“I think it’s actually the wrong name; it shouldn’t be the Australian Vaccine network, it should be the anti-Australian vaccine network”, Radio Host 2UE radio, Sydney Australia.

Initially I was somewhat disappointed to learn the ruling from the HCCC was no more than a requirement to post a disclaimer on the AVN website, but as the news has spread, I am somewhat buoyed by what has been happening.

The HCCC ruling states that the AVN has 14 days to post a disclaimer clearly stating their website is anti-vaccine and that any information on the website should not be construed as medical advice.

For more detailed information go here and here.

The McCafferys have posted a media release here where you can also find a statement from Ken McLeod who submitted the original complaint.

Seems like a slap on the wrist right? At first yes, but since the story has spread across the webosphere, an unexpected result has emerged and one that makes me very pleased indeed. (I even happy-danced with @skepticzone in Las Vegas airport yesterday, apologies if you had to witness it).

Everywhere across the media, the AVN are now being referred to as anti-vaccine. Australia’s anti-vaccine organisation, the anti-vaccination network, and asked repeatedly why they are anti-vaccine. Regular readers of this blog will shrug and say, yeah we already knew they were anti-vaccine Maggie, so what? But what you may not know is that many people, especially vulnerable non-science educated parents and the media did not.

Like the majority of anti-vaccine groups, the AVN have gone to great lengths to conceal their true beliefs from the public and especially the media – and the reasons why are obvious. Their rhetoric generally consists of “we are pro-choice”, “we want to empower parents to make a decision by providing both sides of the story”, “we provide a balance”, “we are pro-information, blah blah informed choice” etc. You know the drill.

And although it has been blindingly obvious to anyone who knows how to use teh internets, for many busy producers, journalists and the like, the AVN has been their first port of call for “balance” (or rather false balance) simply because they didn’t know any better. Well, never fear dear readers, things they are a-changing.

Even before the HCCC fallout, Meryl appeared to be concerned about the public perception of the AVN. In July 2009 (Yahoo! Group message # 44295) she wrote;

“….While we are already seen as rabid, idiotic fringe-dwellers by so many in the mainstream, it does our argument no good at all to bring in conspiracy theories which, though we may subscribe to them, are unprovable…”

But as they say, the truth eventually comes out and it seems the game is up for Meryl “I’m pro-choice” Dorey. Even the normally sympathetic morning television host Kerry Anne Kennelly, whose show consists largely of light entertainment and info–mercials, apparently asked Meryl twice why she was anti-vaccine.

In an email sent to her Yahoo Group, Meryl described how she had initially refused to appear on the show, eventually relenting under the condition that she was given 6 minutes to discuss the HCCC findings and that she was to have the questions ahead of time.

(Coincidentally the website 6minutes were the first to break the news of the HCCC report and wrote a less than flattering piece about the AVN).

But according to her email the questions were changed;

“Turns out not one of the questions they read to me last night was actually asked and kerri anne asked me twice why we were anti-vaccine!”

Why the exclamation mark Meryl? I’ve mentioned this before, but remember when you appeared on radio to defend your Australian Skeptics Bent Spoon Award?

Interviewer: “Which vaccines do you think are good then in Aust..?

Meryl: “I think that all vaccines are up to the parents and…”

Interviewer: “That wasn’t what I asked though was it. Which vaccines are good? This was the point I think the Skeptics were making is that you’ve never actually said, which vaccine is worthwhile, which scientific designed vaccine is good, worthwhile.

Meryl: “It is not, it is not my role, nor is it the role of the Australian Vaccination Network to tell anyone what to they should or should not do when it comes to vaccination…”

Blah blah blah, rhetoric, rhetoric, deflecting the question. (You can hear the full audio here).

But c’mon, I’m just being a big meany. And afterall this is only one example. And as a scientist I require repeatable results. Oh wait a sec..

In an email sent to the AVN Yahoo! Group on Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:08 pm Message #36449 Meryl wrote:

“There will come a time – I pray to God that it will happen in my lifetime – when those who have pushed vaccines upon innocent, helpless babies – doctors, pharmaceutical companies, government officials – will be proven to have lied and cheated these instruments of death into our children’s bloodstream. When that occurs, the outcry will be heard around the world and there will not be enough hiding places on the globe for these murderers to hide or enough money to pay for compensation. Of course, it will be too late for the babies, like this poor child, to be saved. But we will be able to take satisfaction from the fact that never again will anyone have to be pushed to poison their child because for once and for all, it will be known as poison and we will all wonder how it was we fell for the vaccine lie for as long as we did”.

Does that sound like a pro-choice message to you?

Or how about this one? The t-shirts they sell on their website say;

“Love them, protect them, never inject them”.

And another; Yahoo! Group message #41806 sent Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:24 pm

“This is a sort-of off-topic question. I would like to donate to the efforts to help in Haiti but I don’t want ANY of my money going towards vaccines so that red cross and Unicef are out. Does anyone know of an organisation doing work on the ground there helping without vaccines?”
(Thanks to Scott Lewis and Podblack for alerting me to this one)

From a quick perusal of the blogosphere parents and babies’ blogs are also starting to cotton on. Mia Freedman who blogs at Mamamia, writing “A website of deception” described her reaction as she watched the Lateline story;

“I watched the report with tears in my eyes and my jaw dropped somewhere near the floor. Tears for the McCaffery family whose baby Dana died of whooping cough at only 32 days, and dropped jaw for the extraordinary cruelty and misleading dogmatism of the Australian Vaccination Network.”

Since then the story has been lodged with news aggregator AAP, meaning it will soon be distributed even further. And so far, every story I have seen refers to the AVN as antivax. Here are just a few of the headlines I have collected:

Anti-vaccine group rapped for false information
Anti-vaccine group accused of harassing parents
Top doctor backs disclaimer for anti-vaccination site
Warning order for anti-vaccine website

So not only are parents finding out that the AVN has not been completely truthful about their agenda, they also harassed the parents of a 4 week old baby who died from complications associated with a vaccine preventable disease.

Pro-tip: this is unlikely to endear you to parents Meryl. Just saying’.

If you haven’t seen the Lateline piece, DOET NOAW. It is a thoroughly researched and sensitively compiled piece by award winning journalist Steve Cannane (insert fan-girl squeeing here).

In addition, Meryl was totally pwned on radio 2UE where she was asked repeatedly why she was anti-vaccine and tried to avoid the question by saying the AVN does not tell parents what to do, but simply offer the “other side of the story”.

Interviewer: “Are you medically qualified Meryl?” “What on earth gives you any sort of qualification to make any informed comment on this at all..”

Meryl Dorey: “20 years of research”

Interviewer: “Well, 20 years of research? Well big deal, give me a break, please.”

“You’d know a guy called Andrew Wakefield? Do you guys still support him?…..he was struck off the UK medical register…”

“What qualifications do you have to disagree with the HCCC here in Australia and the UK medical registry? All of a sudden what you are saying is far superior that what these two credible worldwide organisations are?”

Man, it is refreshing to see the credulity gone from the media with respect to the AVN. Only a few months ago, they were unquestionably called upon to offer the “other side of the story” (in other words, false balance) to the vaccine “debate” (there is no debate – the risks from contracting a disease far outweigh the risks of having an adverse reaction to a vaccine).

But, I gotta hand it to Meryl, she is nothing if not consistent. That is, consistently wrong and consistently dogmatic. She continues to wheel out the canards like the incidence of communicable diseases fell before vaccines were introduced, whooping cough notifications are at their highest levels despite equally high levels of vaccination, Big Pharma Shill, conspiracy, vendetta, septics, etc…


That was the sound of Meryl’s head asploding. And the AVN’s house of cards crashing down.

Congrats to Ken McLeod for compiling the HCCC complaint and to everyone who submitted supporting material along the way and to the HCCC for carefully considering and responsibly ruling on the complaint. To Stop the AVN for all their hard work, all the other bloggers and tweeters who have constantly kept the pressure on, and to Steve Cannane for the brilliant story on Lateline.

Lets keep slamming that oyster shut. One day it might get permanently jammed.

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