Basically all medications and drugs and vaccines are supposed to go through a double blind placebo study where one group is given the treatment and another group is given a placebo or like a sugar pill and in over 200 years of vaccine history, this has never been done for any vaccine. So anything we know or think we know about vaccinations is purely guess work.
Meryl Dorey, The Australian Vaccination Network, 2006.

With recent talk about how the anti-vaccine crowd have effected rates of vaccination in the UK and the States, I thought it might be interesting to look closer to home to see how Australia stacks up.

This week Medicare, Australia’s government run health body released figures from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register detailing the rates of immunisation in this country.

The latest figures are from December 2008. On the face of it, it seems we are doing pretty well. For kids aged up to 15 months, the national average for immunisation is 91% with the lowest levels being 89.9% for Western Australia. The national average falls to 88.4 % in the up to 5 years of age group with the lowest compliance of 85.5% in South Australia. When you consider that approximately 90% vaccination is needed to obtain herd immunity, but this depends on the vaccine and the disease, these figures are encouraging.

Rob Menzies, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, said low vaccination rates were often more prevalent where well-educated parents did their own research and believed the myths that vaccines did more harm than good. This was reflected in figures for Sydney’s exclusive Eastern Suburbs, including the harbour view, well-to-do suburbs of Double Bay and Vaucluse, which were ranked the worst, with only 80 per cent of children immunised. This was followed closely by the areas of Lismore, Alstonville and Byron Bay, areas known for “alternative lifestyles” so these figures are not overly surprising.

There has been much discussion and speculation about why the wealthy suburbs are less likely to get their kids vaccinated. One journalist described the parents as, “Selfish dummy mummies need consciences pricked”. Adele Horin, reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald explained; “These are women who spend too many hours on wacky internet health sites and become convinced immunisation is a giant conspiracy”. She further described them as “The educated mother who thinks she knows better than the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists and doctors…” These statements are supported by Arthur Allen, author of the book Vaccine, A History of Immunisation. He observed that “living in a place with a high percentage of PhDs is a risk factor for whooping cough”.

Scathing stuff indeed. But in a case of backward logic the anti-vaccers have actually claimed this for themselves loudly proclaiming, “parents continue to be accused of being ignorant, uncaring and stupid for refusing vaccines which the medical community claim will keep their children healthy when the truth is older, highly educated parents form the basis of the [sic] anti-immunisation lobby’.

Not something to be proud of I would have thought. However, one wonders if these are the parents glued to morning television when the likes of Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) can regularly be seen, spouting her misinformed anti-vacc. nonsense. She is like a watered down version of Jenny McCarthy, without all the cash and the hilarious boyfriend.

The innocuously titled AVN, fronted by the screeching Meryl Dory, go by the catch phrase, “love them, protect them, never inject them”. Meryl is regularly given a platform on morning television shows in Australia, such as Mornings with Kerri-Anne. In defence of Kerri-Anne, they usually have a representative from the sensible side, in this case Dr Penny Adams. However just like the overseas breeds, Meryl is not shy about exposing her ingnorance to a national audience.

As a demonstration of how little the AVN understand about science and medicine, I will use an article written by them called “10 reasons why parents choose not to vaccinate”.

Reason 1: Vaccines have never been tested.
A true indication of how little AVN know about how the drug development process works. I won’t bore you with the details of this process today, but I will tell you it takes millions of dollars, around 10 years and at least 4 phases of testing, which continues even after the drug is released.
Evidence that this process works can be found in the case of a vaccine for the rotavirus called Rotashield which was released in the US in August 1988. In pre-licensure trials, the vaccine appeared to be safe, but in post-licensure surveillance it was associated with an increased risk of intussusception (a rare form of bowel obstruction occurring in infants). As soon as this problem was discovered, the vaccine was withdrawn from the market. Rotashield® was never released in Australia, and each new rotavirus vaccine has undergone testing in around 70,000 young children to rule out a risk of bowel obstruction.

Reason 2: Vaccines contain toxic additives and heavy metals
Here they are of course scaremongering with thimerosol, a mercury-based preservative that has been used in very small amounts in some vaccines since the 1930s to prevent bacterial and fungal contamination. There is no evidence that thiomersal in vaccines has caused any health problems, except perhaps minor reactions, such as redness at the injection site. THimerosol was removed from childhood vaccines as a precaution in 2000. Some vaccines, such as pneumococcal vaccines, MMR and other live attenuated viral vaccines, never contained thiomersal. Whilst there are certain vaccines for adults that stil contain thimerosol, the levels are extrememly low. Much lower than the level of exposure we get to mercury in our daily lives.

I don’t have time to discuss all their claims, except to day that they are full of accusations and conspiracies we have come to expect from such ignorant people, such as pharmaceutical companies have paid for all the vaccine studies to date, and this outrageous statement;

“Some childhood illnesses have beneficial aspects and therefore prevention may not necessarily be in the interests of the child”

whooping_c_m1696018You really think so Meryl Dorey? Why don’t we use one example of a childhood illness, whooping cough, (which can be vaccinated against) and look at whether it’s in the interest of the child to contract it. I chose whooping cough since Australia is currently experiencing an epidemic.

According to some reports, more than 13,000 cases were diagnosed across Australia – a 15 year high. In October 2008, there were more than 40 confirmed cases in the Bega Valley region, most were in school aged children, from the same school and the health service said that most of the cases were in children who have not been immunised.

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. Babies are vaccinated against pertussis at 2 months, then 4 months, 6 months and 4 years. Whooping cough is particularly serious in young children, where one in every 200 babies who contract the infection will die. Some can even crack ribs through violent coughing attacks. A recent report about the current epidemic cited the story of a 14 week old girl, who has had whooping cough since she was two weeks old. Her terrified mother explained how she had turned blue several times, whilst gasping for air following long coughing fits.

The ‘whoop’ (which is not always obvious) is due to a deep breath at the end of a bout of coughing. Vomiting after coughing is common. Severe complications which occur almost exclusively in unvaccinated people include seizures and pneumonia. In babies under 6 months of age the symptoms can be severe or life threatening and include;

0643260400• Haemorrhage (bleeding)
• Apnoea (stopping breathing for long periods of time)
• Pneumonia
• Inflammation of the brain
• Convulsions and coma
• Permanent brain damage
• Death.

Whooping cough is not a disease you want to mess with. According to health officials, the recent Australian epidemic of whooping cough is likely a result of a reduction in vaccination. North Coast Area Health Service director of public health, Paul Corben said, “Communities with low vaccination rates have had more than eight times the rate of disease seen in those areas with the highest vaccination rates”.

Although the AVN are a relatively small organisation they are well organised and active, therefore they can do significant damage.

Australian listeners may remember the case of parents who fled hospital and the authorities with their new born in August 2008, to avoid having to have him vaccinated for hepatitis B. The sad thing is the mother has hepatitis B herself. Although it is not compulsory to be vaccinated in Australia, it is health department policy that children born of hepatitis B positive mothers are offered immunoglobulin for the child within 12 hours of birth and four doses of the vaccine over six months. In a tragic tale of ignorance, the mother told reporters that the couple believed aluminium in the vaccine could cause him more damage than the child contracting hepatitis B. And of course the father is a member of the Australian Vaccination Network, by which the couple are now touted as heroes.

Australia also has the usual suspects, the chiropractors who don’t proclaim it from the rooftops but upon questioning will tell you not to vaccinate. They will also follow the MMR-autism line. I had one tell me this at a recent Mothers, Babies, and pregnancy expo. And of course we can’t forget the despicable homeopaths who will also tell you on the sly that you can use homeopathy to vaccinate your kids. (BTW, there is no such thing as a homeopathic vaccine or a process known as homeopathic vaccination. It is called homeopathic immunisation, sometimes known as homeoprophylaxis, according to the irresponsible website

For more information about the myths and realities of vaccinations, see the Australian government’s publication “Vaccination; myths and realities, responding to arguments against immunisation” (see below). This is a thoroughly researched and easy to read resource which addresses fact and fiction about vaccination. Also useful even if you are not in Australia and particularly good for passing on to anyone you know who might have some dodgy ideas about the merits of vaccination.

References and further reading:
Immunisation, myths and realites. Responding to arguments against immunisation. A guide for practitioners. Australian Government Department of Health Ageing. 4th edition.

Current immunisation schedule

The MMR Decison Aid from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Australia.

Fact sheet – A guide to homeopathic vaccination.

Only listen to these homeopathy podcasts if you are sitting down. The stupid, it burns.

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  • Toni

    How did they insult the McCaffery’s? The poor family have been through enough 🙁

  • Note: anyone who has in the past or continues to insult the McCaffery family will not have their posts approved.

  • Roger

    It’s a shame that to so many believe the lies and propaganda about vaccination.

    Fortunately there are a couple of posters here who have the intelligence to resit the constant brain washing and seek out the truth.

  • Naj

    I just realised, you cannot disagree with me. You do not have any altrenative explanation to my observations. AND the only way you will save your face is by claiming that I am a waste of time.

    I say this again. I am a mother is is told to vaccinate my chil and when NONE of the above questions have been answered, it makes me wonder what you are trying to hide.

    This is what Scepdoll answered to my previous quesries many months ago-“No, we should not dismiss this correlation, however it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. The latter needs to be demonstrated by controlled scientific studies”…

    What controlled scientific studies have been done to prove that vaccines caused the decline in disease?

    And now answers this to my current and new querie “Your doing the correlation = causation thing again Naj.”… I believe that you are mistaking correlation= causation for the decline of disease, as you are simply using the exact same method.

    Please correct me if I am mistaken.

    This is wha
    I ask again…. Is it an observation that vaccines caused the decline of disease? Is this the same techniqwue used by millions of parents who claim vaccines caused their child harm? Why is it ok to use this technique when you want to show the efficacy of vaccines, but are ready to dismiss this EXACT same technique when parents are using it?

  • Naj

    Oh, yes Naj is short for Najla and yes my surname is Dimech…

  • Naj

    Ausduck..these questions have never been answered. Please answer them.

  • ausduck

    Naj, or Najla as you probably are better known, you have asked all of these questions and postulated all of the same tired antivaccination canards in other forums where people did take the time to answer you and give you the references to the information to help you understand. You chose in those forums to ignore that information and continue to repeat and bleat your questions and ideology and throw your “I’m studying… I’m a scientist too” attempts at group inclusion/credibility around.

    Now you’ve found another forum. And you are still asking the same questions. And coming close to trolling the forum with your multiple rapid posts.
    The answers you want to hear are in the forums where you identify the best. You will not find the answers you want to hear in this forum, and that is already obvious by the way you respond to others. Thus any attempt at engaging you will unfortunately be a waste of time. Again.

  • @Naj, forgive me for not taking the time to answer all your questions, but I fear you have already made up your mind, therefore any information I provide will simply be a waste of my time.

    I like Graeme, think I know you from the AVN Facebook page. As such, I am uncertain that your enquiries are genuine. If you can confirm that you are not “Najla Dimech” from the AVN page, then I will take some time to help you

  • Naj

    Oh also, yes This is on the internet, BUT it is not what we are told by heath professional EVER!!!… I have spoken to so many parents and no one seems to believe me that the govervnment actually admit this, until I show them. the reason they do not believe me is because NO ONE tells them this. They ALWAYS get told that vaccines caused death rates to decline…

    Now back to my orginal question. The decline of disease/death rates is something we have simply observed right? Similar, the increase in childhood diseases etc is somthing we have observed, but do not attribute any of it to vaccines, but we use this exact same method to attribute the decline of disease/death rates to vaccines. Is this correct?

    I have to go now, as my son is running a muck and needs my attention..I wont be able to see your response for a few hours..

    Thank you for your help.

  • Naj

    “Vaccines most certainly had an impact on morbidity and childhood suffering.”

    The above statement is based on observation. Am I correct?

  • Naj

    p.s… Just so you know, my sister is about to give birth to her baby and I have given her your webiste too as well as others. As she needs to come to her own conlusions. It is important our questions are answered.

  • Naj

    Please answer my questions. It is important for me and other mums out there who question vaccines. I have every right to need to know this information.

    Also, you always say that any vaccine reactions are simply a coincidence when your using observation a a means to conclude that vaccines did cause the decline in disease rates. I know that observation is important, as we can argue all science is observing etc. But when we dismiss things such as vaccine reactions/death, because we are using observation, then we are also doing the exact same thing for the decline for disease.

    Furthermore, if we do not know the reasons for alot of childhood illness and deaths, than as a mum, I have every right to question WHY! So, If you want to keep telling us to vaccinate, then yes you need to help us come to that conclusion, when we have reservations. Calling us names, and labelling us only shows that you do not know how to answer my question.

    Please answer them.

  • “How come the public to not know about this?”

    I just got it from the internet. There is no conspiracy to hide this information.

    Also note this para from the article:

    “While deaths from many diseases were already in decline, the same cannot be said for the number of cases of these diseases and the number of children who suffered them but eventually survived. It is here where the incredible impact of vaccination is most obvious. Although, there are examples of particularly dangerous diseases (such as Polio) where the immediate fall in mortality is also obvious.”

    Vaccines most certainly had an impact on morbidity and childhood suffering.

  • Naj

    Thank you for that. So, this shows tjhat vaccines did not cause the death rates to fall, it was other variables such as hygiene etc..

    How come the public to not know about this?

    Furthermore, we cannot attribute a causal relationship merely by observing data. These graphs are based on observation only. What is the cause? How did we control for the other confoundiong varibles?

    We are always very quick to dismiss any vaccine reaction as a coincidence, because of the timing etc. How come we are attributing a causal relationship here, when we can conclude via the same arguement uswed for vaccines reaction that they are simply a coincidence too?

  • So now Naj is rolling out the old anti-vax canard;

    “But the issue is we do not know what is causing SIDS, we do not know yet what is causing autism amongst many other illness in childhood. Thus, we say all we like that vaccines our our saviour, but what is the compromise here too?”

    *yawn* yeah we have some very good evidence now that vaccines are not associated with ASD. As for SIDS? Well ya know the use of mobile phones has increased with the increase in SIDs. As has the hole in the ozone layer. Your doing the correlation = causation thing again Naj. Statistics would have taught you not to do this.

  • Naj

    p.s..If Jason claims to have done this, then why not share with me his analysis?

  • Naj

    p.s…I am studying science/psychology…Have 2 subjects left..

  • Naj

    Hey Scepdoll,

    I admitted I am rusty. So why dont you help me?

  • Naj

    sorro for typos’s my son is hanging around my legs again lol

  • Naj

    Also, you say we do not only need to consider morbiddity ratews, but disease rates them selves… Then why is this not fully explained to the public? Hence, Vaccines did not cause the decline in deaths artes, as that is attributed to variuos other varibales, but it has caused the declione in disease…

    Also, then if we know this, we need to go back to E Guetta statements, that is it worth vaccinating an entire population when the death rates are so low? I persoanlly think it is definately worth it, if we actually knew that vaccines without any doubt, caused no other harm,death or injury. But the issue is we do not know what is causing SIDS, we do not know yet what is causing autism amongst many other illness in childhood. Thus, we say all we like that vaccines our our saviour, but what is the compromise here too?

  • Naj,

    You’re joking right? Nobody on this blog is your research assistant. You say you got top marks for stats, then this should be a doddle for you. Write it up and send it to a journal for publication. You say you are a scientist, then this will be a great project for you.

  • Naj

    Hey Jason,

    So what you are saying is that vaccines were not the only cause. How come many people do not know this? Also if you say that vaccines are not the only cause, then what percentage can we attribute to vaccines?

    Im actually really interested to know if you have actually “mapped” the variables…Can you do it for me? Can you show me how they have come up with this?

    I do not know how they have managed to control for hygiene etc..But you can show me how via your own statistical analyis. If you can show me that vaccines did CAUSE the decline of disease, you may have yourself a new customer…

    I got a distinction in 3rd year stats (80%), and really should have been a HD, as I arrived to the exam 10 mins late. BUT, I did this a few years ago and I am really rusty. So, anything you give me, I will take to my professors at uni to help me analyse it. If they can say beyond a doubt, that the statistics show that vaccines did cause the decline of disease, that will certainly be useful. Right now, I am not convinced unless I see the analysis myself, and go get a second/third opinion of people who are experts in this stuff too.

  • E Guetta

    No offence, but I’m not taking advice on immunology from someone who says “pandemic” when they mean “epidemic”. This is infectious disease 101 and you just failed.

    See my response above for your other canards.

  • E Guetta

    I have read enough sources to understand that –
    a) the side effects of autism and those of mercury poisoning (namely thimerosol) are virtually identical.
    b) drug studies are largely funded by the pharmaceutical companies themselves and that unwanted results are seldom published – why would they be?
    c) diseases such as polio for example were already on the decline when vaccinations became mandatory, thanks to improved sanitation, better food and quality of lifestyle.
    d) these days children are rarely maimed or die from diseases that are vaccinated against. They say there’s a whooping cough pandemic – why, because 2 children a year die from this disease? Does that justify the need to vaccinate all children? Btw, both my vaccinated nephew and niece contracted whooping cough earlier this year. Did the vaccine not do it’s job then?
    I am not anti-vaccination, I just don’t agree with the number of doses administered, nor the frequency. A 4 day old baby (who is most likely not sexually active or a junkie) does not need a Hep B shot – this is just ludicrous.

  • Well, at a high-level overview (remember, this is a blog comment), you could plot the morbidty and mortality rates of several diseases over time in a given population. Then you can plot milestones such as introduction of sanitation, parasite eradication programs, introduction of therapeutic drugs, introduction of vaccines, public health programs on nutrition and so on.

    The first thing to note is that mortality is not the right number to use – and antivaxxers use it all the time – mortality is strongly affected by post-infection treatments, not vaccines, and so dips with the introduction of improved interventions, such as ventilation, antibiotics. So we’re already starting to control for those variables.

    Now, map sanitation improvements on your graphs. if antivax canards are correct, most if not all diseases should dip here. and they do. but this doesn’t explain the various other dips that happen over time as vaccinations are licenced and brought to market.

    It’s all about taking data sets and controlling for variables, then you can make some strong inferences. A course in statistics, often attached to other science subjects, should cover this. I personally covered it in psychology, which is a soft science rife with confounding variables. They set great store in this kind of analysis.

    Double blind will get you clear-cut data, sure. But life is not double-blind.

  • Graeme

    On an aside, I assume that “Naj” is really Najla Dimech, an AVN member (although the AVN calls these people “subscribers” to their face, and “members” to the OLGR). In which case, I wonder how she could continue to defend an organisation that willingly abuses charity status to the point where an investigation is required?

  • Graeme

    I assume that Naj is after some info to so that vaccines have caused what exactly? The decline in vaccinations. Or efficacy? After all, it’s pretty easy to show the number of studies showing efficacy (Naj, just go to PubMed and do a search, pick one, read it). But causation can be shown easily.

    1. Does a vaccine effectively stop a preventable disease (such as Hib) in a sample group….yes/no.
    2. When rolled out, as a preventable disease (such as Hib) declined in a population…yes/no.

    Now 1. has plenty of PubMed studies. And 2 has all the statistics. Sure, you don’t have to believe any of them but please don’t confuse your _belief_ with facts. You can believe whatever you want, but the facts contradict you.

    Also, there is this minor annoyance that anti-vaxxers don’t like – namely the elimination of this disease called “Smallpox”.