A school has banned the screening of a controversial documentary series about vaccines prompting the organiser, a midwife, to move the viewings to her home.

Adele Van Weerden sought permission from Waitetuna School near Raglan to hold screenings of the seven-episode "docu-series" The Truth About Vaccines in the school's hall.

Principal Margery O'Connell initially agreed but after a complaint from a parent, permission was retracted late last month.

Board of Trustees chairwoman Erin Cranfield did not want to comment but in a discussion on the cancellation on Facebook she said the School Trustees Association recommended Waitetuna not host the event on school grounds "due to the controversy of the topic".

Advertisement

The Truth About Vaccines is described as threatening to "blow the lid off the lies and corruption of the vaccine industry" by revealing what is "really in vaccines".

Promotional material for the series states viewers will learn about the history of vaccines, potential risks of being vaccinated and alternatives to the injections.

On Friday the controversial anti-vaccination movie Vaxxed was pulled from screens by some independent cinemas.

Van Weerden, a Waikato midwife of 25 years currently on leave from the profession, said parents had a right to make an informed choice.

"I think we have to make informed consent about all decisions we make for the health of our children and ourselves, as a health professional."

Van Weerden said she had always provided clients with Ministry of Health advice on immunisation but also offered alternative information.

"It's a really sensitive subject and there almost seems to be a religious belief that vaccinations are good and if anyone challenges that it can get quite controversial.

"I think it is controversial but it shouldn't be."

Van Weerden said she was disappointed the screening had been cancelled and would hold private viewings at her home instead.

The New Zealand College of Midwives said Van Weerden, who was entitled to call herself a midwife regardless of whether she was practising, was not doing anything wrong by promoting the documentary.

College midwifery adviser Alison Eddy said midwives did not have to support Government health targets including the Increased Immunisation target of 95 per cent of 8-month-olds receiving their six-week, three-month and five-month immunisations on time.

Raglan midwife Adele Van Weerden was disappointed when a screening of a vaccine documentary she organised at Waitetuna School was cancelled. Photo / Facebook
Raglan midwife Adele Van Weerden was disappointed when a screening of a vaccine documentary she organised at Waitetuna School was cancelled. Photo / Facebook

Waikato DHB is ranked fifth worst out of the 20 DHBs in meeting that target.

"It's not written anywhere that midwives are required to support these [guidelines]," Eddy said. "It's really about everyone rowing the boat in the same direction."

The College's consensus statement on immunisation is that it recognises the National Immunisation Programme as a public health strategy.

But the statement also says the underlying principle of informed choice and consent must always be upheld.

Public opponent of anti-vaccination film screenings Dr Lance O'Sullivan was concerned a midwife was promoting the documentary, which he had not seen.

"It's not compatible with performing a role that's funded by the public health system to provide the best care available. This is not providing informed consent and balanced argument, this is causing confusion."

O'Sullivan, a Kaitaia GP, said if the College would not take a stand on the issue then mothers-to-be should check with midwives on their position on immunisation before engaging them.

"We clinicians are very influential people and in my opinion this is a classic example of too influential."

He dismissed the anti-vaccination movement argument that vaccines cause injury to some children.

"We know adverse affects exist in every single medication, every single procedure known to our industry. But we don't stop doing these things because we think the benefit outweighs the potential for harm."

Child and Youth Health chief adviser for the Ministry of Health, Dr Pat Tuohy, said the ministry had an expectation that professionals take a "best practice" approach to immunisation including supporting parents to make informed choices for their children.

Tuohy said the ministry strongly supported immunisation as safe and effective but that best practice guidelines did not operate as a code of conduct to determine the behaviour of individual health professionals.

"The Ministry of Health acknowledges the importance of midwives' role in providing trusted health information to pregnant women, and the support of the midwifery profession for immunisation."