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”.

mp3_mic

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

Inverell_YouandYourFamily

FROM MARCH 2008 – INVERELL FORUM

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,
Richard

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

——————

Denialism: ‘Researching’ the case against vaccines

Some of the most error-laden claims coming from those who deny the safety and efficacy of vaccination are accompanied by the confidence of having done their ‘research’.

However there is no way one could properly research, evaluate or study the risks and benefits of vaccination, and ultimately conclude to deny their children the protection it offers. There is no way one could properly educate themselves on the topic and actively entertain the inaccurate mantras used by anti-vaccine lobbyists. Certainly this so-called research shows no sign of being properly guided or assessed for basics such as structure, source material or conclusion.

In fact that last sentence above could apply to many areas other than vaccination. David Dunning and Justin Kruger hypothesised and successfully demonstrated a cognitive bias linked to intellectual skill. Their conclusions are examined in a 2010 episode of The Science Show. The synopsis opens with: The dumb get confident while the intelligent get doubtful. Whilst the “Dunning-Kruger effect” quite rightly takes its place in examining and explaining the phenomena, it has been noted by great thinkers for centuries.

Take this mother interviewed in a masterpiece of false balance cobbled together by Today show reporter Lauren Ellis. It’s true that the ability to gauge risk is not a natural skill in the absence of education and contemplation. We’re hard-wired to choose being safe over sorry. But one cannot objectively or conclusively “look into” the ‘flu (or any) vaccine and decide against it on that basis. The certainty this woman “studied” misinformation and evidence denial is confirmed by the rest of her comment:

When I looked into the ‘flu vaccine it wasn’t proven to be 100% safe. I made a choice that I was going to do the best that I could do to build up their immune systems through whole foods, active exercise and having a loving and caring environment at home. We actually want to invite those kinds of sicknesses into the body because that’s the body’s natural way of boosting its defences.

Along with overestimating their own level of skill the Dunning-Kruger effect lists the failure of the cognitively-challenged to identify genuine skill in others. Our subject is right on cue, later adding; “I think what we do is we cheat a little bit and we listen too much to the doctors”.

Attempting to take more responsibility for one’s health is by itself a positive trend. However the reality is that through a combination of poor regulation, apathetic accreditation, unchecked claims and lucrative scams, an industry has grown from marketing “wellness” alongside denialism. A vital skill today is that required to recognise reputable sources and source material. There is so much specialty, knowledge and experience attached to individual areas of health and medicine that ascertaining expert advice is essential.

Such a skill – let’s call it a research skill – by no means only applies to the choices we make around health, medicine and alternatives to medicine. But the amount of information is so vast and varied that intellectual tools independent of the information presented are more than likely to serve us well. More so, we are all subject to cognitive biases such as pattern recognition or emotional resonance such that we may easily hijack our attempt at objectivity.

Thus a research skill that values evidence and source, based upon merit, helps keep both ‘researcher’ and material in check. Those fortunate enough to be familiar with the scientific method apply a more complex type of such thinking. Individual topics and subject matter can be quite complex but appreciating the scientific method itself and it’s impact on scientific consensus is well within the grasp of interested individuals. Enter Scientific Denialism, which I’ve already quite purposely mentioned alongside marketing (or promoting/defending aspects) of the “wellness” industry.

Diethelm and McKee presented a Viewpoint piece in the European Journal of Public Health in 2009 entitled; Denialsm: what is it and how should scientists respond? They cite the definition of Mark and Chris Hoofnagle:

The employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists

The Hoofnagle brothers identify five elements of denialism that are employed alone or together. All five can be found with numerous representations emanating from the anti-vaccination sector.

Conspiracy Theories are employed to dismiss scientific consensus arrived at via the peer review process. Granted, the conspiracies advanced by the bulk of anti-vaccination identities go well beyond this goal into rambling nonsense. The Big Pharma Monopoly conspiracy has become a monster of ludicrous proportion. There are examples of unacceptable conduct and flawed research by pharmaceutical companies, that if presented rationally and sparingly might help support criticism of vaccines or their method of use.

Continually serving to delight critics of the anti-vaccination movement in Australia is perpetual “PhD candidate”, Judy Wilyman of Wollongong University. Her thinking, and consequent tone of argument or demand levelled at government, appears crippled by belief in a vast web of conspiracies. Doctors will lie, research conducted by drug companies is by default corrupt, science advocacy groups are motivated to support this corruption – and by extension the member’s arguments are to be dismissed. The government assisted “crime against humanity” of vaccination is helped along by corrupt media and grieving parents relaying “anecdotes” of infant fatality. This is all designed to entrap the community (for whom Judy speaks) using fear and guilt.

Not surprisingly her supervisor is well known for his authorship of scientific denialism. A strident defender of the anti-vaccine and several conspiracy movements, Brian Martin (of Wollongong University) has written frequently on the topic of supposed scientific dissent. He validates the Hoofnagle brothers observation that the peer review process is to the conspiracy theorist a means to suppress scientific dissent. As I’ve noted before, Martin writes in Grassroots Science:

Dissent is central to science: the formulation of new ideas and the discovery of new evidence is the driving force behind scientific advance. At the same time, certain theories, methods, and ways of approaching the world – often called paradigms – are treated as sacrosanct within the professional scientific community. Those who persist in challenging paradigms may be treated not as legitimate scientists but as renegades or outcasts. […]

For example, there are many individuals who have developed challenges and alternatives to relativity, quantum mechanics, and the theory of evolution, three theories central to modern science. […]

Western medical authorities at first rejected acupuncture as unscientific but, following demonstrations of its effectiveness, eventually accepted or tolerated it as a practice under the canons of western biomedicine, rejecting its associations with non-Western concepts of the body. […]

At the same time, some mainstream medical practitioners and researchers are hostile to alternative health. This is apparent in pronouncements that taking vitamin supplements is a waste of money or in police raids on alternative cancer therapists, the raids being encouraged by mainstream opponents.

Many proponents of alternative health say that mainstream medical science is distorted by corporate, government, and professional pressures. In this context, grassroots medical science presents itself as being truer to the ethos of science as a search for truth unsullied by vested interests.

Brian Martin also happens to excel at that exceptional variant of conspiracy theory known as inversionism. Here one’s own tactics and motivation are attributed to critics or those who can justify the antithesis of one’s argument. In Suppressing Research Data: Methods, Context, Accountability, and Responses Martin writes:

Censorship, fraud, and publication biases are ways in which the availability of research data can be distorted. A different process is distortion of the perception of research data rather than distortion of the data itself. In other words, data is openly available, but efforts are made to shape people’s perception of it.

Although this perfectly describes tactics of the anti-vaccination lobby, Martin is writing about what he argues is a regular process in legitimate science and the peer review process.

Diethelm and McKee note that whilst the proper avenue to validate supposed suppression of dissent is ignored by conspiracy theorists, denialism can and does exploit genuine concerns. For our purposes we may note that unethical and dishonest conduct by pharmaceutical companies has indeed occurred. Also the 2006 CSL trial of Fluvax resulted in just one adverse reaction. “Not usually regarded as an adequate signal of a major safety problem”, according to a TGA spokesperson. That single febrile seizure was equal to 0.37% of the study sample. In hindsight a valid predictor of the 0.33% rate of febrile seizures W.A. experienced in April 2010.

Health authorities and practitioners take evident problems with the pharmaceutical industry very seriously. In the case of vaccination it’s perhaps testament to the addition of truly absurd conspiracies and the overlap with New World Order themes that has seen the anti-vaccination lobby squander a potentially effective means to sew their false doubt.

A second feature of denialism is the use of Fake Experts. An excellent example of this is the appalling HIV/AIDS Rethinkers list. If subject to the criteria of listing individuals actually working in the field of HIV from which the theory being “rethought” is sourced, the list would disappear. So it is with the academic integrity of vaccine denialists.

Some such as Meryl Dorey of the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network simply append the title of expert to themselves. All that’s needed is the familiar claim of having “researched” the subject for “twenty years”, whereas doctors (Meryl assures us) study vaccines for only six hours. Few can validate the Dunning-Kruger effect better by insisting smallpox and polio were merely renamed (part of a conspiracy), vaccines certainly cause autism (thousands of documented cases), SIDS, death, shaken baby syndrome and more.

The use of so-called experts who argue in opposition to established knowledge is spread across a diverse field in the case of vaccine denial. Micropalaentologist Viera Scheibner makes much of her title of “doctor”, deceitfully selling herself as a natural scientist who worked for a state authority. A host of chiropractors already in denial of science based medicine see fit to both parrot the standard anti-vaccine rhetoric whilst arguing the immune system can be specifically modulated by chiropractic.

Anti-vaccine groups pay great attention to scam artists such as Dr. Joe Mercola, Mike Adams and Barbara Loe Fisher of the official sounding National Vaccine Information Center. Father and son team Mark and David Geier promote both the belief vaccines cause autism and an abusive hormonal ‘treatment’. They have authored and co-authored a number of papers attempting to link vaccines to autism. Mark Geier has lost his licence to practice in at least 10 USA states.

Sites such as SaneVax or Age of Autism with Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill seek to continue the attack on reputable scientists and research. In Australia the new AVN president Greg Beattie describes himself as an author having produced bogus claims, misleading data and irrelevant mortality graphs whilst the universally condemned Melanie’s Marvellous Measles was written by anti-health zealot, Stephanie Messenger. Any of these, or similar identities along with the nonsense they write may be produced by anti-vaccine lobbyists to ‘refute’ genuine evidence-based knowledge on vaccination.

Cherry Picking or Selectivity is a practice the anti-vaccination lobby relies heavily on. Sadly, their harvest is so woeful that we are continually treated to Andrew Wakefield’s discredited and withdrawn Lancet paper, from which the fallacious association with autism is fuelled. Additionally an unproven handful of purported dishonesty levelled at his most effective critics or their careers hovers about regularly “vindicating” Wakefield. This by extension proves vaccines do cause autism, a conspiracy rages against Wakefield and the fake experts have been right all along.

Of course selective use of material and events can have enormous impact. Imagine the magazine Mothers For Moonbeams publishes a piece on the W.A. Fluvax episode and the impact on Saba Button presented selectively with concerns about the increase in the number of childhood vaccinations. Add the type of nonsense written by Natasha Bita in August 2012 falsely “linking” ten deaths to Australia’s influenza vaccine, to “PhD candidate” Judy Wilyman’s claim that vaccines are full of lethal “toxins”, and readers’ confidence in influenza vaccination can fall.

We constantly hear of vaccine-injury compensation cases involving autism-like symptoms, misrepresentation of the Bailey Banks case or a finding from an obscure Italian court as evidence vaccines really do cause autism. Similar selections can be made for a range of conditions unrelated to vaccination.

Similarly, alternatives to medicine used to “boost immunity” rely on sparse and often irrelevant research into (for example) St. John’s Wort or vitamin deficiency. It will come as no surprise to those familiar with vaccine denialists that Diethelm and McKee note that the towering isolation of the denialists position does not perturb them. Rather they see this as reason to liken themselves to Galileo.

Impossible Expectations from research are used often to create the illusion of doubt or bias. The infamous cry for a study of unvaccinated vs vaccinated children both suggests the efficacy of vaccines has never been properly established, whilst hinting that the unvaccinated are healthier due to the absence of artificial immunity and vaccine toxins. Not only is this absurd from an ethical viewpoint, methodologically it is nonsensical.

In order to correct for the variable of herd immunity, the unvaccinated sample would need to be isolated. In doing so the sample is rendered entirely unrepresentative of the qualities that supposedly need to be tested. More so this research need not be done. The impact of mass vaccination is clear – particularly with the return of diseases following a drop in vaccine uptake.

Gradually the ‘demand’ that vaccines show a 100% rate of safety and efficacy has emerged in more unreasonable quarters. Combined with the inability to acknowledge that as herd immunity drops, both vaccinated and unvaccinated are at increased risk, this impossible expectation ensures the anti-vaccine lobby can ignore basic community responsibility.

Again with alternatives to medicine or seemingly magical ways to fight disease and boost immunity, it is expected that science – or better yet, quantum science – will explain the mechanism behind promises and testimonials.

Finally Misrepresentation and Logical Fallacies are essential tools of the denialist. A very simple, yet highly effective means of misrepresenting the irresponsibility of vaccine denial has been use of the term “pro-vaccinators”. This conveys the impression that not only does a legitimate debate exist but that those unburdened by the delusion vaccination is harmful, may be motivated by ideology or some other non-evidence based reason.

Meryl Dorey of Australia’s AVN frequently insists to have a database listing death and disability from vaccine injury. This same theme of having a vaccine-injured child is presented by individuals both as a reason to attack vaccination and unleash abuse on those who accept vaccine safety. Indeed the correlation as causation fallacy is a primary of the anti-vaccination movement.

Slippery slope, appeal to authority, straw man arguments, inconsistency and more. Logical fallacies abound. Reductio ad absurdum is favoured commonly in explaining that conventional scientists or medical practitioners will defend vaccination because of their position and not the efficacy and safety of vaccines. On the other hand as Judy Wilyman argues, because areas of some affluence may have low vaccination rates this is proof that doctors do not vaccinate their children. Therefore, they are withholding information.

An example of misrepresentation through inconsistency and non-sequiter is the claim that vaccine preventable diseases were under control before mass vaccination. Heavily doctored graphs using the variable of mortality – not incidence or morbidity – peddle the falsehood that vaccines had no effect on disease whilst improved living standards led to their demise.

Bereft of evidence, vaccine denialists place significant energy in convincing their unfortunate devotees that the very fabric of democracy and the right to “health freedom” is under threat. Donate enough money to the AVN and you can save free speech and ensure looming mandatory vaccination is kept at bay. Evoking anger, disgust and suspicion toward those who challenge vaccine denial is a staple of anti-vaccine groups.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It takes little work to find anti-vaccine articles or identities that present all five aspects of denial in the one argument. Conspiracy theories and fake experts have carved out their own canyon sized themes over the years. Meryl Dorey’s obsession with “real scepticism” and her website aiming to mock scientific skepticism reinforces how effective evidence based deconstruction of her denialism has been.

Ultimately, understanding these tactics and how denialists use them reinforces the argument that accepting to debate a certain topic can be counterproductive. The debater who holds to evidence and argues within the constraints of the scientific method or present consensus, must face an opponent with no regard for truth, logic or bipartisan discourse.

Rather than focus on the topic at hand an effective technique would be to expose the tactics used in vaccine denial. Those engaged in denialism do not deal in evidence or seek to bring about a greater good through the application of truth.

Therefore it’s important that scientific skeptics and health professionals continue to expose vaccine denial for what it is.

As for budding ‘researchers’. They can be rightly satisfied with skills that lead one to reputable source material.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 270 other followers