Recently, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) had a red light special sale selling many of their books and (mis)educational material at a discount price. We took the opportunity to snap up an assortment, and as you can see, I ended up with the Conscientious Objector Pack.

What is a conscientious objector I hear you ask? In Australia, between 2 and 5 percent of parents strongly object to their children being vaccinated, either for religious reasons or because of misinformation spread by anti-vax groups such as the AVN.

In a scheme introduced in 1997, parents who complete the government schedule for childhood vaccinations receive a one off payment of AUD200. This was an incentive designed to increase the levels of herd immunity, which had fallen dangerously low, thereby increasing the risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

But, if you identify yourself as a conscientious objector, you are also entitled to the money. You just need to explain your reasons to your doctor, they sign a form, (which you can conventiently find on the AVN website) and you collect your cheque too!

The pack pictured is chock-a-block full of magazine articles, opinion pieces and scientific papers (some dating back to the 60s meaning the information is seriously outdated), describing how vaccines will injure your children. This ~ 100 page A4 photocopied piece of propaganda is designed so you can arm yourself with misinformation and half truths about vaccines to bombard your doctor with, when they ask you why you don’t want to vaccinate your children.

And this organisation calls themselves pro-choice, not anti-vaccination.

Expect more updates as I bravely plough through this nonsense.

Know thy enemy.

Photo 513

Thanks to Pete for the pack.


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  • Chris

    American West Coast. Compared to you, it is mostly yesterday here (though I am off a bit, I used to better with remembering the time bits when my brother was in New Zealand, it was a bit easier when he was in India, but now he is in Europe).
    .

    Thank you for being a gracious blog host, and posting my link heavy comment.

  • You’re welcome! But what did I do? Oh and where in the world are you?

  • Chris

    Thank you, Maggie (Dr. Rachie). I need to try to remember the time difference. My brother was 12.5 hours different when he was in New Delhi (yes, India has half hour time zones), and a bit different when he was in New Zealand. It is now Saturday for you, while we still have 2.5 hours of Friday left.

  • Chris

    My answer has lots of links, and it is the middle of the night for this blog… so you will see it sometime on Saturday.

  • Chris

    So how do you feel about drs, immunologists etc that are anti-vax? Do they count as a real voice or are they just put in the quack category too (maybe called the quackegory)?

    .
    I do not think much about them. Many of them are actually acting outside of their training. Case in point, a surgeon who teaches at our local university’s medical school (a member of the national group, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, that works to analyze and suggest the vaccine schedule teaches epidemiology and pediatrics at the same university). The guy writes rants on all sorts conspiracy theories with a far right wing slant on his website and one called “LewRockwell”.
    .
    Also note that Andrew Wakefield was an gastroenterologist for adults, who was not qualified in pediatrics, nor was he a clinician, and he was also not qualified in either autism nor immunology. Not only did he not have the requisite background, he has never been licensed to see actual patients (and he has not passed any medical boards in the USA where he now lives!). See http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/6283/ :
    .

    Yet in the case of Dr Wakefield, the stethoscope is curiously inappropriate. After training as a surgeon, he switched to research in (adult) gastroenterology and has never had clinical responsibility for any patients (the children in his Lancet series were under the clinical care of Drs Walker Smith and Simon Murch). He is not qualified as a physician or a paediatrician and is certainly not registered to use a stethoscope on patients, adults or children in the USA.

    .
    If you know of an anti-vax immunologist, please tell us who it is. Wait, I found a list of them here, they would be the experts for the petitioners:
    http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/189/
    .
    You will notice that one is Vera Byers who claimed an association with a university because she used its library went to the parties! By the way, all three sets of petitioners lost. For a more entertaining look at the trial with interesting treatments of the experts and their testimony, read http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/search?q=omnibus … from a blogger who has taken a long mental health break from the internet.
    .
    More more fun and games about these folks, and how they are really thought of, check out how pediatrician, Dr. Jay Gordon is treated at:
    Respectful Insolence
    and
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?s=jay+gordon
    .
    Also see how a radiologist, Dr. David Ayoub is treated here:
    http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2006/08/405/
    and
    http://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/2006/08/david-ayoub-black-helicopters-and-social-movement/

  • Skep dick

    Sorry, you said in the post above that you weren’t qualified to teach me biology or immunity’. At least I thought it was your comment? Actually, sorry just read back and it was Chris who said it. My apologies.

    .

    And I’m not referring to Meryl in particular. I agree, she does say wacky stuff and isn’t really the best rep if you want to be taken seriously. Sometimes I think she gets pushed into corners with questions though.

    .

    So how do you feel about drs, immunologists etc that are anti-vax? Do they count as a real voice or are they just put in the quack category too (maybe called the quackegory)?

  • @skepdick, I tend to agree with Chris but since you have been polite, I will give you an abridged version when I get home from work. I think I wrote something about it for another forum but is is on my home computer.
    .

    BTW you might want to check before inferring that I don’t have qualifications. Just sayin’

  • Chris

    I actually know the qualifications of the writers I read. I would never ever base important medical decisions on someone with only a high school education.
    .
    You will not get a simple explanation, especially since you do not have the requisite background. It is complicated. You made a very common mistake that showed you have not even read any of the basics.
    .
    I have no reason to pander to your delusions until you at least understand that people like Meryl Dorey can not be taken seriously. She has made several outlandish statements (not just vaccines), and she should be relegated to the fringe that included David Icke and John Scudamore (whale.to). You also should not take vaccine information from a person whose doctorate is in geology, or is a homeopath.
    .
    Just go to the library!

  • Skep dick

    I don’t really want a lecture on biology, just a brief explanation of how a vaccination works in the same way as the natural disease. No offence intended, but how can you point your finger at anti-vax people and not having any qualifications when you are in the same position? Aren’t your opinions just based on the reading you’ve done?
    My apologies for any spelling mistakes in my messages, I’m on my phone typing this.

  • In Australia we have the government book; Myths and Realities about immunisation. This one is directed at providers but is pretty easy to follow. There is also the Understanding Childhood Immunisation for Parents

  • Chris

    Thank you!

    I also found a nice overview geared towards the layman in the CDC Pink Book, the first chapter gives the principals of vaccination: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/pink-chapters.htm

    It starts out with:

    Immunology is a complicated subject, and a detailed discussion of it is beyond the scope of this text. However, an understanding of the basic function of the immune system is useful in order to understand both how vaccines work and the basis of recommendations for their use. The description that follows is simplified. Many excellent immunology textbooks are available to provide additional detail.

    The NHS in the UK as something similar in their “Green Book”, but they assume a bit more knowledge (it is geared towards medical professionals). One can assume that most national public health programs in other countries like Australia, Canada, etc have similar documents.

  • @chris, they were caught in spam filter. Fixed now.

  • Chris

    My comment did not post, again…it may have been due to the link.
    .
    I am a parent of a disabled child who had seizures while ill with a now preventable disease. He is permanently disabled. I am not qualified to teach you biology or immunity. It is complicated.
    .
    Which is why you need to make sure the literature you are reading is by someone with the appropriate background and is reputable. There is a very good reason that Paul Offit is much more qualified to write about vaccines than David Kirby (who was a travel writer before being hired to write his book). Of course only one of the books in the list is by a doctor, the rest are journalists. Two are well regarded journalists, and the other two are historians.
    .
    I must repeat that you actually go to the library and check out the suggested books, and even some basic reading on biology. Learn about the DNA, RNA, gene replication and protein synthesis.
    .
    There is microbiology professor at Columbia University who has a podcast called “This Week in Virology” or TWiV. He is posting on his website lectures of his class for non-biology majors on viruses.

    .
    The website http://www.virology.ws/ is by a microbiology professor at Columbia University in New York City. He is posting the videos of his “Introduction to Viruses” there. Watch them. The Dec. 2, 2009 lecture is on vaccines. I would also suggest you listen to his podcast, This Week in Virology, or TWiV.

  • scep dick

    Could you explain how it works and how its the same as catching it? I would appreciate that.
    Are you a doctor or biologist?

  • Chris

    “How can injecting something directly into the bloodstream trigger the same immunity response as when you catch it naturally? ”

    Now we know you have been “researching” using nonsense. No vaccine is ever injected in the bloodstream.

    I would suggest you get a basic book on biology and vaccines, along with reading the books I listed above. You might want to learn a little bit about the basics of cell biology, and how the immune system works.

    And yes, I have had the H1N1 vaccine. I also got the swine flu vaccine as in 1976 when I was at university (it was part of a vaccine study). You should get it yourself. The modern needles are very small, and they don’t hurt at all.

  • scep dick

    Very interesting re: paper being published. Would appreciate an extended piece on that.

    We can go back and forward with facts, non facts and arguments but for me it was about commonsense. How can injecting something directly into the bloodstream trigger the same immunity response as when you catch it naturally? Is there ANY virus we vaccinate for that is contracted by entering into the blood ? It doesn’t add it and it doesnt feel right.

    I hope all the reader on here had their swine flu vaccinations – I want to be protected by the herd immunity.

  • Chris

    I just saw this link on the JREF forum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHL6L9i2AWA . It is a Canadian show, Dragon’s Den, where people try to get financing for their products. A guy came in with colloidal silver, he showed him the book that had his “research” … the dragons told him that the book and his product was worthless. As I said, if you research using sketchy resources you are not actually doing real research.

  • Hi scep dick, apologies for addressing your comments in text, but I want to make sure I comment on all your points.
    .

    Your example of violin lessons and the assumption that ‘only perfect practice makes perfect’ applies to the pro-vaccine argument too! If all you ever read is pro-vaccination reports then of course that’s the way you will be swayed also!

    .

    But I do read other vaccination information, like the one you see pictured here. In fact I spend a large amount of time doing this. In my opinion there is no such thing as “pro-vax” information. There is scientific evidence that supports the use of vaccines in preventing disease, and there is misinformation, scaremongering and cherry picking of information. Just like the example quoted by Chris about the Japanese study which was cherry picked to suit the agenda of the AVN ie vaccines cause autism and SIDS

    .

    I personally read all the government produced crap, studies, books and flyers and then go reseacrh it myself.

    .

    I’m glad to hear you do your own research but I have to agree with Chris on this one. You must be sceptical about everything you read and look for evidence, otherwise you may be getting the wrong end of the stick.

    .

    And then I look for who paid for the research, who published/approved it and who is benefiting. Following the money is usually a good key!
    .
    For example, in a CBS report I watched on Youtube the American Academy of Pediatrics gets paid ‘donations’ from Pharmaceutical companies. They donated money for conferences, grants, medical education and even helped build their new headquarters. Merck kindly donated $433,000 (the same year the academy promoted the new HPV vaccine) to the Academy! It also mentions that Wyeth donated $342, 000 (makes the new mercoccal vaccine) and Sanofi Aventis donated an undisclosed amount (they make 17 different vaccines plus a five-in-one shot just added to the US schedule). If that isn’t a conflict of interest, I dont know what is!

    .

    This is a common argument given by anti-vax groups, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.
    .
    Here is where it is very important to understand how the scientific process works (and please forgive me if you know this already). Before a vaccine goes to human trials, there is a huge amount of basic science, done by universities, and independent research institutes. For example, my research is funded primarily by public donations. My institute also receives money from a vitamin/health food company.
    .
    Yes, it is true that large scale human trials are often funded by Big Pharmas because they are the only ones who have a few million bucks (well apart from Bill Gates) they can afford to give. The Australian Government and the public simply do not have these resources. But when it comes to publishing, the process is largely out of their hands.
    .
    The papers go to peer review, which consists of critical review by other scientists, who along with the editor of the journal make the final decision on what gets published. This is a cut throat and nasty business, because science is very competitive and everyone wants to beat their colleagues to the punch. This process is not perfect – by any means – you may remember the recent case of Elsevier (big science journal publisher) setting up a ‘fake’ peer reviewed journal. But because of the inherent fact checking and self-correcting of science, they were found out and the practice was quashed.
    .
    Another example is the recent findings of the GMC with regard to Wakefield accepting money from lawyers trying to find a link between MMR and autism. At the end of the day, Big Pharmas are business – they need to make money for share holders, but to suggest that we are all on the take of Big Pharma is quite simply wrong.
    .
    You cite some examples of where Big Pharma gave grants to the AAP. This does appear to create a conflict of interest but as I said earlier, there is not a lot of options for getting such large sums of money. Which is why every time I publish a paper, I am required to declare my conflicts of interest.
    .
    Remember, Big Pharma does not directly participate in the peer review process. Sure, some scientists may have received some money from them at some time, but you still have to get the science past other grumpy scientists who will do everything in their power to ensure the science is right. This is why we do not see cases like Wakefield happening everyday.
    .

    I have been meaning to write a post about the process involved in publishing a paper and seeing your comments here, I think I will do it very soon.

    .

    So little money is spent by anti-vaccination groups because they just don’t have any!
    I’m going to make an effort and read those you suggested anyway.

    .

    I don’t mean to sound flippant, but they don’t need to spend much money because we do all the work and publish all the papers and they simply sit back, cherry pick the bits they like and then call us all corrupt.
    .
    Scientific ideas are not accepted on face value. A large body of work had to be accrued and repeated independently, in different labs in different models numerous times before it is deemed to be valid. This is simply not the case for the anti-vaxers. They continue to insist that there is a link between autism and vaccines even though a large body of scientific evidence does not support this claim.
    .

    I would not take my car to a baker to get the muffler fixed.
    .
    As such, I will take my medical advice from doctors and scientists, who practice their profession and work in the field every day. Not from a woman who proudly claims she ‘has no qualifications apart from high school biology and a brain’ or a model and comedy actor.
    .
    I appreciate your comments and welcome any feedback

  • scep dick

    Oh, and I also wanted to ask if you and your family went and got your Swine Flu shots? Hope so!

  • scep dick

    Your example of violin lessons and the assumption that ‘only perfect practice makes perfect’ applies to the pro-vaccine arguement too! If all you ever read is pro-vaccination reports then of course that’s the way yu will be swayed also!
    .

    I personally read all the government produced crap, studies, books and flyers and then go reseacrh it myself.
    And then I look for who paid for the research, who published/approved it and who is benefiting. Following the money is usually a good key!
    .

    For example, in a CBS report I watched on Youtube the American Academy of Pediatrics gets paid ‘donations’ from Pharmaceutical companies. They donated money for conferences, grants, medical education and even helped build their new headquarters. Merck kindly donated $433,000 (the same year the academy promoted the new HPV vaccine) to the Academy! It also mentions that Wyeth donated $342, 000 (makes the new mercoccal vaccine) and Sanofi Aventis donated an undisclosed amount (they make 17 different vaccines plus a five-in-one shot just added to the US schedule). If that isn’t a conflict of interest, I dont know what is!
    .

    So little money is spent by anti-vaccination groups because they just don’t have any!
    .

    I’m going to make an effort and read those you suggested anyway.

  • Chris

    Was that a Poe?

    If that was not a Poe: Dick, the problem is that the stuff those people are reading is not quality research.
    .

    For example, I used to know a little girl who loved to play the violin. The problem was that her dyslexia also effected how she read music, so she made mistakes. She would practice, and practice and practice with the wrong notes. Her violin teacher then had to spend lots of time correcting her.
    .

    The time you spent reading and research does not matter if what you read is scientifically inaccurate, and sometimes deliberately wrong. One example put out by the folks like Meryl Dorey is Japan’s experience with the pertussis vaccine. What is written about in the anti-vax literature is that Japan stopped using the DTP vaccine (which is true), and then cases of crib death, SIDS, fell! What they fail to mention is that more babies died of pertussis and they could not blame any cases of SIDS on a vaccine that the children did not receive!
    .
    See:
    Acellular pertussis vaccines in Japan: past, present and future.
    Watanabe M, Nagai M.
    Expert Rev Vaccines. 2005 Apr;4(2):173-84. Review.
    .

    Additional reading that would be useful off the top of my head are:
    .

    Peoples and Plagues by William McNeill
    .

    Flu! by Gina Kolata
    .

    The Great Influenza by John Barry
    Polio, an American Story by David M. Oshinsky.

    Vaccine by Arthur Allen
    .

    Vaccinated by Paul Offit

  • scep dick

    Oh, by the way, your website’s pretty good

  • scep dick

    Did you even bother to read it??? Unlike you bunch of pro-vaxxers, the people who promote not vaccinating and making educated decisions didnt just make shit up, they have spent hours and hours and hours reading, rereading and researching. And why? Because they give a damn enough to do it. And what do you do? Just sit there and bitch, moan and complain about government conspiracists. And besides, most of the people (including myself) as educated, intelligent people who bother to read further than the pamphlets they hand you at the hospital after you’ve had your booked in c-section.

  • Grendel Its to be read in small doses, the only book that has ever made my physically ill to read. Apart from a miniatures rulebook ut that was the fumes from the cheap printing ink.

  • I’d certainly love to see that one Sean!

  • When you have finished that I can send you the exorcism manual that Mercy Ministries used.

  • I find it rather disconcerting that you can object to getting your kids vaccinated and yet still get the government hand out given to people who vaccinate their kids.
    I would also love to see the form actually ask people why they object to getting their kids vaccinated so that we can have recorded proof of how much damage AVN is actually doing.
    Look forward to reading about what other books you got from the AVN.

  • I couldn’t plough through all that rubbish. I’m just too squeamish.

  • mr. Davies

    I hope someone can contact Gary Larson ( of “The Far Side” cartoon) and have him sue them for using his cartoon- Isn’t he a big science and reality fan?

  • So…your point is?

  • After all they are selling the manifesto. . .

  • Did the AVN get copyright authorisation from Gary Larson for the Far Side cartoon they used on the front cover? Given his bent for all things science I’d imagine their use of it may well piss him off a tad.

  • Wonder what science fan Gary Larson and his syndicator think of the AVN’s almost certainly unauthorised use of his ‘Vaccination Man’ toon on the cover of this booklet, from which AVN is surely generating profit for themselves. http://is.gd/6Az0A Larson is veddy protective of his copyright.

  • Upside is after a trip through the shredder, it’ll compost just fine.

  • @naehutch

    Oh Dr Rachie, you must have the strongest stomach around! I feel nauseous just looking at that abomination.

  • reasonablehank

    Good luck! I couldn’t bear it.

  • Hey, does it contain any medical advice at all?

    Only my friends Harry, Charlie, Chad and Chandler might be very interested…