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Australian Vaccination Network

Getting the word out (9/7/2011)
Thanks to my good Friend Ken McLeod, this advertisement appeared in the local paper in Bangalow, home of the Australian Vaccination Network. We eagerly await the "Letters to the Editor" in the next edition. With any luck, some people who deserve to be offended will be offended and will start wailing about free speech and how evil people are trying to suppress it. The fact that freedom of speech implies the ability to publish criticism will be ignored by them, just as they ignore the scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

It's show time, folks (23/7/2011)
I know it's a bit hard to read on this screenshot, but if you happen to be at a loose end in Sydney during the morning of July 28, you can fill in the time by watching Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination Network tell a judge why they don't like what the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission had to say about their activities. The fun starts at 10am in the NSW Supreme Court, 184 Phillip Street, Sydney. I'll be there, and probably up for lunch afterwards.

The day in court (30/7/2011)
The matter of the Australian Vaccination Network versus the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission made its appearance in Court 10A of the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday, July 28. Unfortunately, the judge was called to a more urgent matter in the morning so the action didn't start until 2:45 in the afternoon, leaving little time before the official court closing time of 4pm to get anything done. The case has been adjourned until some time in the future. I intend to be in the court on that day as well and I will publish the date as soon as I know it.

There were two Sheriff's officers at the court all day to provide security, and they were just as frustrated as the rest of us by the delay. I checked every floor of the building that had a court room on it and the only court with added security was the one we were in. Someone had to ask for the security, and it wasn't us and I doubt that it was the HCCC. That leaves Meryl Dorey and the AVN. Why she thought she would need protection from anyone is a mystery, particularly as she is on record in at least two places (on her blog and in a radio interview) as saying that nobody has ever heckled or disrupted any AVN event. (I attended one such event in 2002 and I believe I was very polite and retrained, resisting all urges to jump to my feet and point out "inaccuracies". At later events people offered to stand at the door to prevent me getting in.)

Needless to say, there were no threats by SAVN members about the Perth seminar or anywhere else, but facts have never been a hurdle for Ms Dorey in the past so why should the be on this occasion? I couldn't help myself, and my fingers flew to the Twitterboard.

This prompted the following message from Ms Dorey to the AVN's Facebook page (which I can read but cannot comment on):

There are a few things I would like to point out to Ms Dorey. The first is that there were two guards, not three, but we have become used to Ms Dorey "getting things wrong". The second is that I was indeed proud of the fact that she is so frightened of any opposition that she feels the need to invent threats. Another is that linking me with Australian Skeptics is getting a bit old, particularly as I have pointed out to her on many occasions that she was defaming me long before I ever knowingly met anyone from the organisation. The Supreme Court has been informed that money was wasted on unnecessary security as neither I nor any of my friends have disrupted the AVN's activities in the past. The point was also made that if we were ever to think of heckling or disruption it would not be in a Supreme Court courtroom.

For such a champion of free speech it seems a little strange that Ms Dorey should think that security guards are needed to stop people speaking freely. She wrote a long piece about the importance of dissent and speech freedom recently, and I added the following questions. Do I have to say that my questions were not published, let alone answered?

In an interesting aside, Ms Dorey actually is having her freedom of speech restricted. For some reason her barrister called her as a witness before the evidence on which she was to be cross-examined had been presented to the court. The judge adjourned the hearing until a later date but pointed out to Ms Dorey that she is still a witness under oath and cannot discuss the case with anyone at all. (She can't even talk to her lawyers, much less anybody else.) Eagle eyes will be watching the various outlets for Ms Dorey's thoughts over the coming weeks and I am sure that any breach of the judge's direction will be communicated to people who matter very rapidly indeed.

That makes sense, Alf (30/7/2011)
I am sorely tempted, but this needs no comment.

Well, maybe just these comments:

A respectful debate (1/10/2011)
Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network has a long history of intolerance towards anybody who disagrees with her in forums that she controls. I have been banned from the AVN's Internet mailing list since 1999 (despite never posting anything to the list – I joined because I had been told that I was being defamed there). More recently, Ms Dorey has blocked me from following her on Twitter, blocked me and many other people from commenting on the AVN's Facebook page and refused to publish dissenting comments on two blogs that she runs for the AVN.

Ms Dorey has stated on several occasions that she welcomes debate and discussion as long as it is polite. Politeness is why I always refer to Ms Dorey as "Ms Dorey" and resist the use of terms such as "total slime", an expression she used to describe me at one time in a forum where I had no right of reply.

She has now created yet another forum, this time at Google Groups, with the title "Vaccination-Respectful Debate". The description of this group says "This is a place for people from both sides of this very polarised vaccination debate to meet and discuss the issues concerning vaccine safety, efficacy and necessity. All viewpoints are welcome provided they are respectful". It then goes on to say "At the first sign of abuse, name-calling, etc, you will be banned", so perhaps this might be somewhere where I can appear without being called names or accused of being a shill for Big Pharma. Or perhaps it is a place where I can get banned very quickly.

I decided to again test Ms Dorey's commitment to free and open speech, so I joined the list. I didn't post for a few days, so I missed the kudos of being the first person to be banned – that went to my friend Peter Tierney who dared to question the warnings that were given to some people.

I finally made my first post, and somewhat to my surprise it managed to make it past the moderators (unnamed, but there are two of them and they are not from the pro-vaccine camp). Here is what I had to say.

Hello all, my name is Peter Bowditch. I have a long-time interest in the vaccination debate and I welcome the chance to participate in a forum where the evidence for both sides can be respectfully presented.

While I believe that a case can be made for compulsory vaccination for people in certain occupations (health care being the obvious example), I support the idea that for most people it should be an informed choice. The critical word is "informed", and that is where people have to be careful.

There is a vast amount of information about the safety, effectiveness and possible side effects of vaccines available. Some of it is based on science, such as the information freely available from the web sites of Immunise Australia, the Centers for Disease Control and the WHO, for example, and for those who are not afraid of reading scientific papers the National Institute of Health's PubMed database. Some of the information is based on emotion, misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the science or simply an inability to distinguish between good science and bad. Some of it is based on dubious science, and even the occasional piece of fraudulent research (such as the discredited and now withdrawn 1998 paper in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield). Some of it is so out of touch with reality that it could be material for research into mental illness.

What concerns me most, however, is the "information" which keeps getting repeated even though it is relatively simple to demonstrate that it is false. The fact that some of this gets repeated by people who have been told, sometimes on several occasions, that it is false and have been offered the refuting evidence suggests that they are simply working to an anti-vaccine agenda and truth does not matter to them because the end justifies the means. Here are just five of these continually repeated untruths.

1) Vaccines contain parts of aborted foetuses

It is true that in the manufacture of some vaccines a cell line is used which was derived from the lung cells of a foetus aborted in 1962. It was a legal termination undertaken to save the mother's life and the mother donated the foetus to science. Attempts have been made to claim that Catholics, for example, should therefore refuse to use these vaccines. In 2003 the Vatican issued a ruling on this matter, making it perfectly acceptable for Catholics to use these vaccines on the basis that they had an overriding responsibility for the health of their own children and those they came into contact with.

2) Polio was not reduced by the introduction of vaccines but has simply been renamed.

The obvious absurdity of this is apparent to anybody who lived through the early 1950s. If polio is still present then where are the callipers on children's legs, where are the iron lungs? When I asked a prominent anti-vaccine campaigner for evidence of this I was pointed to a reclassification of statistical categories in 1956 where the CDC ruled that paralysis had to last for 60 days for a case to be recorded as "paralytic polio". It was not a renaming of anything, it was a refining of the way cases were reported. Yes, polio still exists, although not in places like Australia which have comprehensive vaccination programs; the main barrier to world-wide eradication seems to be nonsense spread by religious fanatics.

3) Vaccines have never been tested in clinical trials

The largest clinical trial in the history of medicine in terms of numbers of test subjects was the trial of the Salk polio vaccine with about 500,000 subjects. Clinical trials for Gardasil and Rotateq both included more than 30,000 test subjects. At the time of writing this, PubMed returns 19,352 papers for the keyword search "vaccine clinical trials" and 9,681 for "vaccine safety". Calls are sometimes made for placebo-controlled trials of vaccines but there are significant ethical problems with deliberately exposing subjects to deadly or disabling diseases. In extreme cases of fearmongering the lack of crossover trials is pointed out. As a crossover trial would require subjects to have their vaccination status removed part way through the trial it is obviously impossible to do this sort of test. People requesting it either do not understand how scientific research works or are deliberately creating a situation where they can say "this hasn't been done".

4) Vaccines are injected into the bloodstream

Nothing more needs to be said about this than "No, they are not". If someone tells you this you should immediately correct them. If they persist then you know that you don't have to listen to anything more that they have to say.

5) No disease has ever been wiped out by vaccination

Smallpox, rinderpest (in cattle), with measles and polio on the horizon (although the horizon gets pushed away at times by either opposition to vaccination or nonsensical minimisation of the harm these diseases do)

I look forward to a rational, respectful discussion of both the considerable advantages and the small risks of vaccines, and I hope we can avoid nonsense like the things I have mentioned above. Nobody ever said that vaccines are 100% safe, because nothing is. Anybody who says that vaccines are 100% unsafe is wrong, because the billions of vaccinated people with no effects are evidence against the claim. There are risks associated with vaccines, but those risks are small and the benefits are great.

This actually managed to get through the moderators and made it to the list. (I still haven't been banned, although each day I slightly increase the pressure.) There were four responses which indicated that people either didn't read what I wrote or felt that repetition is all it takes to make something true.

I look forward to many more confronting exchanges on the list. At the time of writing I am in correspondence with a homeopath who seems to think that homeopathy can be used for disease prevention in place of vaccination and can repair vaccine damage. As she is one of the moderators of the list I think I might be heading for trouble. But I like trouble.

Another saga continues (8/10/2011)
My friend Ken McLeod has continued his collation and editing of the "mistakes" made by Ms Meryl Dorey, once (and maybe still) the President of the Australian Vaccination Network. Part 3 has just been released. You can see Part 1 and Part 2 in the site history.

Part 4 is writing itself now.

Respectfulness ends (15/10/2011)
I knew it was too good to last. The pretence that Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination Network could tolerate criticism and debate on the misnamed "Vaccination-Respectful Debate" group at Google Groups took less than a fortnight to collapse. Here is the correspondence that got me banned without even the courtesy of a warning. Yet again the hypocrisy of Ms Dorey's continual claims of support for free speech is revealed.

Date: Fri, 07 Oct 2011 18:57:28 -0700
Subject: Re: Polio in China
From: Greg Beattie

Peter Bowditch

Hi. I thought we might have heard from you here after what you said on the "Introduction" thread. You used the term 'nonsense' to describe the argument that I have subsequently put here. I asked you to read this thread and consider participating. Is there anything here that you disagree with?

Thanks in advance

I don't know what more I can say. I listed five lies that are regularly told by people opposing vaccines. You repeated four of them as if repetition somehow made them less false.

Date: Sat, 08 Oct 2011 19:52:21 -0700
Subject: Re: immunisation evidence and Cuba
From: shotinfo

Dear Peter,

Please don't come here to drop bombs and then run. If you believe that something Baumgartner or Ioannidis (or anyone) has said is incorrect,

I don't believe I mentioned Baumgartner, and I didn't say Ioannidis was incorrect. He was correct, which is one of the reasons that science has moved forward in the last two centuries – by finding flaws and fixing them.

What I said was "nothing Ioannidis said was a surprise to real researchers" and then provided a link to a comprehensive analysis of what Ioannidis said and why and how he is misinterpreted.

please share that information on the list. This is a place for debating research – it is not a place for your to push your Skeptic barrow.

As I said above, I offered a link to where research was debated. There was no need for me to do the work again.

I would like to hear where you think Ioannidis went wrong.

He wasn't wrong and I never said he was.


My reply was not published, leaving the impression to anyone reading the public group archives that I did not or could not respond.

Date: Tue, 04 Oct 2011 16:23:16 -0700
Subject: Re: immunisation evidence and Cuba
From: shotinfo

Dear Peter,

I don't believe that anyone on this list would support fraudulent research. All of us – whether pro vaccination or pro-vaccine safety – believes in open, transparent and accurate medical research, right?

So in that spirit, can you please tell us what statements Wakefield made in his 1998 case series which later proved to be incorrect?

Let's start with how his claims about medical conditions of the subjects matched what their clinical records actually showed:

See Brian Deer's analysis for detailed footnotes.

Then there's the statement in the paper (the very first words in it, in fact): "We investigated a consecutive series of children". This implies that the children were a random selection from patients presenting at the hospital. We now know that most, if not all, were supplied to Wakefield either by JABS or by lawyers working on an action against vaccine manufacturers.

The fact that Wakefield didn't disclose the true funding for the research or his colossal conflicts of interest were just icing on the cake. He forgot to mention that he had been on the lawyer's payroll for two years before he saw the first subject and that he stood to make a very large amount of money if he could have the government replace the current measles vaccines with the one he had developed.

Thank you,

Date: Sat, 08 Oct 2011 20:00:15 -0700
Subject: Re: immunisation evidence and Cuba
From: shotinfo

Peter, what you are saying is simply not true and the BMJ has close financial ties with the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine

What is your evidence for this?

and would not be expected to tell the truth about Wakefield

That is probably an actionable statement.

(they did hire Brian Deer to write a series of smear articles, after all).

I have just won a bet that Brian Deer would be smeared. He was the obvious choice as a journalist to write about Wakefield as he had been investigating the fraud for many years.

Here is what Wakefield says about your claims:

was funded by the Legal Aid Boa rd (LAB)4

I didn't say that.

False – Not one penny of LAB money was spent on The Lancet paper. An LAB grant was provided for a separate viral detection study. This latter study, completed in 1999, does disclose the source of funding. The Lancet paper had been submitted for publication before the LAB grant was even available to be spent.

my involvement as a medical expert was kept "secret"5

I didn't say that.

False – at least one year before publication, my senior co-authors6, the head of department and the dean of the medical school7, and the CEO of the hospital were informed by me. This fact was also reported in the national press 15 months prior to publication8.

children were "sourced" by lawyers to sue vaccine manufacturers5
False – Children were referred, evaluated, and investigated on the basis of their clinical symptoms alone, following referral from the child's physician9.

After they were supplied by the law firm.

children were litigants10
False – at the time of their referral to the Royal Free, the time material to their inclusion in The Lancet paper, none of the children were litigants.

Of course they weren't. It was the parents who were going to sue and the court action wasn't planned to start until after the fraudulent research had been completed and published

I had an undisclosed conflict of interest11
False – The Lancet's disclosure policy at that time was followed to the letter. Documentary evidence confirms that the editorial staff of The Lancet was fully aware that I was working as an expert on MMR litigation well in advance of the paper's publication12.

But were they aware that the lawyers were funnelling legal aid money to him?

did not have Ethics Committee (EC) approval5

I didn't say that.

False – The research element of the paper that required such an approval, detailed systematic analysis of children's intestinal biopsies, was covered by the necessary EC approval13.

I "fixed" data and misreported clinical findings14
False – There is absolutely no basis in fact for this claim and it has been exposed as false15.

The NHS records from the hospital say different.

findings have not been independently replicated12
False – The key findings of LNH and colitis in ASD children have been independently confirmed in 5 different countries16.

We keep hearing this and we keep hearing why it is not true.

has been retracted by most of the authors17
False – 11 of 13 authors issued a retraction of the interpretation that MMR is a possible trigger for syndrome described. This remains a possibility and a possibility cannot be retracted.

It is a fact that almost all of the authors distanced themselves from the paper. Semantics won't change that.

the work is discredited18
False – Those attempting to discredit the work have relied upon the myths above. The findings described in the paper are novel and important19.

Self-serving nonsense.

My reply was not published, leaving the impression to anyone reading the public group archives that I did not or could not respond.

Free speech breaks out in Anti-vax Land? Yeah, right! (22/10/2011)
Yahoo! 7 News
I wrote something for Yahoo!7 about how free speech and respectful conversation are treated by the Australian Vaccination Network:

One of the hallmarks of the anti-vaccination movement in Australia is their lack of tolerance of any dissent. Anybody disagreeing with any of their lunacy is immediately blocked from commenting on blogs, and removed from mailing lists, Facebook groups and any other forums they control.

A new forum named "Vaccination – Respectful Debate" was recently created by the management at the Australian Vaccination Network with the following charter: "This is a place for people from both sides of this very polarised vaccination debate to meet and discuss the issues concerning vaccine safety, efficacy and necessity. All viewpoints are welcome provided they are respectful". I thought I would test this new-found commitment to free speech, so I posted a respectful introduction which included the following five lies that are continually told by people opposed to vaccination.

You can read the rest here.

How mad can it get? (12/11/2011)
I've been dealing with anti-vaccination liars for a long time so you would think that I couldn't be surprised by how disgusting they could be, but this week I had to revise my opinion. First, there were the books by New Zealander Hilary Butler (see below), but that wasn't enough. I have to thank Meryl Dorey, erstwhile (yet perhaps current) president of the Australian Vaccination Network, for reminding me of what I had considered up to now to be the craziest anti-vaccination liar that hadn't actually been officially declared insane (ex-Dr Rebecca Carley is insane, but it's official). This is Mark Sircus, and this is a sample of his latest work:

String the Bastards Up

Posted by Mark Sircus – Director on 12 November 2011 | Filed under World Affairs

In general I am against the death penalty as I am against killing of any kind. Though the Bible sanctions death and killing, it is clearly against murder and the taking of innocent life. We could argue all day about what some people clearly seem to deserve and we could argue about the legitimacy of many things from the Old Testament or anything else written that the elites of the world have had their dirty fingers in.

For all those who are for the death penalty, my message will be clear. I am calling for the conviction and the worst possible punishment under the law for certain people in government who are in the medical field. There seems to be no limit to what our present society will accept. We are letting the bankers and the shysters on Wall Street destroy western civilization, allowing them the fattest paychecks on earth as a reward. And we are letting doctors in white coats inject poisonous heavy metals into babies and paying them well for it.

They say there is a sucker born every minute but I think things have gotten out of hand. Before I go into detail about what has been clear to many of us for years I want to bring the image of the case of a monster who commits mass murder and torments children and their parents. In this case we have a group of them who deserve to be lynched and they work for the federal government at the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).

Most people would have no contention with lining up mass tormentors of children against a wall with the punishment of life imprisonment in solitary confinement. It certainly looks like we have solid evidence that there are people who have conspired to mislead doctors so they continue to inject highly dangerous chemicals into children.

So here we have someone making death threats against government officials. This is supposed to be rational discussion of medical issues but wouldn't sound out of place at a Klan lynch party. Mr Sircus then went on to cite a woman who exploited the SIDS death of her child to try to blackmail a large amount of money out of a pharmaceutical company. I know she didn't succeed because if she had we would never have heard the end of it.

Mrs Dorey apparently supports Mr Sircus's calls for the deaths of doctors and scientists, because she linked to his ravings on her blog.

The other lunatic introduced to the sane world by Ms Dorey is Indian presidential candidate Leo Rebello. She showed her support for him by retweeting his messages to Twitter. Here are some examples:

I'm not surprised that Ms Dorey agrees with Mr Rebello, because in January she also made the rape analogy when talking about vaccinations. I can only assume she also supports his call for the deaths of doctors.

There is an old saying that you are known by the company you keep. Ms Dorey seems quite happy to be in the company of and offer full support to people who lie about hospital births, who want to kill doctors and scientists and who trivialise rape by equating it with vaccination.

Contempt is not a strong enough word.

The ongoing AVN court saga (12/11/2011)
In July 2010 the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission made the following recommendations about the Australian Vaccination Network:

The Australian Vaccination Network should include an appropriate statement in a prominent place on its website which states:

  1. the Australian Vaccination Network's purpose is to provide information against vaccination in order to balance what it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere;
  2. the information should not be read as medical advice; and
  3. the decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.

The management of the AVN decided that this was too hard to do and has spent a lot of time this year taking the HCCC to court. It almost doesn't need saying that whenever the AVN appears in court there are interested people like me in the public gallery. On the first day we all went, July 28, the judge was tied up on another more urgent matter for most of the day so the court session didn't start until late in the afternoon. (See the report here.) Everything was adjourned and we met again on September 1 only to have proceedings terminated after about 20 minutes, leaving people (some of whom had travelled a long way) with nothing to do except have the locals take the visitors to a museum and some nice coffee shops. The next scheduled date was November 9, supposedly for a full day's hearing, but this was cancelled at the last minute and the date moved to November 22. We were told that this was again going to be a short 15-minute directions hearing but several of us were still planning to attend just to show that we haven't forgotten Meryl Dorey and her court action. The latest news is that it will be a full hearing. We have the champagne in the fridge and we could be drinking it soon.

Meanwhile, over in anti-vaccination land (26/11/2011)
It's Who is this Textafezzed man?been an exciting week at the Australian Vaccination Network. The first alarum was when it was revealed that pamphlets handed out in Western Australia during a recent tour by (maybe) president Meryl Dorey contained an invitation to join the AVN or to donate money to it, both things currently being prohibited by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing due to previous questionable behaviour. Claims were made that perhaps NSW law didn't apply in WA (it does if you are a NSW-registered charity), but the best was an excuse by Ms Dorey that she had blocked out this information on the fliers using a Texta marker but must have missed some. The immediate response to this could best be described as "ridicule", and included such wittiness as a certain person changing his Twitter and Facebook avatars to show him wearing a fez made of Textas.

Then there came a blow from the government when it was announced that benefits paid to parents were being revamped and it it would soon be harder for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children to get benefit payments and tax concessions which are contingent on full vaccination. That's right – all you had to do to get a vaccinated child payment was say "I want it but I'm not going to meet the qualifying conditions". The idiotic loophole of conscientious objection will remain, although I can't imagine who would comply except perhaps Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists. The rest will just have to tell lies and get a form signed by a doctor. By the way, my wife receives a government benefit because of a medical condition and if she told the relevant department that she had a conscientious objection to any of the paperwork she has to supply the response would be swift and certain. The payments would stop until the forms were filled in and audited.

Response from the AVN and its members caused people nearby to move to higher ground lest they drown in the mouth foam. The policy was compared to life in Nazi Germany, a march on Canberra in the style of the Occupy movement was suggested, the removal of a benefit from people not entitled to it was called a "fine", and lies were told to any radio announcer naïve enough to have a spokesperson from the AVN on the air. All we are asking for is that people don't get paid for what they don't do. As one of my friends said, he would be happy for a non-vaccinator to get the payment if they agreed to pay him not to mow their lawn.

And the great court case – nothing at all. The entire court appearance set down for November 22 was cancelled because the judge was called on to hear two murder trials. No date has been set for the next attempt, but given that the annual Christmas break for the courts is coming up it could be next year before we have to get the champagne out of the cellar and put it in the fridge.

Just to keep the amusement up, here are a couple of historical comments from Ms Dorey.

Here she is in 2001 encouraging anti-vaccinators to support child-killers by denying the reality of Shaken Baby Syndrome. "Shaken Maybe" indeed.

Shaken Maybe Syndrome

The next one, from 2009, is far less likely to cause you to vomit, just to laugh out loud.

Crossover vaccination trial?

She is speaking the truth when she says that "No vaccine has ever undergone a true double-blind crossover placebo study". For those who don't understand the jargon of medical research, a "crossover study" involves swapping the treatment and control groups at some stage of the trial, giving the treatment to the previous control (or placebo) group and withdrawing treatment from the previous treatment group. There are good reasons for doing this in certain sorts of research, but vaccination isn't one of them. To run a crossover vaccine trial would require that half of the subjects start out vaccinated and then have the vaccination reversed later in the trial. This is clearly impossible, and should be obvious even to Ms Dorey, who claims to be one of "Australia's leading vaccine experts". By relying on the general public's ignorance of the terms used in research she can tell the truth while still promoting fear. The shorthand term for this is "Economy with the truth", or, to make it even shorter, "lying".

Anti-vaccination propaganda at the Folk Festival (10/12/2011)
In 2010, Meryl Dorey, once (and maybe still) President of the Australian Vaccination Network, appeared as a speaker at the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland. I wondered at the time why a festival devoted to community spirit and enjoyment should provide a platform for someone to preach a philosophy that can only cause harm to children, and I wrote to the organisers with my concern. I didn't receive an answer, but Ms Dorey wasn't pleased that I had written and in her usual "just missing the truth" style she claimed that I had asked them not to let her speak. I had done nothing of the sort, just said that I didn't think that what she would inevitably say was the sort of thing I would expect to hear at a folk festival. She can say what she likes where she likes as long as people are aware of her agenda.

She didn't appear at the 2011 festival, but she is booked in to give two talks at the 2012 event in January. I suppose this means that the festival organisers aren't concerned about her message, and the presence of various other practitioners of weird science and ideas on the same stage just confirms this impression. I have no idea why anyone would associate folk music with the sort of things one would expect to see at a Mind Body Spirit Festival or even why there would be an overlap of audiences, but maybe things have changed since my Kings Cross troubadour days. Or, as someone once said, the answers are blowing in the wind.

You can read the rest of this article here.

This article appeared in MamaMia on December 13, 2011

Meryl Dorey at Woodford Folk Festival (24/12/2011)
I opened an enormous can of worms with my article in MamaMia two weeks ago about Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network speaking at the Woodford Folk Festival. Newspapers, television and radio programs and everyone else who seemed to care became involved, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation asked for their name and logos to be removed from the list of sponsors (they make a distinction between active sponsorship and support for cultural activities), politicians expressed dismay and everyone involved either ran away or made excuses. The event organiser was unrepentant and Ms Dorey, as expected ran around screeching about censorship and freedom of speech. The best response came in a media release from the QLD Minister for Health (his department had also been listed as a sponsor):

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 ´┐ŻAustralian Vaccination Network´┐Ż 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.

There will be more to report about Ms Dorey's appearance at the festival in January, after she speaks. In the meantime she is being asked on a daily basis why she keeps saying she is not opposed to vaccines. The asking has to happen on Twitter, because in the spirit of free speech that she constantly whines about she doesn't allow any critics to ask her questions by email or on the ANV's Facebook page.

Meryl Dorey on indigenous radio (24/12/2011)
On Monday, December 19, 2011, Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network appeared on radio station 98.9FM in Brisbane. The station is specifically targeted at indigenous listeners, members of the population group with the worst health conditions in Australia. The interviewer was Tiga Bayles. Feel free to count the lies and misrepresentations. I have highlighted as many as I can stand reading again – I sat through the radio broadcast with an ever-increasing urge to throw something. Pay particular attention to where Ms Dorey advises the people with the worst health in the country to avoid doctors and rely on witchcraft like homeopathy.

You can see the transcript (and even listen to the program) here.

Speech cancelled, but she still has a platform (29/12/2011)
Here is a media release from the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network group:

Vaccination advocates urge Woodfordians, "Look to the heavens for inspiration during Dorey speech"

Following two weeks of intense public pressure, the Woodford Folk Festival has cancelled a solo appearance by Meryl Dorey of the Australian [anti] Vaccination Network. In its place will be a panel discussion between Ms Dorey and Professor Andreas Suhrbier, head of the immunovirology laboratory at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. The discussion will be moderated by Dr John Parker, a veteran of Doctors without Borders.

While unhappy that Ms Dorey will still be speaking at Woodford, the Stop the AVN Facebook group, a loose-knit consortium of concerned citizens, scientists, doctors and nurses, decided to use a little humour in order to have 'the last word'.

The group has hired an aircraft to fly over the Woodford Folk Festival site during the two hours surrounding Ms Dorey's appearance.

Between 1.45 and 3.45pm on Thursday, 29 December, the plane will tow a banner with the message: VACCINATION SAVES LIVES.

Volunteers will be on the ground to hand out flyers after Ms Dorey's appearance. The flyer addresses some of the myths about vaccination and counters them with facts.

Despite her claims to the contrary, Ms Dorey is not an expert, nor does she hold any qualification in medicine, science, statistics or immunology.

There is no debate about the safety or efficacy of vaccines within the mainstream medical and scientific community – that is, among experts in the field. 

The allegation that vaccines are not safe or effective is discredited by scientific evidence and relates to a wider set of new age conspiracy theories involving concerns about 'one world government', the Illuminati, chemtrails and AIDS denialism. This is the kind of ideology which informs Ms Dorey's creative reinterpretation of the scientific data.

Ms Dorey plays down this aspect of her beliefs in her public appearances, explaining to her Facebook followers in 2009:

"While we are already seen as rabid, idiotic fringe-dwellers by so many in the mainstream, it does our argument no good at all to bring in conspiracy theories which, though we may subscribe to them, are unprovable." (Emphasis added.)

While almost every medication has the potential to create adverse reactions in certain individuals, the risk of a reaction more serious than a little localised pain and swelling and a slight fever after a vaccination is exceedingly small. The medical and scientific communities overwhelmingly agree that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any small risk.


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