We deserve to see the evidence that vaccinating for all these diseases is good and necessary for the community
Judy Wilyman, June 30th 2010
Read the above statement from prominent antivaccination lobbyist and student Judy Wilyman. It’s a reasonable observation. Defending it would be admirable. Fortunately I don’t have to because the evidence, not only for the success of mass vaccination, but of how this prevents death and disability from disease is readily available.
In fact the success of vaccination is so ubiquitous that vaccines themselves have become a victim of it. Judy Wilyman doesn’t understand she is one of the most fortunate human beings in history. Well into the future even after she dies, billions will dream of the quality of life Judy Wilyman enjoys. Born into the affluence of a developed nation she has lived an entire life protected by medical science, robust economies and public health success stories.
Judy Wilyman is one of the luckiest individuals in one of the luckiest generations in one of the luckiest nations as a mere single offspring of around 107 billion human beings to have lived and died on this planet. She is inestimably healthier, more comfortable, more free and importantly more disease free than around 99% of our species to have seen the sky. With her life protected by her own and others vaccine induced immunity, and now already almost twice the age that genetic predisposition alone permits on this planet, Judy will live on for years enriching her life and exploring any manner of experience.
Every day vaccine success is all around her. It’s invisible. It is the absence of suddenly missing school friends, the grief that parents would bear, the devastation that ravaged cities in the late 17th and 18th centuries. It is the message of those little mossy tombstones I passed that, on rare visits to older family graves, my father would stop and read with reverence long before I knew how to read at all.
It’s removed the throat choking sadness that incredibly meant both my maternal grandparents were long dead and even more years passed before their grandchildren discovered they had an uncle on that side of the family. The only male and last born, he had died within weeks of his birth taking with him my grandfather’s dream of passing on a farm.
Vaccine success is the absence of tears often shed. Tears Often Shed child health and welfare in Australia from 1788, published in 1978 was written by Dr. Brian Gandevia. I’ve heard Wilyman reach into the past to condemn vaccines by misrepresenting the scientific context of the times and wonder if she passed this by on purpose. In 1800 Botany Bay held about 1,000 children, half being orphans. Infant mortality was 11% – over 20 times what it is today. In 1827 pertussis appeared, then measles then diphtheria. Mortality was high.
By 1880 Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane had children’s hospitals. That year a measles outbreak hit Sydney. Henry Lawson’s 1899 poem entitled Past Carin’ reflects the tragedy of harshness in Australian living at that time. This is a short out-take:
Our first child took—a cruel week in dyin’, …
I’ve pulled three through and buried two
Since then—and I’m past carin’.
Judy Wilyman weaves myth and junk science to justify make-believe notions that we are not allowed to see the evidence of vaccine success. All the time unaware that she is this evidence. In more ways than one also. Not only is Judy here due to vaccination regimes and medical science, but the vacuum left by the need to simply survive is being filled by the fantastic fraud and fiction that Wilyman produces to malign vaccination itself.
So absolute has vaccine success been that we can now turn our attention to the rarity of the potential of an adverse event. Unlike Lawson, we’re not “past carin'”. In an era of health luxury we can choose what to care about, and with disconcerting ease antivaccinationists, divested of evidence, play human emotion.
Abuse of innocent Australians:
Her W.A. State Library talk was a hack job of the worst vaccine myths on offer. Yet supposedly worth retelling because Wilyman is studying to complete a PhD in an Arts faculty and labels herself “an independent researcher who has been scouring the peer reviewed journals for 10 years”.
At the same talk Wilyman allows a glimpse into ego clashing with conspiracy beliefs:
If vaccination was based on science then the media would not have to work so hard to suppress the information. You will notice the media reports rely on discrediting individuals and organisations and running fear campaigns to encourage parents to vaccinate. Did they mention in the papers that myself and [redacted] are both PhD researchers? Did they mention that the lowest vaccination rates in Perth are… where the majority of doctors and other professionals live? No. This topic is about the control of information.
That final appeal to authority is meaningless. It is a myth that “doctors don’t vaccinate”. Economic advantage has not only been firmly linked to the Dunning-Kruger effect but we’ve known since last century that the same demographic refuse to register their children on the Australian immunisation register, or complete appropriate forms. Linear skill sets (job training) and consequent income rises correlate to big mortgages, not critical thinking.
Moving beyond this slur on class status, Judy works quite hard to evoke a feeling of manipulation and abuse of personal rights in her audience. She produces a slide of the Australian Framework for Environmental Health Risk Assessment.
At the top is “community consultation”. Has anyone here been consulted on a preventative measure such as vaccination for the health of your child? The public is being excluded from this process because we’re told it’s a medical procedure. So I’m asking you tonight why are you vaccinating? Are you vaccinating because you have a good idea of the risk of disease and the risk of vaccines or are you vaccinating through blind faith?
I hate to interrupt but this is a gross deception played on her audience. What a set up! Nothing on the impact of vaccine preventable disease (VPD). Nothing on risk benefit. This comes well after claiming herself and Meryl Dorey are presenting “peer reviewed science” that proves there’s no evidence to support vaccination. They will tell the real story, not the contrived story the government and media tell. “The government treats vaccines as if they have no harmful effects at all”, Judy claims.
This makes Definition of adverse events following immunisation, published by the Australian government along with Post-vaccination procedures (focused on adverse effects) and reports on the surveillance of Adverse Events Following Immunisation in Australia quite puzzling then. Judy also claims “They are promoted as if we can put as many as we like into our bodies without harm”.
Convinced that the government “coerces” Australians into vaccination Judy argues vaccination is a human rights issue, that (with incentives) she described recently as “a crime against humanity”. In order to understand Wilyman’s primary deception it’s crucial to note her invention is that we live in an Orwellian type society that forces coercive and mandatory vaccination. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are free to be as stupid as we wish and place our children in as much danger from vaccine preventable disease as this madness allows. Even better, we can spread exposure to countless others who had no choice in the matter and belittle those who protect our children with herd immunity as “vaccinating through blind faith”.
Quoting “the health ethics that our immunisation principles are based upon” Wilyman then misleads her audience [bold mine]:
“The state retains the authority to regulate the human body in order to protect the health and safety of the general public”.
So it is the government that’s deciding how many vaccines we can put into our bodies
Even though this is complete codswallop, it prompts Judy to come up with two questions that set “the context and the ethics of these fundamental principles”.
- Did vaccines play a significant role in controlling and reducing infectious diseases?
- What is in a vaccine?
Let’s focus for now on question 1.
Abuse of Australian History:
Judy is a champion of the misconception that a reduction in overall death rates is proof that improved living standards, and not vaccines, controlled and reduced infectious diseases. Her abuse of the work of early public health authorities is demonstrably hypocritical. Let’s examine her abuse of J.H.L. Cumpston and H.O. Lancester. To Wilyman they “confirm” vaccines did not reduce infectious disease. Cumpston (1880-1954) was Australia’s first Commonwealth Director-General of Health. Known as “the father of public health in Australia” he features prominently in Child Health Since Federation written for the Australian Year Book 2001 by a present day population health scientist.
That scientist would be Professor Fiona Stanley. Founding Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research she has been receiving awards now for 17 years, and refers to both Cumpston and Lancester in this work. Former Australian of the year professor Stanley is mocked and abused mercilessly by Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network for “aggressive commercialisation activities of the Telethon Institute“, being paid off by Big Pharma, hiding the truth and experimenting on children.
She was “invited” by Judy Wilyman to attend the very seminar I’m referring to now. Two days later interviewed on air, Stanley referred to the views presented by Dorey and Wilyman as “bizarre” and “so misinformed that it is scary”.
- Professor Fiona Stanley speaks about the “so-called” Australian Vaccination Network in Perth
It’s offensive that Wilyman demeans sound legislation and state authority to control disease, just before invoking Cumpston’s name. As Stanley writes in Child Health Since Federation [bold mine]:
He [Cumpston] oversaw the most spectacular falls in mortality and morbidity ever seen in Australia. […]
Essential to this movement was an expert bureaucracy to research, create and administer policy… Other essential ingredients for the success of the public health movement was a competent and independent (from State) group of medical practitioners, devoted to the care of the sick, but willing to accept State interventions for both public health improvements and care (the latter of course on their terms). […]
Throughout the early 20th century, as bacteriology developed, knowledge grew of the role of organisms in disease, and the focus of public health shifted to identifying disease in individuals and control by isolation (quarantine), which opened the way to mass vaccination.
With improvements in sanitation and quality of life came healthier people. Recovery from disease increased and thus mortality fell. But no widespread immunity or viral elimination occurred. Better nutrition certainly increased host resistance to infection. J.H.L. Cumpston died in 1954 just as vaccine success took off.
Citing Ada and Isaacs, Stanley writes:
Infectious deaths fell before widespread vaccination was implemented. However, since the 1950s, mass vaccination has been the single most effective public health measure to reduce the occurrence of infections, to reduce child deaths and to improve child health
There is of course no doubt that access to good nutrition, clean water, public awareness of cleanliness leading to reduced contact with infecting organisms (good hygiene) and a cleaner environment led to improved health. Yet there is no evidence of vaccination as anything but the greatest single contributor to public health. Lancaster as cited by Wilyman (page 6) actually refers to “gastroenteritis, respiratory and other infections”. This in no way supports her claim that vaccines played no role in reduction of disease.
Wilyman is deceptive in other ways also. When writing on pertussis (linked above – page 6 again) her choice of target is 1954 when the NHMRC advised that pertussis vaccine become routine for new born babies. But fatality had fallen to only 15 deaths per year bemoans Judy.
She avoids informing readers that in the 10 years to 1955, 429 deaths occurred (p.2). In the previous decade – that in which the vaccine was introduced (1936-1945) – 1,693 deaths from pertussis were recorded. In the decade before with no vaccine? 2,808 deaths. So, since the vaccine was actually introduced fatalities had been declining dramatically. Period.
Abuse of Alfred Russel Wallace:
Wilyman refers to Alfred Russel Wallace as “the co-designer of the evolutionary theory with Charles Darwin” and mentions his work, Vaccination a Delusion. If anything exposes Wilyman’s lack of scientific rigor it is the abuse of history and the Victorian antivaccination movement. Wallace himself and his three children were vaccinated. His interest in the movement began once his natural science writings had finished. Whilst a source of income, Wallace was also driven by his spiritualism, social reformist views and Swedenborgianism.
Unlike today’s antivaxxers, the Victorian movements based their position on notions and quantitative approaches that were entirely rational for the day. Science itself was unsettled. One approach was prone to blend with spiritualism (experimental psychology, evolutionary biology, and astronomy), liberty and holistic notions. Another took the view that science should be objective, disinterested, factual and that politics should remain separate.
More so, repeated prosecution from 1867 for not being vaccinated against smallpox or having ones children vaccinated was ruthlessly followed through with. Methods like arm to arm vaccination were high risk and equipment (pins, forks, knives and needles) spoke for themselves. But despite his spiritual leanings Wallace was a scientist. An empiricist. He deplored shoddy record keeping and bad statistics – especially assumptions.
So he set to work challenging the gaping holes in epidemiological data. The vaccine status of between 30-70% of people who died from smallpox was unknown. Not because vaccination failed but records were unreliable or absent. Wallace himself probably had good reason to doubt the disease status of fatalities as recorded by doctors. Thomas Weber looked into Wallace’s role here and concluded in part.
The numerical arguments used by Wallace and his opponents were based on an actuarial type of statistics, i.e., the analysis of life tables and mortalities. Inferential statistics that could be more helpful in identifying potential causes did not yet exist. The statistical approach to the vaccination debate used by Wallace and his opponents could simply not resolve the issue of vaccine efficiency; thus, each side was free to choose the interpretation that suited its needs best. However, despite its indecisive outcome, the debate was a major step in defining what kind of evidence was needed. It is also unjustified to portray the debate as a controversy of science versus antiscience because the boundaries between orthodox and heterodox science we are certain of today were far less apparent in the Victorian era. What the scope and methods of science were or should be were topics still to be settled.
So Wallace had many reasons to challenge vaccination in his time, none of them related to the evidence we have today. Indirectly he helped bring about the success of vaccination as we see it presently. Ever the empiricist there is no doubt how he would form his views with contemporary evidence. Wilyman’s appeal to authority this way is quite silly.
Ultimately Judy Wilyman reinforces the success of vaccination. She has no evidence based argument and shockingly has recycled these old myths for years, masquerading as “an independent researcher”. Without fiction she would have little to say. Despite the cloak and dagger tales of “crimes against humanity” and “government coercion” she is simply free. Free to speak, free to be wrong. Completely democratically free.
Judy Wilyman represents the best in Aussie freedom. The freedom to be stupid.