Leading Anti-Vaxxer Claimed Diet Cured Her Cancer, Turns Out She Faked The Whole Thing

An internationally-renowned ‘wellness’ blogger and leading figure in the anti-vaccination movement has been exposed as a fraud this week.

Australian ‘wellness guru’ Belle Gibson’s whole empire rested on her anti-vaccination position. She rose to fame chronicling her battle with brain cancer through her blog, The Whole Pantry. She blamed her health issues on a reaction to the cervical cancer vaccine Gardisil. Readers, many of them cancer patients themselves, followed with awe as she withdrew from chemotherapy and other cancer treatments and healed herself with “nutrition and holistic medicine.”

She told readers that this concoction of wive’s tale remedies had overcome the damage ’caused’ by the vaccine, and obliterated her cancer. She then used her platform to advise parents against vaccinating their children, and tout her miracle cures to anyone who would listen (and pay).

By 2015, she had built an impressive empire. Her book “The Whole Pantry,” was selling well in Australia and was set to be published in Britain and the United States. Her acclaimed app had been selected by Apple to feature on its Apple Watch. Her near 200,000 Instagram followers were spreading her message far and wide.

“I believe that people are here to be teachers,” she said in November. “And I know that I defied so many universal and life rules for a reason.”

But it turns out this mighty empire was built upon a lie.

Belle Gibson never had cancer.

“None of it’s true,” she told the Australian Women’s Weekly, acknowledging that she had duped the world with her fake cancer hoax.

So the basis of her anti-vaccination position was entirely false. There was no danger, except that which parents put their children in by taking her advice.

On top of this, the charity to which she claimed to donate $300,000 of her book earnings told the Sydney Morning Herald that they never saw any of it.

“I don’t want forgiveness,” she told the Weekly. “I just think [speaking out] was the responsible thing to do. Above anything, I would like people to say, ‘Okay, she’s human.'”

Gibson must face the fact that her claims have far-reaching ramifications. She has been providing medical advice to people which will have life and death consequences. And she is not alone. She joins the growing ranks of “holistic” healing evangelizers who are filling people’s heads and bodies with bogus remedies, while turning them against genuine medicine.

The growing alternative medicine industry thrives on a resistance to facts and science. They argue that smart watches cause cancer, while believing salt and baking soda can cure it. While dismissing heavily-evidenced theories of peer-reviewed science, they maintain an evidence threshold no greater than personal anecdote when it comes to their own claims. But nowhere are they more dangerous than in their war against vaccinations, which has resulted in clusters of un-vaccinated children in the US and major public health impacts.

While the anti-vaxxer movement is attempting to frame the matter as one of personal choice, the scientific community have long held that the vaccination issue is one of public safety.  It affects entire communities.

“When you immunize your child, you’re not only immunizing your child. That child’s immunization is contributing to the control of the disease in the population,” explains Dr Elizabeth Edwards, professor of pediatrics and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program.

That sheltering effect is called herd immunity: a population that is highly immunized makes for a virus that can’t spread easily, providing protection to the community – or the herd – as a whole.  There are groups of people who cannot be vaccinated for age or health-related reasons – and they are protected by those around them being vaccinated.

While the overall measles vaccination rate in the US is high, vaccine skeptics – and their unimmunized kids – often congregate in like-minded communities, creating pockets of under-immunization. California is one such state, one of 20 states that allow parents to skip vaccination based on their personal, philosophical beliefs.  It is no surprise then that the bulk of current measles cases can be found there.

It is as simple as this: It is personally and socially irresponsible to opt out of vaccination programs.  Worse, the people advising people to do so are pseudo-scientists who have not earned the right to the public trust. If parents do not vaccinate their children, they them and everyone else at risk.  It is time to stop placing decades of advances in public health in peril on the basis of unsubstantiated gossip.

Featured Image via Gallecars Science