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.