My personal request of Meryl Dorey

We (antivaccination lobbyists) are the real Australian skeptics

Meryl Dorey Jan. 4th, 2012

As many of you may have noticed, the rapidly rising pertussis epidemic in W.A. was reported by the ABC today.

This predictably sent Meryl Dorey of the AVN into histrionics. One of her ridiculous claims is that pertussis has increased “10,000%” with a 25% increase in vaccination. If you choose the figure of 332 from the very first year – 1991 – of compulsory reporting (which actually reflects sloppy reporting, gradual awareness and slow administrative changes) and compare it to today’s epidemic figure as Dorey does, it’s a dodgy trick.

A Stop the AVN member snapped this tweet on ABC News Breakfast from a cast iron flying pig

Because the “25% increase” comes from a 70% vaccination coverage in 1991 and a 95% coverage now. Strange, because a decade later in 2001, vaccination was only 70.6% and the figure of notified cases is 9,541. Sure we do have an epidemic figure for 2011 of over 36,000. But choosing a different year shows an increase of 3.8 times – not 10,000% – despite almost an identical increase in childhood vaccination.

I’ve laid it out all below. The entire method Meryl uses, and offered it back to her as actually showing a decrease of over 50% in 6 years. It’s her technique using her data sources. It’s rather silly as one cannot compare unrelated data sets. But in an attempt to draw some sense from Meryl on a fairly clear point I’ve (yet again) worked through the figures to seek a reply.

Meryl Dorey’s extraordinary claim about ABC journalistic integrity

I posted it twice today on the ABC News Breakfast Facebook page and also on Stop AVN. No “coward” stuff as Meryl alleged to Tiga Bayles. No “hiding behind anonymity” as Bayles suggested. No “suppression of free speech”. Just open and honest requests for a reply, based on evidence. Meryl’s claimed forte.

Originally I asked for a point by point response. Yet, I’m asking Meryl now, to respond to just one of my points. Just one. So far, there’s just silence. We shall see.

Summoning help, Dorey writes about: “…the rabid pro-vaxxers who would happily see all of our children dead or injured if they thought it would protect them or their families.”

Above Meryl you write:

…it’s all across Australia – why they chose WA I have no idea? (sic)

Well Meryl, whooping cough in WA has increased by almost 500% since 2009.

ABC News Breakfast

Also Meryl, WA has the lowest rate of child vaccination in the country. According to Julie Leask, senior research fellow at the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, “Delay might be due to [WA's] adolescent vax policy”.

Julie Leask Tweet

As “Australia’s leading vaccination expert” I thought you’d know these things, Meryl.

Anyway, as on Facebook here’s the same request for a reply. All I’ve updated from Facebook is the NNDSS pertussis notification figures accessed now, at time of writing, and changed it to a first person address.

As I stressed Meryl, failure to address this surely indicates admission that your claim on pertussis is false. You may very well believe it, but if so, it must stack up to scrutiny. No agro, no bullying, just a golden opportunity to speak freely. So, excuses to not answer are thin on the ground.

I hope that’s not too annoying and I’d be delighted to have you. Fire when ready….

Here’s the original from Facebook.

Hi Meryl.

Could you address this point by point please. It’s the same post as above, but I reckon it’s about time you helped clear the air. If not, do I assume you agree that your claims on pertussis are invalid?

Thanks very much:

Contrary to your claims, the epidemic began in your backyard with low vaccination rates and spread out from there. From SMH, October 2010:

“The highest rates of so-called “conscientious objectors” to immunisation are in parts of the north coast – such as Byron Bay – where 12 per cent of children born between 2001 and 2007 were never immunised for any condition. [...]

An epidemic of whooping cough in 2008 and 2009 began on the north coast. It quickly swept across the state driven by low vaccination rates in some wealthy parts of Sydney. Low-income areas in western Sydney also had less immunisation and were linked to outbreaks, Dr Menzies said.”

Now, let’s debunk your claim of high vaccination rates causally equating to high pertussis infection, using – not other information and techniques – but your actual tables and own technique.

You source your 95% from under 2 year olds in a 2006 table (as per Woodford slides on your blog). Also, here it is – http://i.imgur.com/w9I9g.jpg. This makes up one half of 1/18th of all age groups from your next source, a NNDSS table of whooping cough notifications: http://i.imgur.com/XOrUY.png

These are the 2 tables you sent to the NSW HCCC in September 2009 (see p. 6 http://www.mediafire.com/?dw32azbk97obakm) to whom you made the very same claim, in response to a complaint.

You only quote absolute figures about pertussis after all – not percentages, or age groups, or if a notification is asymptomatic, or was a tourist, or international flight attendant/maritime worker/business traveller/etc.

Here’s the NNDSS age groups showing the highest infection rate is between 40 – 65 years in 2007. Before the epidemic.
http://i.imgur.com/0eGTw.png

Although now, the three age groups up to 14 years show large increases, if we add up the notifications above this we see that most notifications still come from adults who have no immunity. It has waned and they need a booster. Their vaccination (booster) rate is 11.3% – not 95%. We need to increase this by about 7 times to reach herd immunity.
See p. 18 of Adult Immunisation Survey to confirm 11.3%.

You are using “unrelated data”. Just like the rise in driving licences is not causally related to the rise in road trauma, or that the best safety advice (according to your thinking) would thus be to abandon licence testing. You are wrong to quote these NNDSS figures in this way, because we know nothing about their vaccine status or immunity. All we know is that most are adults who have no immunity.

So, in effect they cannot be compared – but for the record I’ll continue on as if they can be compared.

We do know pertussis fatalities occur in the unvaccinated. Vaccinated can of course catch pertussis yet experience far milder symptoms and faster recovery. The claim that vaccination for pertussis is an impervious shield has never been made by health authorities. But the claim that it should be and if not, it’s useless, is being scurrilously made by yourself.

Okay, let’s use your method on another year.

We can see (using the same NNDSS data) that 2007 was the lowest year of infection on record since 1999 – http://i.imgur.com/XOrUY.png. It is also the 5th lowest year since records began.
Many discount the first recording years of 1991 and 1992 as very, very low anomalies that show a slowish start to new legislation requiring reporting of whooping cough. This would make 2007 the 3rd lowest ever. But I’m happy to take the 5th lowest year ever.

Rather different to your claim, no? But from your data source no less.

Now, looking again at your vaccination rate table (http://i.imgur.com/w9I9g.jpg) we see 2001 had only 70.6% vaccination. Infection was 9,541 Aussies. By 2007 – still using both your data tables we see 95% vaccination of babies and 4,864 cases of pertussis (http://i.imgur.com/XOrUY.png).

So, using your “technique” on merely another part of the same NNDSS table we can also claim vaccination more than halved pertussis notifications in a mere 6 years.

Your data, your method, the very same tables you quote from. Why then is this not your message? Why don’t you tell Aussies that these sources show a greater than 50% drop in whooping cough in just 6 years?

Because it’s selective statistical sleight of hand, is it not? We both can’t be right. It’s a simple trick – and I’m arguing that you know it is.

You are intentionally misleading Australians. This is why the NSW HCCC issued a public health warning that you “quote selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.”

Also, it’s strange that you cite 1990 vaccination coverage of 70% vs 2006 coverage of 95%, omitting to say it dipped to 61% in the mid 90’s and had only increased by 0.6% in the 10 years from 1991. Could this be because you want to create an impression? Perhaps.

It’s all in your table. Should you not address all figures? Why do you not address all figures?

Also, a good look at any NNDSS notification table shows rises and falls in infection. Contrary to your claim of a steady increase in infection as vaccine coverage rose, pertussis always rises and falls.

In fact the first 10 years when coverage went from 70% to 61% to 70.6% corresponds to notification levels similar to and greater than the second 10 years (http://i.imgur.com/XOrUY.png).

1997 is almost as high the 2008 epidemic year and vaccination coverage was under 70%. So, again we must ask – are you seeking to create an impression?

Epidemics are a different ball game. Once immunisation fell below a safe level in Byron Bay it took off like lots of little fires in low immunisation areas joining to create a massive bush fire.

So, low immunisation caused this outbreak not any problem with the vaccine. The answer? Get adults immunised and ensure babies get cocooned and immunised ASAP.

There’s nothing to stop me using the very same data and going around saying Australia had one of the lowest pertussis levels since notifications began, until your, Meryl Dorey’s lobbying against vaccination led to the 2008 epidemic (and cite Dr. Menzies, plus news reports etc to back me up).

But science doesn’t make leaps like that. We’d need better research. You really don’t use science, despite boasting of such – just tricks with scientific data hoping nobody will check. Please prove me wrong.

Let’s recap: I’ve used only your tables and your own argument style to a.) debunk your claims on pertussis vaccination = infection, b.) shown how it can be used to show a vaccine induced 50% plus reduction in only 6 years [2001 - 2007] and c.) pointed out some curious gaps in your coverage of the data that don’t seem to support your claims.

I look forward to your reply,

Thank you,

Paul Gallagher

(emailed to Meryl Dorey on Jan. 7th, 2012)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 266 other followers