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:


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:


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


Greg Beattie misleads Health and Community Services Committee

Vaccination is an invasive medical procedure carrying unquantifiable risk and dubious benefit

♠ Greg Beattie, August 19th 2013 ♠

On Monday August 19th the Health and Community Services Committee (QLD) held a public hearing.

Entitled The Inquiry Into The Public Health (exclusion of unvaccinated children from childcare) Amendment Bill 2013 the transcript can be found here.

As reported in Brisbane Times the Committee rejected the amendment which would have seen unvaccinated children banned from accessing Child Care centres in QLD. Yet the same Committee specified in it’s report that it has not rejected supporting a bill with allowance for medical constraints or conscientious objection against immunisation. Despite the wide ranging abuse of the conscientious objection loophole to vaccination, such a bill is now in place for daycare in NSW.

In his opening address on August 19th, Committee Chair, Mr. T. J. Ruthenberg M.P. stated in part:

Witnesses are not required to give evidence under oath, but I remind witnesses that intentionally misleading the committee is a serious offence.

I remind those present that these proceedings are similar to parliament and are subject to the Legislative Assembly’s standing rules and orders. [Copy here]

The first speaker, President of the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network, Mr. Greg Beattie began misleading the Committee immediately. This included:

The Australian Vaccination Network was formed to assist people in their search for information on this issue and to protect their right to make choices freely.

We support debate, because we recognise that it is through discussion that the truth is permitted to bubble to the surface.

Such noble sounding words. Soon we were back to the Beattie Aussies more readily identify with (Bold mine):

Vaccines are aggressively marketed. In fact, possibly no commercial product or service in the history of mankind has been so vigorously and thoroughly marketed. The backdrop of the campaign is fear – fear that your child, if not vaccinated, may suffer and ultimately die from an illness.

The fundamental slogan ‘Vaccines save lives’ expands into a story of how children frequently died from these illnesses until vaccination arrived and changed everything. Ironically, one of the few things we know without doubt is that this story is false. All who care to look for themselves find that vaccines played no significant role in the great fall in deaths.

The deaths did fall dramatically but, as can be seen in the appendices to our submission, it had nothing or little to do with vaccination.

He continues on. Empirical evidence is in stark dissonance to the “fundamental slogan” of vaccine manufacturers. Thus, parents are questioning “the integrity of the whole marketing campaign”. Er, are they? But why? Beattie lies with sophisticated aplomb:

For example, promoters claim that there is a scientific consensus that vaccination is safe. However, consumers are aware that countless studies have been published in the scientific literature indicating a relationship between vaccines and a host of serious conditions, including anaphylaxis, encephalopathy, lupus, type 1 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, Bell’s palsy, arthritis, autism, asthma, seizures and many more.

Courts have repeatedly decided in favour of some of these relationships, including autism, and huge amounts of money have been paid out for death and serious injury. Still, the promoters deny their existence, saying they are not proven.

Beattie uses the fact that up to 75% of pertussis notifications have received the vaccine at some time, to generalise against all vaccines. Finding this out parents begin to wonder what benefit there is he warns. A perfect segue into this outright lie: Vaccination is an invasive medical procedure carrying unquantifiable risk and dubious benefit.

Beattie seems intent on annoying Committee member Dr. Alex Douglas. When the Committee comes to ask questions Dr. Douglas begins:

I would like to start with Mr. Beattie. I thought that was an extraordinary presentation based on the fact that last month the Health Care Complaints Commission in New South Wales made some pretty damning statements about your organisation.

In view of the fact that you have made a presentation which is incredibly similar to what was stated as certainly being reprehensible — I could use a variety of words — I would like to know what you have done since then to actually reappraise your position in view of what you have just stated today?

Beattie wants to know where his abomination and that to the HCCC “tie together”. Dr. Douglas refuses to be drawn in, informing Beattie “Basically, you are restating the same argument. It is the same argument”. He then asks if Beattie is aware of what Steve Hambleton had said about, “your continuing statements which are of the same ilk as presented here today?”.

Of course Beattie claims to have no idea, so Dr. Douglas enlightens him:

He said that your repeated presentations bring you great discredit and are, in fact, not helping the nation at all.

In summary form, the results of what you are doing are doing irreparable harm to the communities across Australia and are, in fact, driving down getting our immunisation rate above the magical number of 93 per cent.

Beattie replies, “That is because Steve Hambleton is a promoter of vaccination. Our organisation is a promoter of free choice. At the moment our organisation is under severe attack from all who those who would want to promote vaccination…”.

He also insists vaccination uptake is rising a treat thanks very much, choosing to ignore the reality of complacency or refusal, wherever and for whatever reason.

All up it was a predictable scheme of lies and deceit from Greg Beattie, made all the worse in view of the organisation he was representing. The fact the bill was not passed had nothing to do with the rubbish he put forward. The AVN Inc. are well exposed as a self-serving untrustworthy gang for whom truth and evidence mean nothing.

Submissions to the Inquiry can be read here.

The antivaccinationist need for an enemy

At various times I’ve touched on the anti-vaccine lobby manifesting a type of pseudo-neoconservative approach in sustaining an urgency of fear.

Scientific skepticism has proven a ready Enemy Of The People. Rolled out by antivaccinationists as existing to suppress our rights, free choice, free speech and even democracy itself. The rather vacuous notion that the scientific method is a flawed ideology appears a necessary sale. It is an essential component of the uncritical thinking peddled by Meryl Dorey and Co. that ultimately makes up evidence denial.

A certain PhD candidate reaching new heights in vaccine denial at the University of Wollongong is supervised by a professor who is not merely a member of the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network. His depreciation of the scientific method to just another “paradigm”, is embellished by a deft understanding of the devaluation of “targets” and the provocation of outrage and distrust in the eyes of onlookers. This last aspect lends itself splendidly to accusations of oppression, abuse, bullying, threats, censorship and corruption along the lines of Big Pharma and the Pharma Shill.

Apparently once having devalued critics and targets enough you can take risks with simple decency. Take this observation (August 24th) from Meryl Dorey, founder of the AVN Inc. Meryl has this year sought Apprehended Violence Orders from authors who wrote on the Internet what she deemed unacceptable. Hmmm. More on that later.

Love in a brothel

With mass vaccination, evidence supporting not only its efficacy but a thunderous victory in the risk-benefit equation is abundantly clear. To contend that there is a “vaccination debate” surrounding scientific evidence or the relevant disciplines is an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. Worse still, to continue to massage the staple arguments against vaccination is to risk the health of others across the entire community. Faced with the present evidence vacuum and obvious perpetration of such towering immorality, the antivaccinationist would be wise to apply pseudo-neoconservative philosophy.

In March 2004 the Central European University hosted a lecture on terrorism entitled, There shall be no Security without an Enemy: Terrorism, Neo-Conservatism and Modern Governance. Whilst clearly focusing on the danger of terrorism, it is this piece of the synopsis that relates to the ever-present conspiracy theory driving fear and distrust of vaccines:

Against a faceless and stateless enemy, modern powers could find themselves caught up in an uncontrollable spiraling that threatens their founding premises.

In Taking The Fight To The Enemy: Neoconservatism and the age of ideology (Lexington Books, 2012), Adam Fuller underscores the fear of the “Technocracy”. Those familiar with AVN supporter, conspiracy theorist Leon Pittard of Fair Dinkum Radio, will perhaps recognise his use of that term and also of “Scientocracy”.


You can catch Meryl and Leon chatting here.

Or download MP3 here.

Whilst antivaccinationists may not seek to convince us our way of life is under dire threat from a destructive enemy, the faceless enemy eroding the essence of our freedom, rights and way of life makes up much of their narrative. It is the cultural aspect of neoconservatism that manifests most notably in their conspiracy theories. You may be familiar with Health Fascism. Or Dorey and radio host Tiga Bayles likening Australia to a communist nation, claims of death threats to suppress vaccine truth, vaccines do not work, vaccines kill and injure and so on.

G.M. foods, fluoride in water, other “toxic” processed foods and medicines, hospital births, evidence based medicine and more are all open to a similar cultural slur. These areas are presented as a loss of our right to choose. “Health Choices” are under threat. As I noted above there is no sustainable argument that vaccines are unnecessary or possibly responsible for any of the chronic diseases antivaccinationists attribute to them.

The vast majority of parents can see through this. Yet there is always a case for trying to convince the public that it may be forced to do something – even if it would have chosen to do so anyway. This is ideal for devaluing “targets” and evoking outrage. Enter the ever-present lie of imminent “compulsory vaccination” which Meryl Dorey has been profiting from since February 2007.

A perfectly molded neocon’ fear that the enemy within is waiting to ensure you do what they want. That you do not say “no”. Except of course it is false. When pressed, Dorey defends by claiming it is health workers she is fighting for. But in reality Dorey has targeted the public with this irrational and unnecessary fear for years. Consider these slides from just over 5 years ago.

Inverell slide1

Whos next iverell



By Meryl Dorey

A typical example of this outright deception occurred courtesy of the AVN Inc., on the heels of Meryl Dorey losing her second vexatious AVO case this year. The first loss was on April 26th this year. On August 24th, Dan Buzzard defendant in the most recent case wrote:

The end result?

Case dismissed, costs application against Ms Dorey for just over $11,000. The system works.

Pleas for financial donations on Meryl’s behalf were predicted within social media. Yesterday this post appeared on the AVN Facebook page. See Update below:

AVN misrepresent Di NataleNow, that isn’t signed by Meryl Dorey (the AVN president is Gregg Beattie) but a reply 20 minutes later is:

DoreyReply_DiNatale postAstonishing. The claim that Dr. Di Natale had claimed the Green’s policy and that of both major parties was for compulsory vaccination. Then a call for donations and membership. Immediately after that a call to write to local members to voice your outrage at this impending policy, because “we may be a minority but we will not be silent!”.

What I’d read in late June about Dr. Di Natale’s involvement in passing a Senate motion for the AVN to disband did not suggest he was a bloke careless enough to be passing headline secrets to members of the public. I tweeted yesterday with this link and the Facebook screenshot above, to which Dr. Di Natale replied earlier today.

DiNatale_mandatoryvaxThey are shameless. Of course there’s no truth.

Indeed. Dorey is now in need of money and the above indicates the lengths she is prepared to go to. Deceiving members – check. Deceiving the public – check. Dishonest raising of donation funds – check. Lying about an Australian Senator – check. Urging readers to waste time and annoy their local members – check. Advertising subscriptions for a defunct magazine – check.

One thing seems sure. There may well be no security in the pursuit of anti-vaccine ideology without an enemy.

That doesn’t bode well for public health.

August 27 UPDATE: Yesterday Stop The Australian (anti) Vaccination Network posted this revelation:

It has been brought to our attention that the following response from Senator Richard Di Natale was sent to AVN President Gregg Beattie in regards to the latest AVN grab for cash to fight the non-existent push for compulsory vaccination:

Dear Mr Beattie,
I am writing to you regarding recent claims by the AVN about my position on compulsory vaccination.
As I have made abundantly clear with the AVN in the past, neither the Greens nor I support compulsory vaccination.
The AVN’s recent claims about my views are merely the latest in a long and shameful history of malicious falsehoods. Your attempt to raise funds off the back of these claims is another low and desperate act by an organisation rightly condemned across the political spectrum and the wider community.
Yours sincerely,

UPDATE 2: news.com.au – AVN Campaigner ordered to pay $11,000 in costs:

Greens health spokesman and doctor Senator Richard Di Natale has condemned a blog post by Dorey in which she claims he supports making vaccination compulsory and then appeals for donations.
The Senator has written to complain and told News Corporation “I take issue with the fact she has misrepresented my position and used to try and make money from the lie to fill the coffers of the AVN,” he says.
“Our policy is that vaccination is one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced, but in the end people have a choice whether to vaccinate their children but that choice should be based on accurate information,” Senator Di Natale says.
Ms Dorey declined an opportunity to comment on her loss in court yesterday.

Anti-vaccinationists: “The dirty tactics are unbelievable”

If my family had known about vaccinations, my brother would still be here today

♦ Matthew, whose brother Michael died from Chicken Pox ♦

But not long after Michael’s death, his family got a cruel phone call from anti-vaccine campaigners telling them it was natures way of weeding out the weak in the herd

♦ Neil Doorley: Today Tonight reporter ♦

I don’t believe that any vaccination is effective

♦ Meryl Dorey (Founder of anti-vaccine lobby, the Australian Vaccination Network Inc.) ♦

The month of June 2013 continued with a high turnover of media articles and internet publications of all types examining the antics and lack of evidence presented by Australia’s anti-vaccination lobby.

The No Jab, No Play campaign was launched by The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph on May 5th, 2013. It places pressure on parents who deny their own and other children the protection of vaccine induced immunity and herd immunity, to accept the community consequences of their decision.

By May 29th it was announced that NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner had amended the Public Health Act to make the checking of vaccine records compulsory and giving day-care centres the right to refuse access to unvaccinated children. Admitting children not vaccinated, could result in a $4,000 fine.

On June 25th, Victorian Greens Senator Dr. Richard Di Natale reinforced how important it is to speak to a G.P. about vaccination.

Talk to a G.P. about vaccination

On June 14th, Neil Doorley on Today Tonight examined the potential tragedy of the tactics of Meryl Dorey and the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network.

Helen Kapalos opens the segment in part with, “The dirty tactics are unbelievable”.

Today Tonight and the importance of reputable information

Back in May on Monday 20th The Project ran a piece with plenty of facts. Referring to the many proclaimed links between diseases, certain disabling reactions, outcomes worse than the disease or vaccines overwhelming immune systems it was reported:

Rest assured all of those theories have been scientifically investigated and not one of them is true.

The Project

The most infamous, blatant and callous fraudulent abuse of ignorance, doubt and understandable parental fear was committed by No-Longer-A-Doctor Andrew Wakefield back in 1998. Apart from filing for patents for monovalent (single shot) Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccines he also stood to profit from two immunodiagnostic ventures. He remains an individual of iconic status for anti-vaccinationists, particularly Meryl Dorey.

This deserves notice presently because the Wakefield fraud has recently come home to roost in Wales in the UK. This was the subject of an article on ABC Lateline last April 22nd.

Wakefield MMR fraud comes home to roost in Wales

In response to the No Jab, No Play campaign Meryl Dorey and the AVN were urging vaccine refusers to exploit a loophole and join the Church of Conscious Living. This would permit those refusing vaccination to still receive family benefits. One month ago The Daily Telegraph reported, Anti-vaccine Zealots Form Sham Church:

The Church of Conscious Living was founded by Jane Leonforte and Adriano Regano in Queensland in 2008, with the express purpose of creating a front for vaccination exemptions. In a letter sent by the “church” to their followers, Ms Leonforte and Mr Regano admit “we have decided to create a ‘religion’, so, amongst other things, we can claim ‘religious exemption’, if the need ever arises, for ourselves and our children.”

NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner informed State Parliament the Health Care Complaints Commission would launch an investigation, This was after the Opposition raised concerns that the AVN was using it’s Facebook page in this regard as a recruitment vehicle.

More so according to The ABC, during Question Time on May 29th the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Health, Dr. Andrew McDonald, asked Jillian Skinner:

Minister, what steps will you take to close this loophole?” he said.

After her initial answer, The Health Minister Jillian Skinner later returned to give this update.

“I’m advised that the Health Care Complaints Commission will be launching an investigation into the AVN,” she said.

If passed, the new vaccination laws come into effect next January.

Dorey herself has attempted to use the option of Apprehended Violence Orders to silence and potentially seriously irritate her critics.

This was covered in May in the Telegraph by Peter Bodkin. An article at Diluted Thinking goes into this and the potential consequences quite thoroughly.

The AVN continues to fight an order from the NSW Department of Fair Trading to change its name to something appropriate. That is, to one that represents it’s anti-vaccine stance.

From Anthony Roberts MP, May 9th 2013:

Holding the Australian Vaccination Network to Account

Also, as has been much anticipated, the AVN – involving a time of high activity attributed to Meryl Dorey – are being investigated for fraud.

On June 25th, the ABC reported that the NSW Senate has passed a motion calling for the AVN to disband and cease it’s “unscientific scare campaign against vaccines”.

Finally the month began to close with the AVN itself reinforcing the initial HCCC warning from July 2010. Proving yet again that they specialise in censoring and suppressing accurate information on both vaccines and the diseases they prevent, the so-called health group deleted material, and then blocked any further input from intensive care specialist, Dr. Rachael Heap.

The AVN presented via their Facebook page that tetanus infection could be prevented by using tea tree oil on wounds, and that active bleeding would also prevent infection at a given site.

Non-smokers, diabetics – even the non-elderly would also be afforded protection. Jane Hansen wrote today:

But when intensive care specialist Dr Rachael Heap tried to post information about tetanus to balance the misinformation, the AVN first removed her posts and then blocked her.

Tetanus is a bacterial disease that kills three out of every 100 people who catch it.

It causes muscle spasms in the face, chest and neck, eventually progressing to the abdomen and back, causing the whole body to arch. Sometimes the spasms affect muscles that help with breathing, or can cause fractures and muscle tears. It can be avoided with a simple vaccination.

“Tetanus is horrific, there is no cure if you get it, you end up in intensive care and then all you can do is support the patient and hope they heal,” Dr Heap said.

“I made three posts, trying to give some clear, scientific, medical explanations about tetanus, both the mechanism of disease, some basic wound care tips, and information on just how devastating a disease it can be. I now find myself banned from their site and all my posts deleted.”

One of the deleted posts outlined what tetanus actually does. “I have cared for a patient with tetanus in Australia. It is agonising, and relentless. It can be fatal,” she said.

Dr. Heap has made a complaint about this matter to The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.

Fortunately the AVN is now being held to account more often, with their tactics more regularly exposed.

Every Vaccine Is A Little Victory

Vaccination is now recognised as one of the most successful and effective public health interventions for saving lives and promoting good health.
Prevention is a key goal in healthcare and the ability of vaccines to prevent illness and death associated with many serious diseases is one of the success stories of scientific innovation

♦♦ Dr. James Reilly, Minister for Health, Ireland ♦♦
Still from "vaccination victory" video

Last month, during European Immunisation Week (April 21st – April 27th), Ireland launched a rather clever campaign to help remind the public of how crucial national immunisation programmes are. More importantly it included how vital it is to complete a vaccine schedule. A schedule may be one or a varied series of vaccinations, immunisations, shots and/or doses.

These may be had once, twice, three or even more times, at different ages, when exact or different time-periods have elapsed, and at which the same or different amounts of vaccine is given. Boosters can be scheduled or even recommended for other members of the family. All this depends almost exclusively on the vaccine under consideration.

So it seems that the development of immunity is remarkably complex. It is not difficult but it’s complexity can be gleaned through the above and use of terms such as “partial immunity”, “fully immune”, “waning immunity”, “herd immunity”, etc. Thus it’s very important to take the advice of your GP, doctor or local health authority rather than try to “research” the topic yourself.

The development of immunity may be complex, but we do know the development of vaccines is perhaps the greatest advance of modern medicine. In fact rather than getting bogged down in the copious amount of information regarding vaccines one could simply observe that Every Vaccine is a Little Victory.

Which brings us to the campaign itself launched last month in Ireland. Check out the video below. Chaps: you’re permitted to chuckle, smile, use words like “cool”, “nice kid”, suggest it’s a “top idea” and so on. Ladies: you may “Squeeee!, use words like “cute”, “gorgeous”, “Awwwwww”, etcetera. Do pass it around, all.

No matter how you react I trust you agree it’s a good idea. There is so much information and misinformation about vaccination, that purporting to “research” the topic and decide against vaccination is likely to involve denial of evidence. Indeed, quite a lot of evidence denial goes into rejecting vaccination.

Similarly, it’s going to prove rather challenging to suavely explain to ones mates and relatives the immunodynamics behind ones child’s third MMR vaccine. One might also look overly ambitious mounting a dinner discussion based on why it is quite safe to “complete the MMR schedule, chaps, in temporal proximity to this seasons influenza vaccine”. 

Or reassure the gang over coffee that Janine can have faith in the immunogenicity of the live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) taken concurrently with the twins’ 56 week MMR dose. Perhaps, what’s really on everybody’s mind is the GMP standards as they apply to the reconstitution of vaccine diluent preparations?

Umm… No. As stated the amount of information out there is truly copious. Only the anti-vaccine lobby can keep a straight face whilst claiming to grasp the entirety of vaccine science and rewrite it’s conclusions at the same time. Perhaps they have drastic inside information on reconstituting vaccine diluent preparations?! Or rather, perhaps their unique way of getting attention is just a unique way of… getting attention.

For the rest of us, given that it’s far better to accept the word of qualified experts who overwhelmingly support vaccination, the word on the street is that Every Vaccine is a Little Victory. Presently it’s vital to remember this. The South of Wales in the UK is in the grip of a measles epidemic. Well over 1,100 cases and a frantic MMR catch-up programme has left the anti-vaccination lobby with all the charm of a malignant Chucky the Court Jester.

Australia has been fighting unacceptably high pertussis levels for years now. Recently, Aussie health authorities have begun to act on inadequate legislation that has well served the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network Inc. Concurrently the AVN Inc. are fighting the NSW Office of Fair Trading to keep the name that has led to so much sickness, deception and despair.

With rising conscientious objection in the developed world, vaccine preventable diseases once thought all but eradicated are making a firm comeback. In the developing world, communities and parents are risking their lives to access vaccines for their children.

It was with certain purpose last month in Dublin then that Dr. James Reilly the Irish Minister for Health addressed a crowd gathered at the Royal College of Physicians, Trinity College. Health News Ireland reported that, Reilly observed:

“Vaccination is now recognised as one of the most successful and effective public health interventions for saving lives and promoting good health,” he told the gathering in the prestigious Royal College of Physicians, which nestles in the shadow of Trinity College.

“Prevention is a key goal in healthcare and the ability of vaccines to prevent illness and death associated with many serious diseases is one of the success stories of scientific innovation”.

He appeared to have no time for the detractors, the nay-sayers; or the ‘scattered thinking’ brigade, as he dubbed them.

Every vaccination is a little victory

Modern humans do poorly at gauging risk-benefit. A Pfizer booklet titled Vaccines – Protect Your Health at Every Age includes:

The vast majority of side-effects are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever and have nothing to do with the infectious disease against which the immunisation is directed. New vaccines go through a rigorous testing in development and approval phases in Europe to make sure they are safe. The European Medicines Agency also monitors any adverse side-effects that might occur after the medicine is licensed.

In Ireland the National Immunisation Advisory Committee advises the “Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health on immunisation-related and vaccine matters”. Their responsibility to the Department of Health is to ensure the ability “to enable evidence-based immunisation related policy decisions”.

Committee Chair is Professor Denis Gill – (interviewed here). He ponders vaccines as a victim of their own success.

A lot of parents don’t realise just how bad the past was. Take measles, for instance: 1-in-1,000 children will die as a result of contracting measles.

Put it another way, one of the reasons we are living longer is because we are surviving childhood.

It is of course, beyond ironic. This theme arises in other areas also – from human rights to consumer rights.

Our health and longevity afford us the opportunity, through ignorance, to sabotage the very means that provide the improvements in the first place.

Every Vaccine Is A Little Victory



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