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?
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.
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