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Cam Wilson

‘Risk to public health’: calls to stop prominent US anti-vaxxer ex-doctor from entering Australia

Campaigners are calling on Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to deny a visa to influential anti-vaccine activist and COVID-19 misinformation spreader Peter McCullough.

The US-based former cardiologist is set to tour Australia next month, along with United Australia Party national director Craig Kelly and Senator Ralph Babet, as part of speaking events organised by Clive Palmer’s political party.

“Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear Dr Peter McCullough live in Australia,” Kelly wrote on his Telegram channel. The venues have not yet been named. 

McCullough shot to prominence during the pandemic for promoting disproven COVID-19 treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, as well as for casting doubt on the efficacy and safety of vaccines. 

McCullough has been stripped of his medical qualifications reportedly for understating the risk of COVID-19 death and overstating the risk of COVID-19 vaccines. He’s now the chief scientific officer of the Wellness Company, which offers “COVID vaccine detox” products that experts say do not work.

His advocacy and credentials have made him popular with COVID-19 denialists and anti-vaccine figures and groups. He soon grew a large following on social media and even appeared on the world’s most popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, where he shared a number of mistruths. Just last week, McCullough promoted baseless speculation that NFL player Damar Hamlin’s high-profile collapse on a field during the game was linked to the COVID-19 vaccine (it’s believed Hamlin’s cardiac arrest was set off by a blunt force trauma to the chest). 

Annette Bannon, a retired nurse and an administrator of the popular pro-vaccination Facebook page Blocked By Pete Evans, wrote to Giles on January 3 to encourage him to reject or revoke McCullough’s visa on the grounds that he is a danger to public health. She has encouraged her followers to do the same. 

“It is very clear that the purpose of his visit is to spread dangerous COVID misinformation,” Bannon wrote.

“He is very active on social media and is promoted by the anti-vaccination community as an authority on COVID.”

In the past, visas have been denied on character grounds for misinformation peddlers. In 2019, British conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier David Icke had his visa cancelled. US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny cancelled her Australian tour in 2015 following a campaign to deny her a visa and to get venues to cancel bookings.

Giles, Kelly and Babet did not respond to a request for comment.

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