renamed) posted in February that the book was a reason that Indigenous Australians were wary of being vaccinated. It endorsed the book.
Prominent Samoan-Australian anti-vaccine activist Taylor Winterstein has repeatedly promoted it to the nearly 100,000 people following her social media, saying it shows proof of “medical racism”. She now includes a downloadable version of it as part of a pack of documents for new parents.
Other active state offshoots of an international anti-vaxxer group (which Crikey has chosen not to name to avoid promoting further) link to digital copies and share quotes on social media.
Just one website hosting the free download shows it has been downloaded more than 2400 times. Facebook posts by users, including prominent international anti-vaxxers, that link to this digital copy of the book have received nearly 5000 engagements.
To these campaigns and groups, this tome based on one doctor’s anecdotal evidence is proof about the risks of vaccination nearly 50 years later.
Its promotion of “boosting your immune system” and fears that safe and effective vaccines are actually “medical experiments” have become common refrains in the modern anti-vaxxer movement.
And with reports out of Indigenous communities that 50% to 75% of people living there will eschew the COVID-19 vaccine, it seems Kalokerinos’ thinking is finding a receptive audience at a crucial time.