Friday, September 28, 2012

Misleadingly named fringe group spouts nonsense and inaccurate vaccination info.

It is becoming public record that the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) distributes mis-information about public health. Parliamentary Ministers and government commissions alike are calling out this organisation for misleading the public about the risks of immunisation. Information that could influence a new parents' decision to vaccinate their baby. A decision that not only puts the vulnerable child at risk of vaccine preventable disease (VPD) but also risks the health of the greater community through the decline of herd immunity.

So today I'd like to collate some of these comments that expose the AVN. It's a little like a 'best of' album featuring some of the AVN's greatest hits. Let's start with the most recent. On Wednesday the 26th of September, just two days ago, in answer to a question put to her in the NSW parliament, Ms Jillian Skinner, the Minister for health, had this to say about the AVN:

The Australian Vaccination Network has not provided accurate information to  parents about the risks and benefits of immunisation. Any link between the  measles vaccine and autism has been conclusively discredited by numerous studies and reviews by credible experts, including the World Health Organisation, the American Academy of Paediatrics and the UK Medical Research Council…

The AVN has not provided accurate information to parents. That one half sentence just about sums it up for me. But don't take the NSW health minister's word for it. You may, or may not remember the the Woodford folk festive saga. Well, during all that excitement back in December last year, the Qld minister for health, Mr Geoff Wilson, had this about the quality of the AVN's information:
Mr Wilson said fringe groups like the misleadingly named ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ are wrong to discourage people from getting vaccinated.“I love Woodford Folk Festival. I’ve been numerous times. There’s great music, great food and great folk entertainment. Fortunately, there’s enough wonderful things to do at Woodford that patrons have plenty of alternatives rather than sitting through the nonsense Meryl Dorey spouts about vaccination dangers”, Mr Wilson said.“For the small number of people who might be entertained by what Ms Dorey has to say, Woodford Folk Festival has a place for everyone. Just don’t take her nonsense too seriously.”

Hmmm. So Mr Wilson thinks the AVN is misleadingly named, spouts nonsense and shouldn't be taken seriouslyGoing right back in time now, to 1998 (I won't tell you how old I was back then ;-)  ) the then Federal minister for health, Dr Wooldridge was responsible this absolute stunner in a media release titled "Anti-mmunistaion lobby misleading the media":

I am deeply concerned that media organisations risk giving credibility to the crackpot views of the AVN by publishing, without question, their untrue and deceitful claims. Ultimately, young children who are particularly vulnerable to measles could suffer if their parents were influenced by the anti-science, irrational views of the AVN

The ministerial 
criticisms are not restricted to health ministers. In June 2010 the Shadow Minister for the Arts, John Hyde had this to say when the AVN were allowed to hold a conference at the state library:

  Their dangerous propaganda which is putting children at risk of polio, smallpox, cholera and other preventable diseases should not be able to gain respectability by using the good name of the State Library."  

While we're on a roll. Let's not forget this quote from the report by the HCCC:
“AVN provides information that is misleading for the average reader by inaccurately representing information, selectively reporting information, and giving non-peer reviewed and anecdotal material the same authority as peer-reviewed literature. The HCCC found in all cases, the AVN and Ms Dorey were doing so to maintain an anti-vaccination position.”

Now, of course this HCCC investigation found the commission and the AVN locked in a Supreme court battle. Unfortunately, due to a loop hole in the legislation, the court was forced to find in favour of the AVN. This then resulted in the HCCC taking down its public warning (which can still be seen via the link) about the AVN. This win for the AVN have nothing to do with whether the HCCC findings that their information was inaccurate, and more to do with whether they had the jurisdiction to investigate in the first place.

But the good news from earlier this week is that a number of proposed changes to the health care complaints act have been announced. Fingers crossed these changes take place because they have real potential to close that loop and change the act for the better. Watch this space.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Respect at all times

Here I am again, brought back to my blog page by the antics of Meryl Dorey. Honestly, if it weren't for that woman I wouldn't have a blog at all. (I'm also refurbishing a table, I've got the before shots if you want to see them? No, not really. OK, I'll blog for you when I'm done).

So, let's start at the start. I always find that that's the best place to begin. Yesterday a Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN) administrator posted this comment on the SAVN facebok page  :

Dear SAVN subscribers, commenters, posters, readers and "likers", the administrators of this page have had long discussions about the name of this page, "Stop the Australian Vaccination Network," and we have come to the conclusion that it does not suffice in being clear as to what the nature of this page is, and what it is in opposition to. 
Therefore, the administrators have made a decision to implement a name-change, albeit slight, to better reflect the ethos, principles, and values of this page, and this name change will be uploaded in *three days' time* as the new name going forward. 
The countdown begins now. 
3 days until the name change. 
I will be updating this post on a daily basis for the countdown.
Naturally there has been a response over on the AVN page. Lots of speculation about why this could be happening. One 'liker' considers the possibility that their illegal actions have caused it. Although, I thought the post has pretty clearly explained the reason : it does not suffice in being clear as to what the nature of this page is . About four hours ago came Meryl Dorey's official response. She has proposed a competition for her followers to re-name the SAVN. 

Before I continue I think I should remind you of the Mission statement on the AVN's facebook 'about' page. So here it is:

"We must treat each other with respect at all times..." and "Members must refrain from posting inflammatory or defamatory comments"

I'll leave you to judge how respectful and un-inflammatory the AVN member's suggestions are. My favorite so far is by the administrator known as RR : Stop Everything We Ever Ridiculed Reviled And Trashed [Sewer Rat].
Screenshot One:

Screenshot Two:

And as of  3:45 Friday the 27th of July, the final screenshot. Please also be aware that Kieran's comment about the AVN being liars can not longer be seen in the thread. The AVN and Censorship... well, that's a whole other blog post.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A-Z of nasty diseases

I know, I know, I do harp on about Ms Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network. But, in response to her latest little crusade, an A-Z of vaccinations, I've decided to pop up an A-Z of nasty illnesses. You'll notice that I primarily picked ones with a vaccine. This of course was deliberate, because two can play at that game, Ms Dorey. 

So as you read down the list just take a moment to be glad of how many illnesses, some potentially deadly, modern medicine has helped minimize in privileged society.

A-Z of nasty diseases:

  • A. Anthrax- has vaccine
  • B. Bacterial Meningitis- meningocoocal vaccine 
  • C. Cholera- vaccine
  • D. Diphtheria- vaccine
  • E...erm, Ebola? Erectile dysfunction? OK, so science is still working on E
  • F. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus- alright it's not a people disease (and I'm using the "flu" under I for influenza) but there is a vaccine
  • G. Genital warts- HPV vaccine
  • H. Haemophilus influenzae Type b- vaccine
  • I. Influenza- vaccine
  • J. Jaundice, often linked to hepatitis- Hepatitis A and B vaccines
  • K. Kennel cough- dogs this time and guess what? There's a vaccine
  • L. Lyme disease- vaccine
  • M. Measles and Mumps -vaccines
  • N. Norovirus- vaccine starting human trial soon
  • O. Obesity- vaccine in development.. yep, I'm serious
  • P. Polio and Pertussis - vaccines
  • Q. Q fever- vaccine
  • R. Rabies and Rubella- vaccines
  • S. Small pox- eradicated thanks to vaccines
  • T. Typhoid- vaccine
  • U. Urinary Tract Infection- vaccine in development
  • V. Vitamin K deficiency. In extreme circumstances this can lead to bleeding into the brain in newborns- Vitamin K injection. (You thought I was just going to put V for Vaccine didn't you? That would have been lazy)
  • W. West Nile virus- vaccine in development (Whooping cough was the obvious choice where, but I decided not to go with that)
  • X. Lucky for us, not many diseases start with X. But, we do use the awesomness of x-rays for diagnosis. I know it's lame, but it'll have to do 
  • Y. Yersinia Petis and Yellow fever- vaccines
  • Z. varicella Zoster (aka chicken pox)- vaccine

Oh yeah, and so far Ms Dorey is only up to 'D':

Edit (6 May 2012)

Now we have EFGH and J ... I think the AVN tweeter missed "I"

UPDATE: In relation to E, for ebola: According to this BBC report a commercial ebola vaccine is unlikely to ever reach development, as funding has been pulled.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Things are looking up: Vaccination saves lives

Look up, look up, look up. The massage in the sky is that "Vaccination saves lives".

The appearance of Meryl Dorey at the Woodford folk festival has been a major theme for my recent blog posts. But now it seems to be coming to an exciting climax. Meryl talks today. And the grass roots campaigners have a special surprise in store for the president of the Australian Vaccination Network. All Ms Dorey has to do is look up to the sky.

Above: Ms Dorey's write-up in the online program

At this very moment a "Vaccination Saves Lives" banner is being towed by an aircraft over the festival site. The timing coincides with Ms Dorey's talk, due to start at the blue lotus tent any moment. It should be a treat for the festival goers, while being a poke at Ms Dorey's many cries about attempts to suppress free speech.

We encourage the audience to look up to the sky to see how we used our freedom of expression.

More photos (and a great blog) at Skeptimite 

The pro-evidence, pro-science, medical community have tonnes of literature regarding the efficacy of vaccinations. And with the current rise in vaccine preventable diseases, such as whooping cough and measles, it is vital that children and adults alike are vaccinated to improve herd immunity. Most people don't realise that these diseases can result in hospitalisation, long term health concerns and even death.  This is seriously scary stuff!  There is literally a 'body count' associated with anti-vax lies. Babies dying from something this  preventable simply should not happen in this country. This is why public awareness and education is so important. This is why the Stop the AVN does what they do. This is why the "Vaccination Saves Lives" campaign has been launched.

So Woodfordians, look up to the sky.

Vaccination Saves Lives: Stop The Australian Vaccination Network

In response to the first wave of blogs, mainstream media coverage, public out cry and ministerial condemnation, on Christmas eve the Woodford committee announced a  change to the program.  Dorey is no longer given the privilege of a solo presentation based on her lies about autism. Instead she will now be on a panel with Professor Andreas Subrbier, the head of the immunovirology Lab at Qld Institute of Medical Research. It is so nice to see a real medical mind speaking at woo-ford! Of course, we'd rather the mis-information and nonsense spouted by the Australian Vaccination Network was given no platform at all! This is because we expect Meryl Dorey to lie. Never-the-less, it has provided a wonderful opportunity to promote vaccination. Because they really do save lives.

Festival goers should look up, rather than listen to Meryl Dorey's dangerous mis-information.

Unfortunately, for the festival's PR, I feel that their program change may have been too little too late.
  • Wikipedia already has a "controversies" section on the Woodford folk fest page. 
  • The members of the Stop the AVN Facebook group have banned together to arrange this banner and leaflets to be passed out to those attending the forum.
  • This "vaccination saves lives" message from the heavens is bound to draw even more media coverage. 
  • I also happen to know that an army of tweeters and bloggers are poised computer side- right now!
I think it's time to check the barometers. There's another storm on the way!