I have just finished watching a highly anticipated story on vaccination which aired on the Channel 7 current affairs show, “Sunday Night”.

To my surprise and relief, it was positive.

The story centred around the recent death of four week old Dana McCaffery from whooping cough just two weeks out from being eligible for the vaccine. Dana lived in an area of the North Coast of New South Wales where there is a high rate of non-vaccinated children, hence the level of herd immunity is low, allowing for the spread of the disease amongst the population. The tragedy of the tiny baby’s death was highlighted by the fact that she was too young to be vaccinated, but died from a completely preventable illness.

Reporter Rebecca Maddern, emphasised the importance of herd immunity, using the example of a very young boy who had undergone a heart transplant and was therefore not strong enough to be immunised. He relies upon herd immunity as his only mechanism for prevention of childhood ilnesses. Stock footage of children with polio in calipers drove the message home that we need not go back to times when kids were crippled by polio, or died from measles.

In the interest of journalistic balance, we were obligated to endure the opposing view, hence, enter Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network. These people spread misinformation and lies about the safety of vaccination, with no remorse. As professional scaremongers, they go by the catch phrase, “love them, protect them, never inject them”. Whilst I would prefer they are not given a platform whatsoever some of the stuff spouted from Meryl on tonight’s show was enough to make you question her state of mind.

Toni McCaffery; “..I did not want to be seen as a vaccine crusader, I just wanted to be a Mum”. David McCaffery; “Nor is it our responsibility, it’s the responsibility of government and they need to take charge”.

When talking about childhood diseases, including whooping cough, Meryl Dorey said her mother used to just put her out with sick kids so she could get infected, and thereby gain natural immunity;

“You didn’t die from it 30 years ago and you’re not going to die from it today”.

Funny that, when the entire story is based on the death of a four week old girl from whooping cough.

When the reporter asked her; “What if one of your children got whooping cough? (to which she responded they had), “And did you seek help from the medical profession?”, she has this gem to offer;

“No, we treated whooping cough homeopathically and none of us were sick for more than 2 weeks. My vaccinated children got it and my unvaccinated children got it. And none of us were sick for more than 2 weeks and it was nothing more than a bad cough”.

(According to the story, three out of her four children are not vaccinated).

She continued her scaremongering by bleating the much debunked vaccines-cause-autism line;

“The reports that we get are children who have seizures, children who become brain damaged, children who develop diabetes, who develop autism, these are serious reactions after vaccination”

The report only briefly touched upon “vaccine damaged kids” with one teenager explaining he became sick one week after his first round of immunisations, but this was very brief. Mostly, we heard from doctors and scientists, such as a pediatrician describing his heart break at watching a baby turn blue from coughing. Professor Peter McIntyre from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance also encouraged parents to vaccinate.

The only criticism I have of the story is that Meryl’s comments about treating whooping cough with homeopathy were left unchallenged. In my experience, many people perceive homeopathy to be a herbal treatment, and therefore assume it has some medicinal effect. Perhaps this was the case for Rebecca, since she failed to question Meryl about this quackery.

One wonders if Meryl’s children did in fact have whooping cough, since she described their symptoms as nothing more than a “bad cough”. A bad cough is not I the way I would describe the distressing footage which aired earlier in the story, of a baby with whooping cough gasping for air and screaming. I raised this issue with Rebecca in a congratulatory email I sent her and suggested she might like to follow it up with a story on homeopathic vaccination.

In the introduction to the story, Sunday Night host Chris Bath called the vaccination debate “..a wake-up message to parents which needs to end right now”.

Well done Channel 7 for a well researched and accurate story. Please email the show here and let reporter Rebecca Maddern and the producers know that they are to be congratulated for accurate scientific reporting. Also there is a poll on the homepage asking whether vaccination should be compulsory. Please vote here.

I am concerned that both Rebecca Maddern and Toni and David McCaffery may be subject to abuse from the anti-vax crowd as a result of this story.

I have already heard that the anti-vaxers are “hysterical” about the way they and their cause was portrayed in the story. A source revealed this response from Meryl Dorey who described the show as “The most horrible, one-sided report I have ever seen” and “it was even worse than I’d feared“. She ended her rant with “I despair about the cover up, the children who will be injured by these shots and the way in which our organisation and the families who have been hurt by vaccines have been portrayed“.

Time to mobilise the troops. Please help by emailing Sunday Night, voting in the poll, and linking to my blog from Twitter, Facebook or your own blog.

For more information about the anti-vaccination movement in Australia, please see my Dr Rachie Reports blog, the Anti-Vacc Movement, an Australian Perspective.

Toni and David McCaffrey have set up a website in honour of Dana here and a Facebook page here.

Subscribe to comments Comment | Trackback |
Post Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Browse Timeline