Last night the State Library of Western Australia hosted the AVN on their premises, for the purposes of spreading bountiful misinformation about vaccines.

—-
Dear Margaret Allen, If you do read this, please follow this link to see the nature of the AVN’s material. As a librarian of experience, I expect you have researched this group prior to agreeing to host them. If not, and I understand you are very busy, then it might be of interest.

Well done to Margaret Allen, CEO of the library, who was apparently responsible for this lapse in judgement and now has the dubious honour of putting the health of WA children at further risk. I hope she is pleased with her decision to host a “controversial” group that is the AVN.

Message to Margaret Allen: there is nothing “controversial” about vaccines, except that which exists in the minds of the anti-vaxers.

Over 200 people attended the event, including the brave sceptics @podblack, @luminousmonkey and @danbuzzard who live tweeted and blogged the event. (They must have stronger stomachs than do I). If you want to follow the course of events as they unfolded you can search twitter for the hashtag #stopAVN.

The seminar itself featured a talk from PhD candidate Judy Wilyman from Murdoch University Perth and Meryl Dorey, media spokesperson (and immediate past president) for the AVN.

There is a history to this talk – it is the second time the AVN have scheduled a public lecture in Perth in recent weeks. The first time, their booking was cancelled at the eleventh hour owing to the Uniting Church in the City (responsibly) deeming that hosting the AVN was not within their charter and ethos and “..there may be a public perception that the Church does not support childhood vaccinations“.

Unfortunately for Meryl, she was informed of the decision as she was about to board a plane to Perth from the Gold Coast, and was forced to forfeit her airfare and return home with her tail between her legs. What a shame.

This time, the library assured Meryl they would not repeat such a cancellation. And so they kept their promise with Margaret Allen responding to emails of complaint with the same form response;

“The State Library of Western Australia provides facilities and services to the community of Western Australia as a whole; inevitably from time to time this may include interest groups with views that some may find controversial.
.

The State Library does not make any judgment about individuals, groups or organizations, unless there is a clear breach of law, policies or procedures, in which case we may act to exclude clients.”

I personally called the WA Dept of Health to ask them to explain themselves, but was informed that the matter had been passed to the Minister for the Arts and Culture since the majority of complaints pertaining to the event, were about the use of a state tax-payer funded facility.

So it was apparently out of their hands.

I think they should have made it their job to put a stop to this, and I informed them of such (I am not shy), but despite them agreeing with all my points about the AVN, they sat on their hands. They did however have a meeting with Meryl Dorey and Judy Wilyman the evening prior to the event, which I was told was a routine event offered to anyone requesting so. I imagine Meryl taught them much about vaccines.

I’m certain the head of the Immunisation Programme for WA Health, Dr Paul Effler can’t possibly know as much as someone touted as “Australia’s Leading Expert in Vaccination” whose qualifications are a “brain”.

Perhaps because of the current government departments sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “TROLOLOLOLOL” the Shadow minister for Culture and the Arts, John Hyde got mad. I don’t know if he knows the AVN’s work, but he was quoted in a West Australian newspaper article entitled “Anti-vaccine forum causes row” saying the Barnett Government had opened the floodgates for any group to use the library’s facilities to push their agendas.

Does this mean that the Liberal Party can hold a membership drive there, or for that matter the Ku Klux Klan or a bike gang?” Mr Hyde said.

Why should a group that endangers the lives of WA children be allowed to speak and promote their cause at a taxpayer-funded venue dedicated to learning?” Mr Hyde said.

He also informed a colleague in a personal communication that he would be asking Ms Allen and the Minister to explain their policies with respect to allowing groups like the AVN free rein of State funded facilities in parliament today. I look forward to hearing their explanation.

Channel 7 news reported the story where Mr Hyde said:

Our state library shouldn’t be subsidising or promoting propaganda that puts the lives of our children at risk.

Professor Fiona Stanley was less polite, simply stating: “This misinformation will lead to the deaths of children.

As for CEO Ms Allen, the resident sceptics last night reported that Channel 7 was forbidden from filming inside the venue and that this was at the request of Ms Allen, not the AVN. It seems strange to me that Ms Allen is happy to host “controversial” groups, but doesn’t want anyone to know what they say. Either way, she now has a lot of explaining to do.

Tweets such as this:
Hey @statelibrarywa good job on hosting an anti-vaxer and HIV/AIDS denier. Australia’s children thank you #stopAVN #FAIL

Very nice of AVN to talk about free choice, sorry, if your choice means a child dies, you don’t get to be free on that.

were appearing all over their twitter page last night as the seminar progressed.

Leading up to the event and because of the previous last minute cancellation,  Meryl was constantly screeching about “free speech” and democracy. Well, I want to be free to say “I HAVE A BOMB” on a plane, but for sake of public safety I wouldn’t, I can’t and I don’t. Much the same as yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded cinema when there is no fire.

Meanwhile a report which appeared in the West Australian last week claimed that more WA parents were opting out of vaccinating their children, with the number of youngsters not fully immunised in the national program doubling over the past five years.

But according to the Dept of Health this report was exaggerated. Medicare figures show WA has the lowest rate of childhood vaccinations in the country for children aged 12 to 15 months, but only by 0.2%.

The percentage of children 12-15 months of age (age calculated at 31 December 2009) assessed as fully immunised. Date of processing 31 March 2010.

ACT 92.8%, VIC 92.0, QLD 91.5%, SA 90.6%, WA 89.2%, TAS 93.0%, NT 89.4%, AUS 91.4%.

Similarly, the percentage of children 24-27 months of age (age calculated at 31 December 2009) assessed as fully immunised is lower by a difference of 2.3%.

ACT 93.9%, VIC 92.3, QLD 92.6%, SA 91.6%, WA 89.9%, TAS 93.5%, NT 92.0%, AUS 92.0%.

And according to Dr Paul Effler, the medical co-ordinator of the immunisation program in WA, the state is consistently lower than the rest of the country largely because the State had the fewest GPs, who give 63 per cent of immunisations, per capita.

I’ll bet you can’t guess where the lowest rates of immunisation nationally might fall. Go on, guess. And here’s a clue, the  AVN are based in Bangalow, an area know as the Northern Rivers.

From the most recent Medicare figures reporting the rankings for Divisions of General Practice in descending order based on immunisation coverage rates calculated from the General Practice Immunisation Incentives scheme. Rated for the May quarter 2010, from 1 (first) – (last) 113.

113. NORTHERN RIVERS GENERAL PRACTICE NETWORK 79.6%

Is it a coincidence that this is the region where the AVN are based?

Discuss.

Congratulations to Meryl Dorey and the AVN for campaigning hard and long, and succeeding in discouraging parents from vaccinating their children. First place in the lowest vax uptake in the country is nothing to be proud of.

And congratulations must also go to the WA government for allowing this dangerous group to spew their “controversial” BS all the way to Perth.

And what will be the prize? Mumps, whooping cough, pick your favourite communicable disease. They’re all in the running now.

Please see @podblack’s blog here for more information. Also a blog has been established for this event.


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  • Chris
  • AndyD

    Actually, although I hadn’t seen it before, the anti-semite comparison doesn’t seem entirely unfair. There’s a lot of “evidence” against the holocaust – just ask David Irving – and many people insist the whole thing is part of a massive conspiracy.

    Perhaps Very Concerned can explain how the AVN’s tactics differ.

  • http://bastardsheep.com/ Bastard Sheep

    Nice ad hominem. Maybe you could try responding to the things said rather than attacking the people that said it. This is what someone with a decent level of maturity would do, anyway.

  • Very Concerned

    Well, Well, what an intrepid bunch of saviours you all are. Protecting “our” children from the evil grip of the AVN.Comparing the AVN to anti-semites is downright ludicrous, distasteful and idiotic and it seems that you all qualify as anti-vaxxers by being brain-less.
    Do your research, check out Greg Beattle pg 36-57 and then comment.
    As has been shown through the ages, it does not take brains to set up a website, well done guys, you have succeeded, hopefully there will be a place for you all in a world where logic and emotion are mutually exclusive.

  • Michael Kingsford Gray

    Mark – “as they are legally obliged to rent rooms to any persons or organisations as long as they are not doing anything illegal”

    Are you able to provide evidence to that effect, please?

  • Mark

    Please don’t be too harsh on the WA State Library as they are legally obliged to rent rooms to any persons or organisations as long as they are not doing anything illegal. We probably all wish the AVN was doing something illegal so they could be shut down but alas what they are doing is just immoral.

  • davidp

    Steve, Judy Wilyman quoted as having a Ph.D. puts her in a sililar class to Melbourne’s John McLean PhD according to global warming denialist websites and letters, PhD student at James Cok University according to his profile on the ABC Drum. Universities don’t seem to try to police claims about having degrees – it would be a huge job to try. They also won’t confirm to the general public whetehr someone it a PhD student – I think you have to rely on academic transcripts. Possibly you can write for confirmation of copies of transcripts.

  • AndyD

    To be fair, Murdoch’s chiropractic course is supposed to be evidence-based. The chief lecturer was on a Lateline story about chiro and he was condemning colleagues who make claims about colic, etc.

    I don’t know the first thing about how universities operate so I’ve never quite understood some of the crazy stuff (Moletech, toxic sunscreen, toxic showers…) that goes on publicly, apparently under the Murdoch university banner.

    But we know universities in UK teach homeopathy and TCM, so why should we expect ours to be all about reason and rationality?

  • Steve

    David – Thanks for info on Judy Wilyman and Peter Dingle. It is pretty sad that alleged “scientists” have no grasp of evidence based medicine. It is even sadder that Murdoch Uni remains silent while these people quote the universities name in making these damaging statements in the media. Also Judy Wilyman is quoted on overseas websites as a qualified Ph.D, yet it would appear Murdoch makes no attempt to correct this. Although I guess I would expect as much from a Uni that offers Chiropractic!

  • davidp

    Steve, Judy Wilyman is a Ph.D student in environmental science at Murdoch University. Her supervisor is the Peter Dingle controversial, eccentric. His wife Penelope Dingle died of bowel cancer after allegedly “the Dingles had a pact with the homeopath treating Dingle, Francine Scrayen. Under the pact, they agreed that only alternative medicine would be used and Dr Dingle would then write a book about curing his wife’s cancer.” The State Coroner is investigating her death.

    So Judy Wilyman has negligible qualifications, is neither working in the medical or biochemical area, and is supervised by someone with a seriously eccentric approach. See the first link for more about what she has said previously.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    @Richard, ta! Much appreciated :)

  • RichardJ

    The head of the WA AMA spoke out on PerthNow web site. My comments:
    .

    People die from Measles Mumps and Rubella. The complications from these diseases are terrible. How many people die from the vaccine? I’ll warrant an infinitesimal number. The benefits out way the risks. Get vaccinated and don’t listen to the AVN. They still think there’s Thimerisol in vaccines but there isn’t. They still think Andrew Wakefield should be listened to. They think a homeopathic vaccine actually works when there’s literally nothing in it!!
    .

    I have received the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines with NO adverse affects and I haven’t had the flu since I started getting the vaccine, which in my view if proof it works. I travel on very full Sydney trains twice a day, five days a week and never get the flu!!!
    .

    The AVN are a bunch of conspiracy theory nutters. Don’t trust them.
    See this site for real information, instead of codswallup.
    http://scepticsbook.com/

  • http://thinkingisreal.blogspot.com AndyD

    And on a separate but closely related issue…

    Homeopathy doesn’t cure bowel cancer

  • http://thinkingisreal.blogspot.com AndyD

    …a flu shot that IIRC killed 8 or 9 very, very young children.
    .
    Maybe I haven’t been keeping up but I’m going to need a bit more than your “recollection” for a claim like that. I’m aware of one death in which the vaccine was implicated (in QLD).
    .
    I also recall reading of several pre-school deaths from the flu, not the vaccine, in previous years. Could you be confusing your death rates?

  • dartigen

    Most of the WA stuff is knee-jerk reaction to a (very, very stupid) decision to give children under 5 a flu shot that IIRC killed 8 or 9 very, very young children.
    .

    However, that was a one-off, and whoever had the idea needs to be fired. IIRC, most deaths were allergic reactions – mothers here are told ‘do not give a child under 5 years of age eggs’ and everyone is told ‘do not have a flu vaccine is you are allergic to eggs’, but how would anyone know that an under 5 is allergic? They aren’t *supposed* to have eggs, so the only way to be sure is a full food allergy test – something that is expensive and IIRC not covered under Medicare (therefore not accessible to a big chunk of parents). Some of the other deaths were from extreme cases of the usual adverse reactions to a flu shot – mostly high fevers. IIRC, the vaccine given was the same one given to everyone in a similar dosage – which straight away is an issue.
    .

    Sadly, not the anti-vaccers are taking advantage of the situation and the emotional vulnerability of the parents of the deceased children to promote their own agenda.

  • Michael Fitzpatrick

    I wonder would the State library of WA mind if someone were to organize a Klu Klux Klan meeting. Do you suppose that would fall within the description “interest groups with views that some may find controversial”?

    Clearly they would host the be-sheeted, give their tolerant policies.
    Perhaps the local Holocaust deniers might like to come along as well.

  • Steve

    Can anyone provide any information on Judy Wilyman? She is variously portrayed as “Judy Wilyman Ph.D., lecturer and researcher at Murdoch University in environmental health” or sometimes as a Ph.D student. She is using the name of Murdoch Uni in her media letters. I can’t see her listed on the Murdoch Uni staff list. If she is for real does Murdoch Uni support the activities of AVN? I would appreciate any background information as I feel Murdoch Uni has to publicly state where it stands.

  • phil

    Sheliegh, couldn’t agree more. I’ve had a gutsful of Howard Sattler due to his coverage about the AVN and other issues. Yes parents have a right, but not to ignore legislation, and not to put the community at risk by sending their unimmunised sick children to school to spread their viral diseases.

    There is a petition to get Howard off the air. You can link at

    http://www.gopetition.com.au/petitions/take-howard-sattler-off-the-airwaves.html

    Keep up the good work.

  • Jeff Keogh

    Liz, it’s probably only fair. After all, we inflicted Ken Ham on you guys.

    He’s probably not a public health danger in quite the same way (unless stupidity is a public health issue), but I think the ledger is reasonable square with that swap.

  • http://lizditz.typepad.com Liz Ditz

    On behalf of all USians, I apologize for exporting weapons-grade public health danger and stupidity.

    Wait. Wasn’t Murderous Meryl begging for money a couple of months ago? Where did the dosh come from?

  • http://thesecondsight.blogspot.com/ EoR

    someone touted as “Australia’s Leading Expert in Vaccination” whose qualifications are a “brain”

    Are you sure of this? I haven’t seen any evidence of a brain. Not a properly functioning one, anyway.

  • http://thinkingisreal.blogspot.com AndyD

    EoR has posted a link to audio of Meryl appearing with Howard Sattler on Perth radio today – 6PR

    Hanging out for Podblack’s summary of the whole evening…….

  • http://stinginthetail.wordpress.com Sheila (@stinginthetail)

    The doctor who gave them all their science has been discredited and struck off, his ‘work’ revealed as a cynical exercise in how to make the ex-doctor rich, while he happily conducted painful unnecessary tests on children (http://tinyurl.com/6ceoex).
    .

    Turns out he wasn’t anti-vaccination, just that he had a sweet invention of his own, to deliver a 3 in 1 vaccine in single doses. How can AVN keep pretending there is any scientific basis for their hysteria? They should be banned, in the same way other liars, like anti-semitic and racist groups, who also spread lies, are banned, and then gaoled if they still won’t desist from their lunatic fringe blathering.