What SAVN doesn’t want you to read, reviewed

Recently Brian Martin of Wollongong University penned a selective piece headed What SAVN doesn’t want you to read.

Selective in that material used and omitted leans strongly toward sustaining the primary claim of the article. Arguably deceptive and certainly erroneous in that a great deal of baseless extrapolation must occur from each example to contend SAVN wants certain material unread.

My name appears a couple of times, both in the body of the piece and an apparent standout in “Acknowledgements”.

I thank the many individuals who read drafts of this comment and offered valuable feedback, especially Paul Gallagher who helped clarify several points.

Brian asked if I’d like my input to be acknowledged and I agreed. Yet it’s important I stress that input was not in support of the article’s contention but against it. As it stands readers may assume the opposite. The item which drew most comment from me is “March 2014: “Biased reporting”. It refers to a “lengthy critique” by Martin of an article by Rick Morton.

The article revealed that Wollongong University paid $3,000 for anti-vaccine lobbyist and PhD student of Martin to attend an overseas conference run by the frequently discredited OMICS group. The student/lobbyist/conspiracy theorist is Judy Wilyman. Wilyman presented what has been demonstrated to be flawed, offensive and misleading views contending that the HPV vaccine is not cost effective.

Australian information on sound cost effectiveness may be found here. Research finding positive or high cost effectiveness includes Chesson et al, 2008, Xian Wen Jin et al 2013 and Mark Jit et al 2014. Wilyman’s contention is false.

Meryl Dorey published Martin’s piece on her anti-vaccine conspiracy blog. Initially in What SAVN doesn’t want you to read Martin wrote under “Biased Reporting”;

Meryl Dorey wrote a blog about my critique; her blogs are scrutinised by some SAVNers, but I did not see any comments by them.

Actually Dorey didn’t write a critique but simply cut and pasted the first two paragraphs then linked to Martin’s full article. But that’s not the point. In 2012 Brian had sought comment before publishing “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing”. I responded then, mentioning Dorey’s refusal to discuss or respond at a rational level. Weeks later I noted her selective censorship of comments to her blog and Facebook. This allows her to shape the tone of reader feedback and thus, mislead readers in general.

In this light one can see “onslaughts” and “mobbing” are the result of provocation by Dorey, who indeed revels in the opportunity to cry brutal persecution, hate speech and general woe. I was keen for Brian Martin to realise many of his concerns can only exist in the milieu Dorey constantly nurtures.

At one point Professor Martin replied;

As I’ve written before, there is a fundamental asymmetry in the encounter between the AVN and its opponents. SAVN and perhaps others are trying to shut down the AVN. In this context, I think it is unrealistic for those in SAVN to expect the AVN to open its columns to its opponents. As I think I asked before, can you give me an example of any advocate of a minority, fringe view opposed by a powerful establishment who, having come under heavy attack for years, is still willing to open their own organisation’s columns to their opponents? If you can give me a few examples, it might help me rethink my views.

Thus as Martin had conveyed he is both aware and supportive of Dorey censoring her blog it is impossible to suggest the absence of SAVN comments is evidence that SAVN has something to hide. There was quite some back and forth until Martin could see the point I was making. He then altered the text of the “Biased reporting” paragraph to that in the published draft.

Another aspect where I’m directly mentioned is in the paragraph headed, “September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories”. Martin refers to his paper Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning. At the time I wrote in response, Dealing with the Brian Martin dilemma. There’s only one published comment. That’s from Ken McLeod who referred to being asked to comment on another draft article by Brian Martin. I didn’t publish Martin’s reply as I predicted a response or responses to be biased and unhelpful.

I informed him of my reason for omitting his reply. Of course it wasn’t lost on me that as an academic who actively supported Dorey’s manipulative and deceptive censorship of posts and comments he should understand.

At 7:42 PM +1100 9/10/12, Paul Gallagher wrote:
Hi Brian,

Sorry for the delay.

As you may know Ken is the subject of unremitting attacks from Meryl Dorey and I would be unwilling to provide her with any more material.

I have forwarded Ken your reply and he has rejected your account.

I have weighed – and continue to seriously consider – whether to publish any of your content. Given the vast amount of material omitted about the AVN’s conduct and your defence of Ms. Dorey censoring critics and misinforming the public, I fear any content published would be biased.

Over our exchanges I have raised many issues pertinent to the AVN, yet none are accepted by yourself. Thus I am reticent to provide yet another platform for what is arguably intellectual dishonesty. This appears to be happening on Hank’s blog.

I remain keen for your input on AVN matters such as fraud, monetary scams, deleting of material, tormenting grieving parents, refusal to acknowledge recent TGA/CRP requests, or obsessing over claims of persecution, etc, etc.

In fact as an example the matter of the $180,000 in subscription fees taken for many as yet unseen magazines (a dupe still attracting professional advertisers), does beg acknowledgement or comment.

I’d be interested in how a “citizens group” can attract your interest and continually be presented as benign.

Omitted from Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning

In the same paragraph he also referred to Peter Tierney’s piece Of publication and sleights of hand. This was also in response to his piece on dilemmas in health campaigning. As you will see by following the link there are 42 responses, many from Professor Martin. His “September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories” paragraph initially concluded with a reference to Hanks post that he (Martin) was “winning the argument hands down” and thus the comment thread was terminated. The published version however offers;

My interpretation is that they terminated the interaction to prevent others from seeing their refusal to submit our views to review by experts.

“They”? The blog is under the control of Peter and only Peter. Perhaps assuming “they” control it and terminated it for a reason other than avoiding time wasting is insightful. Yet as I’d observed in the above correspondence I was worried about biased input, taking the place of genuine exchange and wasting time. As Hank more directly put it before terminating the thread: “Last warning. Piss or get off the pot.”

Another arguably ridiculous paragraph refers to the manufactured claims by Meryl Dorey that she is subject to serious death threats, abusive comments, false claims and is regularly sent pornography. Dorey has manufactured this from tepid insults almost six years old. Her desperation shines through in that Dorey published her “Dossier of attacks” in August 2012. Clearly she isn’t troubled by the material. The “dossier” was simply another scheme by Dorey to embellish the persecuted victim persona. The content of the “dossier” is rather pitiful compared to Dorey’s own insults.

Dorey’s narcissism shows as she likens herself to Charlotte Dawson, even quoting then police minister Michael Gallacher that (in Dawson’s case) there may be grounds for prosecution under 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act. Dawson was subject to hundreds of vile and offensive tweets. Dorey has a couple that are years old. She would delight in receiving a genuine insult or threat.

On February 22nd this year Charlotte Dawson died by suicide. Dorey has not seen fit to edit or delete her offensive page which exploits this tragic series of events. As a social scientist this is a dynamic Professor Martin should be pursuing. Instead he notes of the “dossier”;

There was an initial flurry of criticism of the dossier by SAVNers, but subsequently they seem to have largely ignored it. It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack.

Given these are not methods of attack employed by SAVN, but lies and misrepresentation on the part of Dorey why would anybody wish to engage continually on her obsessive hatred of critics? Two individuals have been removed from SAVN for their conduct. One admitted sending porn circa early 2010. Another had called Dorey’s home and left insulting messages. These events and the standard expected on the SAVN Facebook page and elsewhere (regardless of topic) were intentionally publicised at the time.

Dorey’s obsession with casting those who hold her to account as dangerous, and seeking to gag critics extended to taking out Apprehended Violence Orders. This was all quite jolly but somewhat spoiled by Dorey publically taunting the subjects she concomitantly insisted posed a threat of violence.

Essentially Martin’s claim that It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack, is without merit. The purpose of SAVN is stated clearly on the Facebook page Stop The Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network. Whilst “exposing [AVsN] lies, their endemic corruption and their fraudulent practices.” is mentioned as a purpose of SAVN, nothing appears as part of the SAVN mission that precludes obsessing over this unique aspect of Dorey manufacturing the impression she is unjustly persecuted.

The so-called dossier includes Complaints to Government Bodies as a mode of “attack”. It really goes without saying that complaints follow the strict and legal guidelines laid down, reflecting the reality that Dorey is accountable for and guilty of many breaches of public health legislation, corporate and financial responsibility and based on their own disseminated material is the subject of a NSW Health Care Complaints Commission warning.

Put succinctly this absurd and irrelevant “dossier” dragged together by a narcissist is utter rubbish. Fiction. There’s no evidence to mount a serious critique of vaccination schedules or vaccines themselves and more appropriately the arguments have all been debunked. Faced with this reality antivaccinationists often fall back to generating outrage and disgust in the minds of their readers. No real cognition is needed but the pseudoscientist appears somehow correct.

Indeed Dorey made much of this in December 2010 via Death threats and suppression of vaccine truth in Australia, hosted by another bastion of lies and quackery; International Medical Council on Vaccination. Attempting to participate saw SAVN banned and disconnected from the webinar. Ample commentary and deconstruction occurred at this time.

It is not at all “reasonable to suggest SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack”.

Under “April 2014: Medical Observer”, Professor Martin draws attention to a critique of Patrick Stokes’ article No, you’re not entitled to your opinion. Stokes’ piece has been exceptionally well received. The article provokes thought about the consequences of not not just giving respect to another’s right to hold opinions, but of treating certain opinions as fact and acting as if they were truth. Stokes presents a crisp example of very poor thinking on the part of Meryl Dorey.

Dorey “reasoned” that if Dr. Bob Brown can comment on nuclear power she can seriously comment on vaccination. Brown of course isn’t a nuclear physicist. Dorey doesn’t see what having a medical background has to do with (immunology). Dorey is equipped with the full knowledge Andrew Wakefield was struck from the UK medical registrar for his fraudulent paper seeking a link between MMR and “autistic enterocolitis”, and his callous disregard for the disabled children he exploited. She is aware that the paper was retracted by The Lancet.

The Essential Baby article cited by Stokes also includes;

Did the Wakefield case cause any doubt in her mind about his research? “No, not at all,” she says. “I knew he was being scapegoated, because there is so much money involved in vaccination.”

You can see where Stokes is going and the vital importance of affording serious consideration to understanding the when, why and how certain opinions cannot be dismissed as polite entitlement. The case for denying Dorey (and many others for that matter) the right to be taken seriously is strong. Arrogant, intellectual disregard should be considered reason for forfeiture. Although Dorey mentions Ken McLeod’s 2009 complaint to the NSW HCCC in her “dossier of attacks”, we should now turn our attention to her 2009 HCCC reply (pp.5-7) addressing McLeod’s challenge to AVN free speech which may harm or maim innocents.

Citing High Court rulings Dorey argues that activity of the (then) Australian Vaccination Network is akin to;

…the right to unfettered communication and discussion of all matters relating to government and public policy

Freedom of communication on matters of government and politics has been determined by the High Court as being an indispensable incident of the system of representative government that the Constitution creates…. This freedom of communication and discussion is protected against the exercise of federal and state legislative and executive power and extends to all those who participate in ʻpoliticalʼ discussion (such as the AVN) and therefore is not limited only to electors and elected.

… The High Court has extended this freedom of communication on matters of government and politics extends to all non-verbal conduct [Citation], which would include content on the AVN website and all published materials of the AVN which is the subject of this complaint from Mr McLeod.

In this case the reasoning as to why Dorey is not entitled to her opinion is manifest.

Professor Martin refers to an article penned by Neil Bramwell 18 months after Stokes’ The Conversation article. It mentions vaccination and dedicates a few lines to Patrick Stokes. Entitled Not qualified to speak out? Martin’s concern appears to be that SAVN has not given due attention to Bramwell’s piece. Why?

I think the main reason is that the article is so balanced, presenting various perspectives, not just ones favoured by SAVN.

Two other items draw Martin’s attention. SAVN did not respond publically to his article On the suppression of vaccination dissent. The piece includes a dozen paragraphs under the heading A high-profile researcher. That researcher? Andrew Wakefield. Yep. Taking up the lions share in an article on suppression of dissent. Yes, dissent. Not fraud and deception as he is guilty of.

The other name in this piece by Professor Martin is Gary Goldman. Goldman – known for being anti-varicella vaccination – is the founder and president of that appalling anti-vaccine mess of scam and quackery, Medical Veritas international. His abuse of VAERS is almost legendary. Orac has written about him here and here. Also mentioned in this paragraph is Dr. Jane Donegan, antivaccinationist who was charged (unsuccessfully) with scientific misconduct in 2007.

She is also a hero on the pages of another vaccine conspiracy blog, Child Health Safety. This hive of conspiracy, skepgoating and nonsense has been kind enough to publish Martin’s very same article we’re examining today, What SAVN doesn’t want you to read.

Next is our “citizen campaigner”. Without evidence Martin accepts the probably bogus claim of her son suffering vaccine “reactions”. It’s known he suffered inconsolable crying after whole-cell pertussis vaccination. The others Dorey fabricated. Her section includes a list of SAVN evils, suggesting by implication Dorey is mobbed and attacked.

Is Brian Martin seriously suggesting SAVN has something to hide regarding the claims of Andrew Wakefield, Gary Goldman and Meryl Dorey? Apparently so. The likelihood of this being true deserves no comment.

Which brings us to the final piece on two articles authored and co-authored by Professor Martin. In March 2012 Martin attacked SAVN in both Online onslaught and Public mobbing. These describe criticism of Meryl Dorey and the then Australian Vaccination Network by SAVN. Whilst Dorey is indeed challenged by SAVN it is impossible to seriously suggest she is a victim of onslaughts or mobbing when she refuses to engage in discourse and censors online content to present false impression. One would expect better of Professor Martin.

More so Martin had in 2012 sought input from members of SAVN. Indeed I have referred to such exchanges above wherein he makes no attempt to hide the fact Dorey is censoring material. Rather he supports this conduct. In fact by then members of SAVN were arguably exhausted with the insistence of Professor Martin to defend the intellectually dishonest conduct of Meryl Dorey.

In March 2012 Brian Martin wrote to me:

On 26/03/2012, at 9:42 AM, Brian Martin wrote:

Hi Paul,

I’ve written a couple of new articles about the vaccination debate, and would welcome your comments. They are “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing” and are available at http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/preprints/.

Regards,
Brian

Brian Martin
Arts Faculty
University of Wollongong, NSW 2522

I replied;

On 26/03/2012, at 8:09 PM, Paul Gallagher wrote:

Hi Brian,

I’ll aim to read more in detail but for now would simply note Meryl’s refusal to discuss or reciprocate on a rational level.

Usually when errors or problems are demonstrated some reply is forthcoming. You may be interested in a couple of topics I’ve sent to Meryl via email to no avail:

Pertussis;

http://luckylosing.com/2012/01/04/my-personal-request-of-meryl-dorey/#personalrequestpertussis

Autism;

http://luckylosing.com/2012/01/06/vaccine-induced-autism-how-meryl-dorey-misled-her-woodford-audience/

Also:

Reflections on the “skeptic involvement” and “free speech” myths. Considering reluctance to discourse the perpetual claim of bullying and oppression is a little tiring:

http://luckylosing.com/2011/12/22/are-meryl-doreys-critics-really-against-free-speech/

http://luckylosing.com/2012/01/23/meryl-dorey-claims-that-australian-skeptics-suppress-free-speech-why/

Finally her misrepresentation of the court judgement continues. Certiorari was not granted, yet as recently as last Friday on “Fair Dinkum Radio” Meryl claimed the HCCC ruling had been wiped (not so) and the OLGR admitted to using only HCCC material.

It seems this is an attempt to avoid discussing the 23 breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and breaches of The Charitable Trusts Act 1993.

Regards,

Paul Gallagher
paulgall@westnet.com.au
=====================

Yet in reference to “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing” Martin fails to mention any exchanges with SAVN prior to publication. He maintains “to my great surprise, there was hardly any response.” And that “it was the first indication of an emerging pattern of not responding to contributions that are well written and that SAVNers do not want others – including their supporters – to read.”

Perhaps in truth it reflects the poor quality of material which seeks to defend evidence denial behind the veil of “scientific dissent”. Certainly Professor Martin was simply ignoring the fact that perfectly rational material was being sent to Meryl Dorey. She was choosing to ignore this and instead both were presenting the highly biased claim that Dorey was subject to “attacks” and “mobbing”.

It is likely members of SAVN were both wary of being manipulated and quite rightfully ignoring Brian Martin’s intellectual dishonesty. Also at these times Martin was asked how he justified involvement with a cruel, callous and dishonest individual like Dorey. No reply or indeed acknowledgement was forthcoming.

Martin has offered no critical reasoning for his claim. Simply correlating the odd absence of comment around the time that suits him seems good enough. He’s ignored confounding variables and failed to reference or justify when there was indeed SAVN comment.

Professor Martin might like to explain if he accepts and defends Dorey censoring material, does he seriously still contend there is a “fundamental asymmetry in the encounter between the AVN and its opponents.” Looking at this article it’s difficult to comprehend the extent of Dorey’s manipulation by censorship. It appears to me the only asymmetry is Dorey crying her disdain for censorship yet proceeding to engage it excessively and dishonestly.

Ultimately it appears that What SAVN doesn’t want you to read by Professor Brian Martin is a dishonest article.

  •  For now it’s best to remember how deceitful and dangerous this anti-vaccine group is.

HCCC warning with WmarkFrom The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission – April 30th 2014

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

The importance of relative risk in understanding vaccine effectiveness

A while back I noticed that Greg Beattie was deceiving his readers about pertussis vaccine efficacy by misrepresenting NNDSS data.

Yes, the same Beattie with the bogus claim that vaccines did not reduce infectious diseases. He dresses this up with misleading graphs comparing mortality from vaccine preventable disease to the introduction of X vaccine. These graphs are also bogus in that he omits the impact of vaccine introduction. The stunning success of the vaccine itself and the elimination of infection is always absent from his peculiar artwork.

Beattie’s claim back in 2012 was that the pertussis vaccine failed because high numbers of notifications had been vaccinated against pertussis. This is thunderously misleading in that it’s at the same level as dismissing seat belt safety because most fatalities on our roads involve seat belt wearing occupants. He also avoided explaining all reasons as to why notifications were high. Increased awareness, testing and follow up, pockets of low vaccination driving an epidemic, low booster uptake.

You can check the post here to follow my review of the same data table Beattie used. But it’s pretty simple. By 2011 close to 95% of 0-4 year olds were fully vaccinated by age 2 [NCIRS]. Using the table provided it turns out those not fully vaccinated made up 27.2% of notified infections. Fully vaccinated notifications equal 56.7%.

Relatively speaking a child fully vaccinated against pertussis has a notably reduced chance of being infected. Conversely, the small number who are not fully vaccinated have a frightfully high chance of being infected. To be sure, if 56.7% of notifications collected over 2008 – 2011 are from fully vaccinated children one can argue the vaccine could (and needs to be) more effective. But when the 5% who are not fully vaccinated make up 27.2% of infections, then the claim the vaccine is not effective is patently absurd. A dangerous and irresponsible lie.

Basically this is a story of relative risk being falsely presented as absolute risk. Choose some data and omit other data and the claim looks sound. But the post itself is limited in examining Vaccine Effectiveness vs Relative Risk (Risk Ratio – see screenshot). Understanding related and relative data sets is crucial in grasping how vaccine efficacy can be misrepresented. Regrettably many falsehoods peddled by the anti-vaccine lobby stem from such misrepresentation.

Fortunately an excellent piece addressing this was recently published on The LymphoSite by kill3rtcell. Headed But most of the people who got the disease were vaccinated for it! the post comprehensively addresses vaccine effectiveness, risk ratios and even provides interactive calculators. These crunch values of vaccine effectiveness, vaccination rates and resultant cases in the unvaccinated or vaccinated.

Do head over and read what is an excellent contribution to the deconstruction of misinformation peddled by antivaccinationists.

The screenshot below helps explain what this post accomplishes.

relative risk

© kill3rtcell – The LymphoSite

——————

CIA to stop exploiting vaccination programmes

In the first quarter of 2011 Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi began a hepatitis B vaccination programme in and around one of the poorer cities in Hazara in Northeastern Pakistan.

Abbottabad is similar to less fortunate Pakistani cities struggling with poverty and insufficient access to health services. Employed by the government and considered the top medic in the Khyber tribal area, Dr. Afridi’s vaccination programme was typical of such immunisation initiatives.

shakil afridi

Dr. Shakil Afridi

However what is now well known is that Dr. Afridi had been recruited by the CIA. Provided with only minimal information from CIA operative “Peter”, he was to use the vaccination programme as cover for gathering blood samples from an Abbottabad compound.

The CIA believed Osama bin Laden may be hiding in the compound and were after a DNA sample from children to compare with his late sister. Dr. Afridi had two female staff working with him on the programme. One was able to access the compound and gather blood samples. Afridi and his staff had no idea who the CIA were targetting.

Ultimately the scheme failed and did not lead to the success of the USA confirming this was bin Laden’s hideout.

What is known is that the CIA’s use of this and other vaccination programmes has had a lasting negative effect on their implementation and success. As a result the control of dangerous diseases including polio, has likely been set back years.

Already regarded with suspicion in developing Islamic nations, Western backed and funded vaccine programmes are subject to anti-vaccination propaganda. Conspiracies linking polio vaccination to deliberate Western plots to spread HIV/AIDS or cause sterility have circulated for years. The incorrect claim that the vaccine is “unclean” under Islamic law has been thankfully countered by the global Islamic Advisory Group on polio.

Pakistan’s polio vaccination programmes have suffered significantly from the plot involving Dr. Afridi. The Pakistani Taliban have placed a “ban” on polio vaccine programmes. 350,000 children have missed out on polio vaccination and access to other health care. A spike in polio infection has seen 66 children diagnosed to date this year compared to a total of 14 for the whole of 2013.

60 health workers have been killed over the past three years due to enforcement of this ban by violent militant groups. Infection has spread across the border to Afghanistan.

On May 5th this year the World Health Organisation announced polio had “re-emerged as a public health emergency”. Some critics have argued 30 years of work to control the virus “could unravel”. The WHO is calling for all children in affected countries to be vaccinated or revaccinated, whilst anyone travelling from these countries should also be revaccinated, and carry proof of this with them.

A few days ago the CIA announced an end to the exploitation of vaccination programmes.

Lisa Monaco, a senior counterterrorism and homeland security adviser to President Obama, wrote in a letter addressed to the leaders of several prominent public health schools that the CIA would not use immunisation programs – or workers – as a means to collect intelligence. Such programs have prompted attacks on medical workers in Pakistan.

“The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency directed in August 2013 that the agency make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers,” Monaco wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by Yahoo News.

“Similarly, the agency will not seek to obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs. This CIA policy applies worldwide and to US and non-US persons alike.”

Former CIA spy Micheal Scheuer, who was a senior adviser to the CIA’s bin Laden unit has criticised the decision. Speaking to the BBC he argued any tool that got the job done is justified.

MICHAEL SCHEUER: If it saves Americans it justifies the end. That’s what the agencies and business want.

BBC INTERVIEWER: Even though potentially thousands of people could die as a result of the spread now of polio?

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Well, you know, stuff happens, Sir.

WILL OCKENDEN: He says the use of vaccination programs by the CIA paid off in the hunt for and execution of Osama bin Laden.

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Without a doubt. It led directly to the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was too late in the war to make much of a difference but as long as he was alive he was involved in planning attacks against the United States and Britain and some of our other allies. It was very much worth the cost.

You can catch the full ABC News audio below, or download the mp3 file here.

Leaving the CIA behind it’s worth noting that logistical problems associated with conflict in Syria and the inexplicable apathy of the Syrian government have seen the resurgence of polio, measles and meningitis. In April it was reported polio had spread from Syria to Iraq.

In Somalia Al Shabaab had banned 16 humanitarian agencies by late 2011. Consequently 300,000 children went unvaccinated for three years. This led to a 2013 outbreak in polio, including 194 cases of paralysis and a spread to Ethiopia and Kenya. Existing Aid programmes managed to control this spread within six months. Large scale measles infection has also proven a problem across the Horn of Africa.

Boku Harem has attacked health facilities responsible for vaccination programmes in Nigeria. Ten polio workers were killed in February of 2013.

According to an editorial just published in Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper, ten countries currently report that polio is in circulation.

The action of the CIA in Pakistan (and apparently elsewhere) has been monumentally reckless. The consequent scattering of polio vaccination reduction, alongside global conflict has led to a global emergency.

The lesson then for the developed world is clear. Now, more than ever, there is no excuse for parents to question the validity of any vaccination.

Particularly polio.

 

  • Below Professor Michael Toole, Deputy Director of Melbourne’s Burnet Institute discusses the problems facing some Islamic nations on ABC 24 (May 24th 2014).

Radical Islam Opposition To Polio Vaccination

Alternatives to medicine continue to sail a wave of misinformation

Every week up to a thousand Australians are dying in the public hospital system alone from adverse reactions to properly prescribed medication and hospital borne infections and medical error. This is the elephant in the room. If the government and medical community are really concerned about the health of Australians, why aren’t they doing something about this obvious, um, huge cause of death in Australia instead of worrying about measles?

Meryl Dorey, anti-medical science lobbyist – October 19th, 2013

The arguably spectacular misinformation Meryl Dorey pushes as an antivaccinationist, comes often as what can most kindly be called an utterly ridiculous mantra designed to promote fear of scientific based medicine.

double standards

This was in response to eight infant fatalities associated temporally with Hepatitis B vaccination in China. Regrettably China’s growing success with mass hepatitis B vaccination has now met a challenge. Fortunately in China the medical community is working effectively with the evidence and training they have. Despite the unambiguous harm HBV has caused China and the success of HBV vaccine programmes worldwide, Dorey commented on Facebook as seen above.

I won’t overly review Dorey’s claims on medical error and hospital borne infection. Although (updated in December 2011) a 2009 report from the Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance cited Commun Dis Intell 2011;35(3):237–243, and notes in the Abstract (bold mine):

Given hospital outbreaks of CA-MRSA are thought to be extremely rare it is most likely that patients colonised at admission with CA-MRSA have become infected with the colonising strain during their hospital stay.

We can place the general figure on medication in context by looking at adverse reactions. The TGA reporting system kicked off in the late 1960’s becomming computerised in 1972. As 2011 came to a close there were 247,000 suspected adverse events in the TGA database. It’s also worth adding that a primary aspect of “medical error” is indeed that of Adverse Drug Reaction, making Dorey’s claim somewhat meaningless.

Adverse reactions_TGA_drop shadow

Origin of Adverse Events 2006 – 2011 (TGA)

In 2011 the TGA received approximately 14,400 reports with 52% from pharmaceutical companies, 12% from hospitals, 7% from General Practitioners (GPs), 18% from State and Territory Health Departments and 3% from consumers. The sources for other reports (8%) include community pharmacists and specialists.

Placing the scale of insult inherent in Ms. Dorey’s deceit even more in context we should note that the TGA received an average of 1,200 reports each month. This includes all events – not just those involving mortality. More so the TGA receive data from six sources with the category of “hospital” enveloping public and private. The Department of Health and Ageing regards hospital outbreaks of community-associated MRSA as “extremely rare”.

Thus, Meryl Dorey’s 1,000 fatalities per week in Australian public hospitals appears to be beyond tenuous.

However there are a number of problems facing those taken in by the growing trend of “natural” or “alternative” choices to medicine. Not only is there growing evidence of harm, the absence of any efficacy at all is frequently documented.

Seventeen year old Christopher Herrera is one of a growing number who face organ damage, organ failure or death thanks to herbal supplements each year. In his case a “fat burning” dietary supplement resulted in liver damage. Initially placed on a transplant list, Chris was able to keep his liver but his lifestyle is now markedly compromised.

The New York Times report that such supplements account for 20% of drug related liver damage. This is a three-fold increase from a decade ago and comes from a review of the most severe cases in the USA. Evaluators believe the actual figure is higher. As is the case in Australia a lack of strict regulation standards for these products result in over-inflated claims, not backed by evidence, and the potential for adulteration of the product itself.

This December 17th, The Annals of Internal Medicine published three conclusive articles on both the harm and inefficacy linked to alternatives to medicine. An editorial Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money On Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, summarised the research.

After reviewing 3 trials of multivitamin supplements and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins that randomly assigned more than 400 000 participants, the authors concluded that there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

In another instance the efficacy of daily multivitamin usage to prevent cognitive decline in just under 6,000 men aged 65 or older was evaluated.

After 12 years of follow-up, there were no differences between the multivitamin and placebo groups in overall cognitive performance or verbal memory. [...] … compatible with a recent review of 12 fair- to good-quality trials that evaluated dietary supplements, including multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamins E and C, and omega-3 fatty acids, in persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia. None of the supplements improved cognitive function.

Another study looked at supplement with high-dose, 28-component multivitamins involving 1708 males and females who had previously suffered a myocardial infarction.

After a median follow-up of 4.6 years, there was no significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events with multivitamins compared with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.75 to 1.07]). The trial was limited by high rates of nonadherence and dropouts.

The authors note that research into vitamins and minerals in the prevention of chronic disease “have consistently found null results or possible harms”. Data from tens of thousands of people in randomly assigned trials show “β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality”.

Yes – increase mortality.

Later they stress most supplements do nothing when it comes to preventing chronic disease or death and with no justification for use, should be avoided.

An audio summary of these editorial points can be accessed here.

An audio summary of the editorial is below, or an MP3 may be downloaded here. (Firefox Users. If you’re using the Bluhell Firewall add-on click “allow” as the file is quite safe).

Thus whilst the anti-vaccine and anti-medical science lobby continually manage to distort discussions on the value of conventional medicine, the evidence is time and again not in their favour. We are either hearing of the dangers of modern medicine itself or the wonders of natural concoctions.

Both trends are dangerous and fallacious.

False Balance: Where dissidence does not belong

Due weight.

Two simple, but arguably very important words in that they can be found in the Editorial Guidelines of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Journalistic guidelines regularly refer to due impartiality, and rightly so. Consumers subject to the bias of reporters are in for something like the pure fancy that comes from End Time Radio, Natural News or (where “freedom of choice is not free”) Vaccination News.

Under Impartiality – Breadth and Diversity of Opinion, the BBC Guidelines include:

4.4.1

Across our output as a whole, we must be inclusive, reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion.  We must be fair and open-minded when examining the evidence and weighing material facts.  We must give due weight to the many and diverse areas of an argument.

Under Impartiality – News, Current Affairs and Factual Output:

4.4.12

News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument.  The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our commitment to impartiality.

The reason I’m focusing on the BBC is because of a direct link to false balance. Australia’s ABC have no parallel and our Australian Broadcasting Standards don’t contain specific attenuation of minority views getting a free ride on the coat tails of the prevailing or scientific consensus. That’s not to say either set of standards is not a useful device in underscoring or complaining about the mess of false balance. It’s just that the BBC have shall we say… history.

Presenting Wonders of the Solar System in 2010, Professor Brian Cox was explaining the impact Jupiter’s gravity has on Earth. He delightfully included in his narration, “Despite the fact astrology is a load of rubbish…”. Dedicated followers of woo complained. One stressed Cox didn’t allow the “alternative opinion”. And before you smirk dear reader, it is that astrologers use “observation and knowledge built over thousands of years”. Oooh yeah. They haz Appeal to Antiquity.

Cox provided a statement to the BBC, which they decided not to publish.

I apologise to the astrology community for not making myself clear. I should have said that this new age drivel is undermining the very fabric of our civilisation.

This example of how complete nonsense is put forward as equal, or even superior, to schools of thought and theories that are in fact completely settled opens the December 2011 BMJ Editorial by Trevor Jackson, When balance is bias. [Dropbox] [BMJ 2011;343:d8006 doi:10.1136/bmj.d800].

The BBC asked Prof. Steve Jones, emeritus professor of human genetics at University College London, to review the BBC’s impartiality and accuracy of their coverage of science. As one might guess from scanning Australian and British journalistic codes with their liberal peppering of “impartiality”, it was the impact of “due impartiality” that worried Jones. He found the guidelines:

… had a distorting effect, creating a sense of equivalence where there was none, and privileging maverick and dissident views so that they appeared as valid as established scientific fact.

Jones found in areas of science that journalists risked giving the impression there were two equal sides to a story when there were certainly not. By insisting to bring “dissident voices” into settled debates within science, the BBC was guilty of giving an unbalanced view to these same areas.

Jackson’s editorial notes the disastrous effect Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent paper had on the uptake of MMR is in part due to media impartiality. The BMJ reported in 2003 on a study that indicated the media effectively misled the public.

The BBC reported in part:

Most people wrongly believed that doctors and scientists are equally divided over the safety of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to new research carried out during the high profile public debate over the vaccine last year.

At the height of the media coverage the impression was created that medical scientists were split down the middle over the vaccine’s safety, including reports of links with autism, say the study’s authors, from Cardiff University.

The report found that 53% of those surveyed at the height of the media coverage assumed that because both sides of the debate received equal coverage, there must be equal evidence for each.

It said only 23% were aware that the bulk of evidence favoured supporters of the vaccine. The authors said their survey would revive the debate about media coverage of MMR and how journalists deal with “minority voices” within science.

The belief that scientists were divided over the safety of MMR was a direct result of journalists seeking balance and led to what we now know as false balance. Face palmingly, head deskingly, infuriatingly, unacceptably in the case of vaccines, it is still underway today. Even worse journalists are dusting off long settled topics and where they should be stressing deception, suggest “debate”. In the video below an individual who is effectively a public health menace was appallingly labelled as an “expert”.

Even if these terms are not utilised in the straight out fashion Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise recently did, everything is in place for the public to be misled into thinking actual scientific dissent exists over the safety and benefit of vaccination. Indeed today, the moral bankruptcy that accompanies antivaccinationists exceeds those who were taken in by Wakefield. The science is clear. There is no debate to be had. This places the antivaccinationist in a very unique position. A position of denial and deception buttressed by repeated claims of corporate conspiracies and so-called natural alternatives.

This latter rubbish is fed to the public because the natural enemy of the anti-vaccine commentator is scientific consensus. Given an opportunity to deceive the public the antivaccinationist can now introduce a host of irrelevant and false claims which in the context of an interview will create doubt in the minds of the public. In the video below Weekend Sunrise have an unqualified, science illiterate, conspiracy theorist effectively presenting nonsense in response to advice from the Director of Australia’s National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

Thanks to Channel 7 and @sunriseon7 members of the public may well have been misled. Farmer’s wife Meryl Dorey wants to “extend the hand of friendship” to the NCIRS and conduct a study into vaccinated vs unvaccinated. Yes that meaningless, shrivelled old cherry again. Quite simply it leaves a scam artist looking as though they have skill when they don’t and offering one side of a balanced debate, when in fact that debate simply doesn’t exist. There is certainly no need for an impossible study, but the public cannot know this.

The previous point is one scientists need to keep in mind when asked to appear alongside unqualified saboteurs of public health. There’s nothing that can be said in a few minutes that can assuage the damage done by elevating a skilled prevaricator to your own level in the eyes of the public.

Trevor Jackson concludes in his BMJ editorial:

Meanwhile, some science journalism will continue to be weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Until the notion of due weight becomes just as, if not more, important than impartiality in journalism and science reporting, we need to ask ourselves if those without any weight or those advancing scam debates deserve to be heard at all. Clearly, and helped along by the precedents outlined here by reasonablehank, the answer is no.

Channel 7 have previously presented a scientist “debating” a proven anti-vaccine zealot. True, these enemies of reason are challenged by journalists as to the flaws in their beliefs. Yet that is not the issue. The more often members of the anti-science lobby are given a pedestal from which to preach, the larger will be the percentage of the community that believes a genuine topic of scientific dissent exists. As with climate science, fluoride in drinking water, evolution, conventional medicine and more. In the case of vaccination there simply is no debate.

Vaccination saves lives.

Peter McIntyre and Meryl Dorey on Weekend Sunrise

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-E4OChkXw4

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