After a lengthy investigation the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) have finally handed down their findings into the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN).

The commission concluded that the AVN provide misleading information about vaccination and must post disclaimers on their website clearly stating they are anti-vaccination.

The report found evidence that the AVN misleads readers by using reliable and peer reviewed literature but selectively quotes from it, often in contradiction to the conclusions or findings of the studies. The AVN also gives non-peer reviewed and anecdotal material the same authority as peer-reviewed literature.

Ms Dorey responded to these accusations by saying:

“It is true that often times our information will contradict the conclusions of studies. This is because, as opposed to most doctors and government officials, we actually read the studies…that disconnect (between the data and conclusions) can be explained by the financial links between the study’s researchers and the companies whose products are being studied…This is not selective reporting, it is accurate reporting.”

Wow, talk about a disconnect. Firstly, it’s the old Big Pharma conspiracy theory again. When you got no evidence to support your claims, its time to roll out the Big Pharma Shill canard. *Yawn*

But this is interesting – she claims to have actually read the studies? This was not the impression Tom Sidwell gleaned when he analysed one of Meryl’s responses to the HCCC a few months back. Unless she intended to copy/paste mistakes, which were traced back to whale.to and other anti-vax conspiracy websites.

From Tom’s article: “At best she hasn’t read the papers she cites and includes them out of ignorance, and at worst she is being deliberately deceptive – and I spelled this out very clearly in the analyses I sent to the HCCC.”

See The Truth Behind the AVN Claims for the full details

The complaint, authored by Ken McLeod, included accusations such as:

• The AVN claims to support “informed choice” but only provides information designed to dissuade people from vaccinating

• State on their website that there are links between vaccination, autism, Crohn’s disease irritable bowel syndrome and shaken baby syndrome

• Cherry picking data to suggest that Gardasil has killed young women

• Bacterial meningitis has increased since the introduction of the meningococcal vaccines

• Autism is caused by mercury in vaccines

• Vaccination is unnecessary since homeopathy can be just as effective

• Misrepresenting the facts surrounding the death of Dana McCaffery and harrassing her parents

—–

The AVN are considered Health Care providers under the public health act

This case was somewhat of a test for the HCCC, since it was not immediately clear if the AVN even fell under the HCCC legislation. Initially the Commisssion had to establish if the AVN could be classified as “health care providers”.

Mrs Dorey had this to say;

“The complaint alleges that both the AVN and myself are “health service providers” because we are providing “health education services to the public” for the purposes of the health care complaints act 1993…Neither the AVN or Meryl Dorey are health care practitioners as the term is generally understood colloquially or have we ever claimed to be.”

Yet the commission disagreed with this, noting “the provision of health education was evident” on their website and also “Mrs Dorey participating in pregnancy discussion groups and in lecturing at universities” did indeed constitute health education.

Even more embarrassing for Dorey was her own constitution which stated the purposes of the AVN were “the advancement and promotion of education and learning amongst the public”.

Plus, the legislation is quite clear about the definition of a health care educators/provider, nothing “colloquial” about it. Yet, despite the Commission findings and the fact that she lectures at uni, Dorey still denies they are considered health educators. From the Lateline report;

“We do not agree that the HCCC has jurisdiction over us and we have been saying this from the very beginning and we are seeking legal advice over this issue.”

She now claims to be seeking legal advice on this caveat, despite the fact that she has already had 12 months to do so? Odd.

—-

The Commission focussed cheifly on the issues raised by Mr McLeod and Mr and Mrs McCaffery in relation to the AVN website. Here they examined the post “10 reasons why parents question vaccination” which consists of such statements as “vaccines have never been tested”, “vaccines contain toxic additives and heavy metals” and “vaccines do not necessarily protect against infectious diseases”. They asked Mrs Dorey to provide evidence for these claims.

The Commission analysed references provided by Mrs Dorey and noted many were not relevant to her claims, she was guilty of cherry picking or omitting data to support her claims and other information was demonstrably false.

Of note is her citation of an article about Gardasil from Natural News. com – yes that guy – where she omitted paragraphs to reinforce the claim that the vaccine had been linked to deaths in young women.

On other vaccines the report stated; “The AVN has selectively quoted information to suggest vaccination against meningococcal disease has been ineffective when there is no evidence of this”.

And “The AVN claims that vaccination is linked with a range of long term side effects however has provided no evidence to support this”. (My emphasis)

The AVN is anti-vax and must declare this on their website

The Commission has recommended that The Australian Vaccination Network include an appropriate statement in a prominent position 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 provided should not be read as medical advice
3. The decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider

If the AVN fails to comply the commission will issue a public statement. Of course we had hoped the HCCC could have done more to limit the dissemination of false information by the AVN, but at least the resulting media coverage will shine some light on the true nature of the AVN.

Surprisingly, in her own response to the Commission, Meryl Dorey in fact admitted to being anti-vaccination, stating there is a need to provide an alternative to mainstream vaccination information.

According to the final report:

“In her response to the commission Ms Dorey conceded that provides anti-vaccination information. Ms Dorey stated there is a need to provide information about vaccination, alternative to that disseminated by the government.”

No longer can Ms Dorey hide behind “we are not anti-vax we are pro choice” which has always been her public persona.

Meryl has already issued a press release stating that the report constitutes an “outrageous attack”; “the threat to freedom of speech and the implications regarding loss of medical choice inherent in this decision make this an issue that cannot go unchallenged”. Interestingly, all references to skeptics with a capital “S” (thereby inferring Australian Skeptics) have been removed and replaced with Stop the AVN and their supporters.

The story has also been reported on 6 minutes here which contains a link to the full article as a pdf.

There is already a comment from Age of Autism UK editor John Stone, the same website who recently referred to the action as “fascist“.

—-

UPDATE #1

Apologies for any errors in the initial post, I am currently at TAM8, and am suffering from severe sleep deprivation! Plus, the post was written between the hours of 2 am and 5 am Las Vegas time (yawn).

Since then, I have had 4 hrs sleep and made some changes, plus others have now blogged the story.

See the story on YouTube
Podblack has a report here
ABC news has a related story here
Orac chimes in
Adelaide Now
Northern Star
Mia Freedman’s Mamamia
Immunisation – getting the right advice audio on 2UE
The World Today Top doctor backs disclaimer for anti-vaccination site
AAP story from Danny Rose


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  • KittyB

    haha, just re-reading blog posts about AVN… and I think it’s funnier to keep it as ‘Todd Sidwell’, only cos it amused me :P

    Sorry Tom- your name isn’t famous/celebrity enough, we’ve had to change it :P

  • AndyD

    My linking incompetence knows no bounds :(

  • AndyD

    The weirdness continues over at the AVN blog where Meryl wrote…
    .
    When I got home, my mother in law was on antibiotics and within a few days, my kids started to cough. We went to the doctor for a diagnosis and received it but we refused the antibiotics because we knew that it did nothing once the symptoms had appeared – and it might have suppressed their immune systems and made the disease last longer. We used homoeopathy to treat and one remedy worked on all of us except for my youngest daughter. Those of us who it worked on were showing marked improvement within 48 hours. [a href="http://avn.org.au/nocompulsoryvaccination/?p=735&cpage=1#comment-1843">source] – my bolding.
    .
    The strange thing is that Meryl doesn’t think a hospital can positively diagnose pertussis in less than a week and yet she apparently took the word of a “doctor” (strange that she saw one given her conspiratorial theories in that regard). I wonder what test the doctor did that was so convincing but which can’t be done by a hospital?
    .
    Elsewhere she suggested a detractor check the NY Times story on the uselessness of the “quick test”. I checked the story and found the following…
    .
    Before the 1940s when a pertussis vaccine for children was introduced, whooping cough was a leading cause of death in young children. The vaccine led to an 80 percent drop in the disease’s incidence,… [source]
    .
    Strangely, she didn’t mention that part of the story.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Eek! Sorry Tom, I thought I’d fixed that already :(

  • Tom Sidwell

    Todd Sidwell?

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  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hi Flip,

    Thanks for your comments. Even I sometimes have trouble reading the text. I am hoping to do a design overhaul of the blog as soon as I can find a WordPress savvy person to give money to! In the meantime, you can change the view in your browser by going to the “view” menu and “increase text size” or “zoom”. If you are on a Mac, you can use the keyboard short cut command (apple) and the “+/=” key.

    Cheers, Maggie.

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  • flip

    Random comment, not really related to anything:
    I’m a lurker here, and enjoy reading your posts. But I have trouble reading the text as the font size is so small. Considering I’m wearing glasses, I can only wonder what the skeptically-minded visually-disabled people do when they visit. Can you please consider raising the font size (or having a font-size switcher), so that we all may enjoy your particularly well-written words?

    Thanks!

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  • http://thesiteformallyknowas.blogspot.com/ Ramon Insertnamehere

    From the ABC site

    Mr McLeod says the AVN are “a bunch of ratbags”.

    “I mean reason and science just does not break through [to them],” he said.

    “They’re not interested in reality, they’re interested in conspiracy theories and junk science.”

    More power to your arm, Ken McLeod.

  • Szwagier

    Full. Of. Win.