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!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Smart kids present the Ministerial Statement #woodfordff

If you are just joining in the woo-fordgate schandal, go here first (it's a much more articulate post).

Because this is my 3rd blog in as many days, and because I couldn't say it better myself, below is word-for-word the statement from the Queensland minister for health. (Mamamia has picked up on this news, and run a great article here) Please note that the Minister points out how mis-leading the name of the Australian Vaccination Network is, and also that Meryl Dorey talks "nonsense".

But first: This. From Skepchick @SurlyAmy who creates awesome "smart" jewelry.

And now, I present the much anticipated minister's statement:

The Honourable Geoff Wilson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Parents should vaccinate themselves and their children, Minister for Health Geoff Wilson said today.

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.”

“The fact is vaccinations have saved millions of lives. Their invention was a miracle of scientific achievement.”

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer said Queensland Health remained absolutely committed to delivering its immunisation program to as many Queenslanders as possible.

“In the past year hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders have been protected against deadly diseases such as whooping cough, cervical cancer, diphtheria and measles, as well as influenza.” she said.

“The benefits of vaccination are obvious. Between 1930 and 1988, around 40,000 Australians developed paralytic Polio. Now Australia is Polio free.”

“Vaccination prevents potentially fatal conditions like measles, diphtheria and whooping cough.”
“This program saves lives, and we will continue to urge Queenslanders to vaccinate their children against life-threatening illnesses,” Dr Young said.

“Queensland’s vaccination program is extremely safe and is the most effective way to prevent illness and death from vaccine preventable diseases,” she said.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The "Woo-ford scandal": from outraged masses to mainstream media condemnation

Weblogs are the mavericks of the online world. Two of their greatest strengths are their ability to filter and disseminate information to a widely dispersed audience, and their position outside the mainstream of mass media. Beholden to no one, weblogs point to, comment on, and spread information according to thier own, quirky criteria.
(Blood, Rebecca. 2006. the weblog handbook 2006 [accessed 14 Dec 2011] available from

Less than 24 hours ago a wrote a blog "How Meryl Dorey took the last piece of my hippie soul and squashed it into the Woodford mud." Yesterday I commented about how blogs and social media (particularly twitter) had been outraged by the  inclusion of Meryl Dorey (of the disgraced Australian Vaccination Network) in the program of the Woodford Folk Festival. At the time of posting there had been little mainstream media attention (only a news article from mamamia and a radio segment on 2UE). Otherwise, it was only blogs covering the story. It is important to remember that while the 'shit-storm' was mostly contained within the on-line community Mr Bill Haurtiz, festival director, said "We’ve already entered into contracts with Meryl Dorey and we cannot break those contracts now. We’re 10 days away from opening the gates to the festival. The damage is already done."

That's right, "the damage is already done".

Anyway, I expressed that, in my opinion, it was wrong for the festival's public relations team to ignore the blogosphere. If Mr Haurtiz had heeded this warning, he my have avoided, what will prove to be, already is a PR nightmare.

Blogs are powerful, grass-roots journalism. Coupled with social media networking, blogs can be used as a tool for activism, and for gaining mainstream media attention. In the age of easy-to-use blogging sites (like this one; blogger), everyone can publish and distribute their news stories. Facebook and Twitter make for much faster distribution of that news than the traditional newsagents. And the multi-layering of information via hyperlinks allows the blogger to include  mammoth amounts of further reading. Some blogs reach an incredibly wide audience, some bloggers are very influential or important people, and still more bloggers have contacts in the mainstream media. And before you can say "Woo-Ford Scandal"- *BAM*-, you have some serious bad press on your hands!

The tale of PR woe which follows, is testament to why you don't ignore the bloggers.
Since yesterday, Woodford has taken an international battering. In the local media, the Brisbane Times have called for a medical doctor to counter Dorey's propaganda. Honestly, I think a right of reply is the least the Festival can do. 101.5FM  radio have stated that, apparently, the Morton Bay Regional Council do NOT endorse the "anti-vaccination campaigner".  The Sunshine Coast Daily have commented on the "media storm [which] has erupted over listing Meryl Dorey" at the festival. It was in this article that Mr Bill Haurtiz said that the matter will be referred onto the festival council.

So, let me get this straight, Mr Haurtiz. Yesterday there was nothing you could do. But today you realize that you can in fact refer the matter to the festival council? Interesting.

Woodford, in your arrogant dismissal of the power of the internet to reach and influence a massive audience, you have brought this "damage" upon yourself.

And, dear Mr Haurtiz, there is more direct action to come. We are gathering numbers. Blogs, it seems, can be used a 'call to action' as well.   

See these feet? They are the feet of grass-roots activism,
 and they're coming 
to a folk festival near you

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Meryl Dorey took the last piece of my hippie soul and squashed it into the Woodford mud.

This is me with my Mum. We're at the Woodford folk festival. For years I have been going. It's almost a Christmas time tradition. It always rains, and it's always muddy. Unfortunately I moved far away four years ago, and have only been back twice since. I love the music at Woodford. I love the dancing at Woodford. I love the different cultural displays at Woodford. I couldn't wait to take my daughter to the child's festival at Woodford, in a couple of years. I couldn't wait to see how the organizers had integrated the "Dreaming" festival into the folk festival. And the FOOD! Awesome. It's something about the atmosphere (and I don't mean just the 'exciting' smoking wafting around). I even took to saying that "everyone needs a little more woodford in their lives"

On my last couple of visits up to the festival I became more aware of the sheer amount of 'woo' on offer along side the hare krishna vegan lunches and Bollywood dancing workshops. There are palm readings, crystals and reiki . With a little bit of critical thinking, google and logic, one will quickly find that these practices are pseudo-scientific and fantasy. "Buy hey," I shrugged "It's just a bit of fun". It was a hippie festival after-all. And that's why I liked it. It's not like anyone was getting hurt...

You've heard the saying "It's all fun and games until someone gets poked in the eye". Well, the Woodford folk festival is the fun, the person doing the poking is Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network and putting children at risk of vaccine preventable diseases is a lot more serious than a poke in the eye!

Let me explain. The Woodford Folk Festival  has invited the anti-vaccination lobbyist, to speak this year. Meryl Dorey has been investigated by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission, and the report for the Australian Vaccination Network wasn't exactly complimentary. So, as a result of her inclusion on this year's "wooford" line-up, the social network sites and blogs have gone crazy! (Check out tweets to @woodfordff ) And so they should. The Woodford folk festival is posing a risk to public health and risking the lives of children. Meryl Dorey spreads mis-information about vaccination. If impressionable festival goes listen to her un-truths they could be lead to believe vaccination is too harmful for their children, and themselves. Ms Dorey, of course, doesn't tell of the dangers of contracting the diseases that these vaccines prevent. Australia is in the middle of a whooping cough and measles epidemic, and it's deadly.

It's not like the organizers are unaware of the public's concerns about Meryl Dorey. There have been copious letters written, tweets tweeted and contact from media for comment. While a public relations officer might believe (wrongly in my opinion) that blogs can be ignored, interaction with mainstream media should definitely be high on the PR priority list. Mamamia was the first to publish an article on their website: "Woodford folk festival allows dangerous anti-vax women to speak" and this afternoon Tracey Spicer publicity pulled them to pieces on 2UE radio.

So, now me. This has been quite a monumental moment in "journey to self identity". I've admitted many times before I was so far down the rabbit hole there seemed little hope I'd ever escape from wonderland. Through my association with some awesome critical thinkers I have grown into a far more reasonable person. Well, at least a more reason'ing' person. But I have held onto woodford. It was the bit of my dark past I wasn't ready ditch just yet. But, alas, it is time to let go.

Thank you Meryl Dorey for taking the last piece of my hippie soul and squashing it into the Woodford mud.

EDIT: oops, There is always something I forgot to say, and here it is:
Since the festival itself is completely non-responsive to both public and media inquiries, attention has been turned to the sponsors. All contact information can be found on "A Drunken wiki".

UPDATE: Festival Executive Director Bill Hauritz says: go ahead and boycott the woodford folk festival. Seems he doesn't care about public health and safety, science or facts. Lame response Mr Hauritz, not good enough