How The Australian Vaccination Network misleads Aussies on pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination
July 4, 2011 5 Comments
She’s doing it again.
That’s all I could think when I saw the below lie published about noon by Meryl Dorey, on the Australian Vaccination Network‘s Facebook page.
I do mean “lie” – not misunderstanding or difference in conclusion. Dorey’s had this pointed out to her countless times – as recently as last week. This was also dismissed in 2009 by the ABC, following a complaint as a breach of their editorial guidelines for fairness and accuracy in reporting. More so, she presents this sleight of hand with obfuscation of conflicting data sets published by the same government bodies and insists on cherry picking. To make the entire sorry matter patently ridiculous, a high school student would receive a dressing down if this “mistake” was honestly made. That’s because not only is Meryl Dorey hiding the truth about pertussis infection and the undoubted success of pertussis vaccine efficacy, she is using entirely unrelated data sets.
The pertussis notification data tells us zero about the vaccine status of the notified cases. By far the bulk are adults whose vaccine induced immunity has waned. Of the 18 standard recorded age categories, 16 are after the age at which immunity begins to wane. Nor does it inform us as to the location of initial infection. As a legally notifiable disease all cases diagnosed who are from an address within our borders must be reported.
This includes returning tourists, immigrants, refugees, Australian based shipping and flight crews, travel weary business men and women, and so on. Dorey’s attempted causal link is akin to saying people who hold a drivers licence are more likely to be involved at sometime in their lives in a road accident. The more licences issued in the last 20 years, the more accidents we see. Therefore the entire licensing process is either ineffective, causal or both.
Nonetheless it would be remiss of me not to address this trick for the benefit of those with confirmation bias. The burden is on Meryl Dorey to show a robust statistical association between the data she presents. She fails to do so, because it can’t be done. To be absolutely fair, let’s use Ms. Dorey’s selected data. In fact, let’s use the very data, tables and argument she submitted on September 9th, 2009 to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission in response to a complaint about the AVN. Dorey writes on page 6;
Since the AVN was established, Australia has experienced an increase of over 23% in our rate of vaccination against whooping cough with a concurrent increase in the incidence of this disease of almost 40 times. Please refer to the Australian government graphs below:
In order to show that pertussis vaccination isnʼt effective, Ms. Dorey must compare vaccination status to diagnoses. Partially, fully or in need of a booster? And use a controlled single sample.
What we begin with is two separate cohorts, the lower table (1) being 2 year olds born in the first quarter of 2006, who received the trivalent Diptheria, tetanus, pertussis vaccine being fully assessed on June 30, 2008. The upper table (2) is of 0 – 6 year olds vaccinated with a monovalent (pertussis only) vaccine between 1989 and 2001.
Knowing full well that pertussis vaccination begins to wane at about age 10 years Dorey then chooses notification only (not age related) data between 1991 and 2009 – below, to secure her “40 fold increase”.
Straight off the Epic Fail factor leaps out. We cannot simply draw a line from childhood vaccination to notification in all age groups, and as I noted above from diverse backgrounds and travel habits. More so, had it been the year before, notification was less than a 17 fold increase from 1991. The two years preceding that show a 35 and 34 fold increase respectively.
In 1998 there was a 14.5 times increase from 1991. A year before was a 27.5 fold increase, whilst 1996 gives us an 11.6 fold increase – only 42% of 1997 notifications.
Clearly using even this non age related data set fails to show the claimed relation between steadily increasing vaccination and infection rates. It appears to show a regular rise and fall in infection.
Evidence of decreasing vaccination uptake and rising infection was causing significant concern in the eyes of Australian health authorities. This was clearly defined in the complaint to The HCCC. So Meryl Dorey offers another fallacy;
[Contrary to assertions] the current increase in the incidence of pertussis has nothing to do with any purported decline in the rate of vaccination. Instead, we are seeing an outbreak of pertussis despite a substantial increase in vaccination against it – an experience which is being duplicated in every country for which mass vaccination against this illness exists.
“… an experience which is being duplicated in every country for which mass vaccination against this illness exists”. Remember that. Dorey lists two references to supposedly support this. I’ll soon be getting on to how she plagiarised a WHO document graph cropping out explanatory text to replace with her own, and severely misrepresented the Netherlands pertussis outbreak. Both publications strenuously support pertussis vaccination and yes, these were the documents referenced in support of that bald faced lie.
A claim of direct causation to the vaccination regimes requires ignorance about herd immunity, pertussis strains, acellular vs live cell vaccines, periodic outbreaks or epidemics, and vaccinated vs non-vaccinated infection rates during outbreaks. Outbreaks do occur effecting unvaccinated and vaccinated children under 10 – 15 notably, whilst adults with no immunity don’t usually exhibit the classic symptoms. Certainly they are not at the risk of injury and death that infants and babies are.
From Communicable Diseases Intelligence, Vol. 32 No. 2, Figure 49 shows the rise and fall of pertussis in the ten years to 2006. Figure 50 just below it, shows notifications for 2006 by age and sex.
Zero to four years is higher than the next two age categories as it reflects the fact infants are not fully immunised until about 12 months.
We can clearly see this is a typical non outbreak year in which most cases are found in middle aged women. It’s a striking reminder that a pertussis booster is absolutely vital to protect newborn babies from infection as they are passed around family and friends or cared for by grandparents. This goes doubly for women.
Meryl Dorey was in damage control mode, trying to refute that the outbreak – now epidemic – that began in 2007 – 2008 was related to declining uptake of vaccination and that certain pockets where vaccination was low presented a lethal threat to young children. This is why her trick linking notification and vaccination rates was, and still is, doing the rounds. In June 2009, three months before our self appointed guru submitted her HCCC reply, it was reported in the Journal of Pediatrics that children who didn’t receive the pertussis vaccine were 23 times more likely to catch pertussis. In 2010 the same journal reported fears over the vaccine were unfounded. What are we to make of Australia’s so-called “vaccination expert” using “sciencey” terms to convey the opposite of research published in prestigious journals that’s pertinent to exactly the topic she claims authority on?
Dorey would have done better to stick to the facts, than to defend anti-vaccination pseudoscience and hide the high levels of infection in children.
Whilst there is strong data showing higher rates of infection in areas of low vaccination, overall Australian data showed a nation wide outbreak that we now know that has culminated in disability and death in most states.
This is the tragic irony to this ongoing and oft’ debunked abuse of her readers and members intelligence. Check that 2006 graph above again and compare to the 2008 data reflecting an outbreak on the left, from Communicable Diseases Intelligence, Vol. 34 No. 3.
Horrifically, in two years there’d been over a 6 fold increase for females and almost a 5 fold increase for males 0-4 years old. Roughly a 10 fold increase in 4-9 year olds and over a 6 fold increase for 10-15 year old children. Through all this Meryl Dorey failed to advise parents on how to protect their own and others children. Incredibly she had access to this crucial data through the very National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System she used to create her original sleight of hand above. Here is the 2009 table of pertussis notifications by age and sex.
She continued to urge against pertussis vaccination, plying her members with bizarre pseudoscience and fear mongering, going as far as claiming vaccines are filled with poisons and cause cancer. This was a key element in her roving seminars as seen here in slides one, two, three and four. Denying pertussis infection was anything to be concerned about, her advice was and is to proactively catch it to build “natural immunity” and that it can “be treated homeopathically”.
Dorey refuses to admit she and the AVN (which is in fact one and the same) are anti-vaccination. Although it beggars belief that she would support what she has called “instruments of death”. The mantra is that “they” are for informed choice and provide information parents would not otherwise access, to assist in making a choice on vaccination. Why would parents not otherwise have access to it? Well for one, as we’ve seen here it is manufactured and fallacious. To refute Dorey’s claims with proper evidence however, is to be “suppressing free speech”.
Ironically, I can’t post this on Dorey’s Facebook page because I’ve been banned and had all my other posts deleted. I see this happen regularly to anyone who doesn’t march in goosestep anti-medicine fervor. Free speech was it? We’re all entitled to our own opinions but the assumed right to manufacture ones own “facts” to the large scale detriment of community health is beyond the boundary of free speech.
Be extremely wary of online sources that use grandiose titles reflecting a “national” vaccination service, an “information network”, “total” family health or particularly offering “the truth” or what you won’t be told elsewhere.
Please seek reputable advice on vaccination. Speak to your doctor or a conventional medical professional.
Update: July 8th. In a standard example of how misinformation is spread to misinformed members of the public, an AVN member at about 11am July 8th, posted the below item. It provides a link directly to the same page Meryl Dorey provided on July 4th. What makes this entire charade more absurd is that the URL leads to the NNDSS index – not the Pertussis notification table it is taken from. Our vaccine expert and Co. have so little experience with this data that simple navigation through the site is defeating them. Another high school failure.