Australia’s role on the global vaccine stage

Last Thursday evening The University of Melbourne’s Spot Theatre hosted a unique and impressive event.

Australia’s Role In The World is an initiative of UN Youth Australia, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the University of Melbourne. It’s purpose is to “engage young people, academia and the wider public in debate
about major global issues”. The official launch of the initiative was a forum entitled Vaccines To Change The World and made for a perfect Live @ Melbourne event.

The panelists were Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation), Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia, Sir Gustav Nossal, University of Melbourne and Dr Kate Taylor from the Nossal Institute for Global Health. ABC Correspondent, Ben Knight having just returned from the Middle East made for an appropriate and excellent moderator.

When it comes to funding vaccination in developing nations and contributing to vaccine research and development, “Australia punches way above it’s weight”, Seth Berkley informed a large audience shortly into his address. Given the global challenge, and the positive impact of these programmes, this is something to feel good about.

Presently one child dies every 20 seconds from VPD. 270,000 women die annually from HPV related cancer with 85% in developing nations. More so, the percentage of mortality to cervical cancer incidence is disproportionally high in low to middle income nations. HPV vaccine coverage is least in these nations – something GAVI is working to address.

Lower income nations experience higher incidence and mortality from HPV related cancer

With pneumonia and diarrhea the top killers it’s satisfying to know Aussies contribute significantly to the “huge task” of rolling out of Pnuemococcal and Rotavirus vaccines. Along with Hepatitis B, DTP3 and Hib, GAVI has slashed the cost of access. In the case of the Pneumococcal vaccine market GAVI fund 97% of cost as compared to the USA market.

Pneumococcal and Rotavirus vaccines directly target two major child killers

However with 19 million children still missing out on immunisation and 15.4 million of those in GAVI eligible nations, one can appreciate the significance of GAVI’s mission and goals. Along with the mission to save lives and improve health via access to immunisation, GAVI seek to accelerate the uptake and use of underused and new vaccines. Helping strengthen the capacity of integrated health systems will be crucial in achieving this.

One child dies every 20 seconds from a VPD. Of 19 million missing out, 15.4 million are GAVI eligible

Increasing the predictability of global financing and improving the sustainability of national financing for immunisation, along with shaping the vaccine market are GAVI’s final two goals. GAVI also aim to drive equity in vaccine access across the globe. An impressive example of this is the uptake of the Hepatitis B vaccine in the decade from 2000.

High income nations increased uptake from 60% to around 77%. Low income nations shot from just over 5% to 98%. The impact of the consequential lowering of liver cancer incidence, particularly in China which experienced epidemic levels, cannot be understated.

“Only good for junkies and hookers” – anti-vaccination slurs of the HBV vaccine reflect pop culture mentality

This brings into focus how important immunisation is not only in preventing disease but in sustaining economies, and earning potential in adults. Immunised children maintain the health to attend and complete school. Reaching adulthood they have the potential to earn a competitive wage and thus contribute significantly to family income.

Parents need not produce large families to combat childhood sickness and death, or to meet the need for labour and their own care in old age. The cost of a disabled child or adult added to the tragedy of a deceased parent is a reality for many in developing nations. It’s estimated a one year increase in life expectancy equates to increased labour productivity of 4%. In this light it’s been estimated immunisation programmes have a rate of return between 12.4 – 18%.

One study cited by Seth Berkley noted that a fully immunised 11 year old would present with increased IQ, language skills and math testing results. Over time the “democratic dividend” is to invest more in fewer children. Thus we can see that by ensuring healthier children and smaller populations immunisation can pull families, villages, districts and  entire nations from poverty. According to Dr. Kate Taylor 100 million people per year are driven back into poverty due to illness.

Hib meningitis in Kenya’s Kilifi region fell 88% in three years following vaccine introduction

Results from immunisation are undeniable. With a 54% increase in population from 1980 – 2010 came a 95% reduction in diptheria and tetanus cases, a 92% reduction in measles and pertussis and a 97% reduction in polio. $1.3 billion per year is saved due to the absence of smallpox, which is over ten times the cost of the 1979 eradication programme.

When the Global Polio Eradication Programme was launched in 1988, 125 countries were endemic and 350,000 children were paralysed annually. Today only three countries remain endemic. India is an example of strong political will and determination in that two years ago it had the largest number of cases, yet today has been free of polio for a full year.

Rolling out new vaccines to close the immunisation gap is a major GAVI priority

Future challenges for GAVI will be expanding it’s reach and overcoming political apathy to make the most of emerging new vaccines and to roll out those yet to hit the market. The newer the vaccine the higher the percentage of those unimmunised. Poor political will is an obstacle. Part of the answer is to get the public and the global community to care, without placing excessive reliance on ministries of health by also including financial and planning ministries.

Australia is presently the sixth largest supporter of GAVI. Recently, thanks to Kevin Rudd, our commitment rose from $6 million to $250 million in the lead up to 2015. Kate Taylor underscored that private individuals with enormous wealth had dramatically also changed the landscape in securing funding dollars.

As competition drives down vaccine prices quality control in emerging markets is vital

Focusing on two research initiatives Sir Gus Nossal declared, “The future is bright”. Australia is contributing strongly to the “second generation” malaria vaccine, which given that the RTS,S is 56% effective in toddlers, is an essential avenue of pursuit.

Closer to home he mentioned emerging research into a vaccine for Group A Streptococcus. This disease has given Australia the unenviable status of having the highest incidence of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in remote indigenous communities.

Tim Costello reinforced that Australia and AusAID is committed to 0.5% of Gross National Income. Presently Australia has no billionaire analogues to the Bill Gates’ of this world. Letting no-one off the hook, Tim pointed out that, per capita, W.A. also donate the least to charity despite their expanding wealth. Aussies donate 35 cents per $100 of tax payer monies to global charity.

Over 90 or so minutes a fascinating account of Australia’s role in the World was presented by some rather heavy hitters in global charity and health.

Aussies can be proud that an unmistakable message is that when it comes to global vaccine equity, our nation is an accomplished heavy hitter also.

How can anyone doubt? Vaccination Saves Lives.

All slides © GAVI


The Age of Hilarious: Reflections on the growing anti-science movement

When I was a kid, my mum had a sure way of finding out what we meant when describing something as “funny”.

“Funny Ha Ha or funny strange?”, she’d ask, and when suitably availed of an answer could turn her attention to following whatever enormously important point kids tend to make. Looking around today however, “funny strange” is thoroughly outdone by the eerie normality with which faith and belief in demonstrable and dangerous fallacies pass us by.

Using “funny” as our proxy description of weirdness, one may consider the present day feverishness with which cognitive bias is clung to, literally hilarious. In what passes for our first generation and more to have lived in the Space Age, there is an abundance of not just unscientific, but viciously anti-scientific beliefs to choose from. So ubiquitous, so easily tolerated, so poorly regulated is this tsunami of irrationality that one cannot miss that we live now in a new age of hilarious ritual and superstition.

In this Age of Hilarious there are some undeniable and durable trends. From hip healers, to AIDS denial, to scheming chiropractors, to cancer cures, to creationist museums to vaccine denial merchants and even the screaming lunacy of the freedom and conspiracy lovers, one enemy glues them together. Science. Without rattling off the volumes of anti-science movements – many of whom claim to be immersed in science – the same thought justification applies. Science is bad, evil, unnatural, open to unwholesome thinking, an unwelcome intruder upon the family, upon motherhood and upon health.

Its agents are intent on hiding the truth and in exploiting our species. It has destroyed the planet and wants to destroy us. It has permeated so much of our lives that to those worshipping in the Age of Hilarious it’s axiomatic as to how malignant Science is. To use Science – or something tainted with its touch – in thinking or in decision making draws mockery and derision is many circles. It is at once corrupt and the vehicle for the corrupt to continue their corruption. Nonsense has become normal to the point where presenting facts earns inane insults. From Pharma shill in citing undeniable facts on vaccination to Zionist or Jew Boy for querying the logic of 9/11 as an inside job.

Yet despite the pointy ends of these beliefs, the hub from which it all comes probably tells us much about human nature. Those who embark on evidence denial often challenge critics or defend their illogical meandering with the unwarranted observation that Science doesn’t know everything… it can be wrong… the universe is infinite… there’s more to discover… I say “unwarranted” criticism, because no-one knows this better than those who understand science. Nothing else adheres to these observations as strict rules but the Scientific method itself.

I tend to hear this challenge more as a plea. Those who deny evidence with little thought hold to an ideology wherein they want to live in a mysterious universe. Alienated by the ordinary and mundane everyday explanations and foregone conclusions in the Age of Hilarious, they have essentially no notion that so much of what we take for granted now, was once never so. Perhaps a total mystery, a brutal fact of nature, an expensive time wasting ritual of ignorance or a serendipitous discovery.

Today there are so many millions living with so much explanation that the human needs for mystery, discovery or the urge to conquer intellectual fulfillment must certainly go unrealised. Is it so unusual then that an instinctive response may be to create the “unknown” or perhaps do this by denying what is known? To use the term conveniently, if we accept that humans have spiritual needs, nothing defines the denial of evidence and advancement of belief via ignorance better than the Creationist/Intelligent Design movement.

Finally the dots linking Science to Satan were joined. The Discovery Institute’s “anti-evolution” Wedge Strategy for “renewal of science and culture” begins with the breath taking lie:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

Apart from its beaming intellectual revulsion, what strikes me most about the Wedge Strategy is its timing. Ideas from The Enlightenment (1650-1790) helped shape the most famous democratic documents in history. The intellectual forces it released have sustained reason and humanity above many attempts to counter Enlightenment philosophies. Although intellectual resistance began as early as 1800 the Industrial Revolution had already seen science secure its place as indispensable. After the two World Wars of the 20th century, then the Cold War, and the control of polio, science and democratic rights eventually opened the way for the quality of life that provided the luxury to be… well, stupid.

The timing was perfect to have Creationism – later renamed Intelligent Design – introduced as a new scientific area. Or rather, as ancient myths brought to life under the authoritative and credulous banner of Science. Thanks to godless communism and Billy Graham, Pentecostal, Baptist and Evangelical movements were well established. Biblical literalism was (and is) quite absurd but it did not want for believers. At the same time, the space race and the Apollo 11 moon landing succeeded in opening our eyes to new scientific wonders and understanding.

Punctuating this clash, and now forever in history, is the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast of 1968. The first astronauts to orbit the moon took turns to read from the book of Genesis, sending lunar images back to Earth.

By the time the sexual revolution and self discovery of the 1960’s and 70’s had passed, traditional religion offered cold, boring irrelevance. Confidence in mystery, cosmic wonder and supernatural interference had been blasted with knowledge, understanding and explanation. Faith was no longer a noble virtue. It was the absence of evidence and reason. Rather than a scattering of giant intellects condemning the folly of belief, it was an established widespread fact. Even worse the damage and perversion linked to religions was becomming manifest.

Science continued to do amazing things, spitting out new disciplines and knowledge as computer power took its place. Medical science wiped out smallpox in developing nations and extended the human lifespan in developed nations. Alien abductees and spoon benders were being challenged by these chaps known as Skeptics, but it was soon clear a new irrationality had taken root. Suddenly Noah’s Ark was discovered. Then again and again. The Age of Hilarious was upon us.

The ever increasing “natural” alternatives to medicine demanded more respect. Unable to provide evidence to back claims, denial of evidence and attacks on science began. Faith and high risk belief once again offered noble qualities. The alienated could belong. The challenge of ones character that led to such horrors during the middle ages: “How strong is your faith?”, underscored the rising anti-vaccination movement and its many “healing” cousins that in truth, do nothing but delay healing.

On another level the lessons learned from Intelligent Design proponents were being employed deftly by both climate change denialists and those with a vested interest in discrediting climate science. Except in this broadband age the change around from acceptance to denial occurred at breath taking speed. They too have their own “science” – a Global Warming Curriculum designed to undermine genuine science. Rather than the Discovery Institute befouling evolution and biology it’s the Heartland Institute generously funding a violent attack on climate science.

These factors aside the sheer numbers of people that now reject climate change, their high priests and the well established conspiracy language used is compelling stuff. Certainly it resonates well with anti-Enlightenment identities like Miranda Devine, products of The Age of Hilarious, who proceed to damage the field of discourse irreparably. So rigid are her anti-climate devotees a great number sprang to her defence when she blamed the London riots on equal rights and same sex union. The woman writes predetermined right wing vengeance, yet “great piece”, “wonderful article”, “blah blah”, flow across Twitter regardless of topic, as she insults critics with her baton of misplaced importance.

There are the Creationists who speak of climate science in the same tone I speak of war crimes. To confuse the mix other enemies of reason accept climate science not because they have the skill to choose a valid source, but because they are beholden to their misconception of “natural”. Yet far from potential allies in managing the fallout from climate change they contribute to delayed action on their own field of play. Destruction of GM crops. Misguided animal rights. Spreading misinformation about vaccination as a means to population control. It’s not smaller healthier and wealthier families they see emerging to bring developing nations out of poverty. It’s “human culling” via vaccine.

A common factor in all beliefs held by enemies of reason in the Age of Hilarious is the misconception of “research” and “conclusion”. We hear this with so many pseudo-scientific endeavours and particularly with climate denial and vaccine denial. People claim to have spent time researching vaccines, for example, only to follow on with the “conclusion” it’s best not to vaccinate their children. Yet whatever they have read has all the accuracy of that which leads others to deny evolution announcing, “If we evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys around today?”. Or to quote Kent Hovind, he hasn’t seen “a squirrel give birth to a pine cone… a dog give birth to a non dog”.

Vaccine denial relies on the towering ignorance of the over-confident or the thunderous immorality of the callous and cunning. One can accept that it is surely impossible to properly study immunology and that they must trust the scientific consensus. Or alternatively one can crave the nobility of faith, the piety of belief and insist on not being “a sheep”. In truth no amount of reading without evaluation and practice justifies the often heard claims of superior intelligence.

It’s here we need the Dunning-Kruger effect. Rational Wiki describes it briefly and in brutal accuracy:

The Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when incompetent people not only fail to realise their incompetence, but consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. Basically – they’re too stupid to know that they’re stupid

Complicating this further is the in-group thinking that accompanies the anti-science crowds. Consider the Chiropractic Association of Australia. The Australian Homeopathic Association. The Australian Vaccination Network and other organised conspiracy movements. All these groups and many more exhibit a lack of any skill to discern the value of information. Ideology and belief is what drives them. Today, claimed intelligence and the accumulation of knowledge do not make for good decision making.

The sheer volume of information means we are better served by developing the skill to choose what sources to trust. Though I imagine for some they are at an extreme disadvantage. The constant urge for intellectual risk in the supposed realm of the unknown, once served by genuine mysteries, is a cognitive detriment. Hearing someone like Meryl Dorey talk, sets off warning bells like reading a scam Nigerian email offering me untold wealth in the worst grammar possible. Yet for others she is the cult figure that completes the circle of irrational belief.

It seems we develop intellectual tools in the absence of any skill to use them. No doubt that goes for all of us and highlights the importance of critical thinking. Vaccine denial appears in many cases to be justified by stories of cognitive dissonance that are resolved to an eventual cognitive bias which is then fed to the point of a splendid Dunning-Kruger effect. Intellectually the inability to use certain tools most often results in failed comprehension. But combined with the inability to gauge risk the anti-vaccine movement is overseeing a resurgence of disease. Consider this comment approved by Meryl Dorey on The Australian Vaccination Network Facebook page.

Inability to understand risk-benefit is a feature of The Age of Hilarious

The developing world is for those of us in the Age of Hilarious much like where a time machine would take us if we went backward and forward to gather information of vaccine preventable disease (VPD). Today, one child dies every 20 seconds from a VPD. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the biggest killers in developing nations whilst these are prevented by Pneumococcal and Rotavirus vaccines. As the AVN’s Judy Wilyman rails against the HPV vaccine, dismissively citing developed nation levels of cervical cancer the reality is 270,000 women die of HPV related causes annually – 85% in developing nations.

The smallpox vaccine saves $1.3 billion annually – 10 times the cost of the original program. Typhoid kills 200-600,000 per year and in developing nations congenital rubella syndrome still claims 90,000 lives annually. The cost to a family of a disabled child or adult often combined with the loss of a mother is to us, incomprehensible. Vaccination allows for improved health and growth. Children go on to attend and finish school. They contribute to family life and when eventually employed raise the family income to levels usually not dreamed of.

The more children vaccinated the more that live and the more that live the less that must be “produced” by parents to compete with the present law of attrition. In countries with high VPD one doesn’t expect to see children grow. Rather one hopes against the odds enough will grow to sustain a bearable quality of life for the family. With vaccination quality of life improves dramatically. Families, villages, districts and even nations can be pulled from poverty.

The GAVI Alliance – previously Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation – fund 97% of pneumococcal vaccination in developing nations. In the last decade they have pushed hepatitis B vaccination in China above that in Australia and placed a virtual halt on liver cancer.

Yet comfortable in their scientifically endowed lives, fully vaccinated as children and content with two kids, vaccine denialists in developed nations insist the reduction in family numbers and misery is planned genocide. They ridicule charities and sabotage attempts to raise money for, or educate about, the success of vaccination in less fortunate nations, as yet free from the Age of Hilarious. Which raises the question: what are they free from?

A typical example is that recently Mia Freedman wrote an article about the self appointed experts of the anti-vaccine movement. Mia shreds the AVN ticking all the boxes about their false “choice”, the farcical name, the pretend expertise… in fact the truth. One quote I like which applies because the benefits of vaccines are irrefutable is, “In fact there aren’t two sides and there is no debate. On one hand there is science and there is no other hand.”

Dorey went berserk, summoned her flying monkeys and actually had them writing to Mia “from the other side”. The attacks were typical. “What a bl**dy parasitic moron journalist!” commented one. Her article was likened to eugenics, she was a moron, and idiot. She was an ignorant douchebag, rude, self-righteous, uneducated and hateful…. One can only imagine the emails out of the public eye.

Mia tweeted:

To which Dorey shot back “What threats? How about listening to parents of vaccine damaged kids to learn about the other side if (sic) vaccination? YES-2 sides!”. Which is terribly ironic as many have asked to see these crowds of vaccine damaged children that Dorey so liberally exploits. At the same time anyone presenting evidence was banned and their posts deleted – as usual. One member managed to remain leaving:

Mia writes engaging articles with compassion, empathy and humour. Many, many commenters on MM disagree with her position on many issues but as long as they’re not abusive, the comments stay. That’s why she has such a vast audience. You should try it, Meryl. You might find your audience grows instead of shrinking away and hiding on closed websites and Facebook pages.

And (to the author of the above Facebook comment – but not in response to that comment):

… why are you being so mean? You do realise that lots of people – genuinely curious people – will come to this page after reading Mia’s column? If I were you I’d be using the traffic to make a reasoned argument in a friendly forum. Mocking and insulting a well loved and popular writer (even if you disagree with her) is not doing your cause any good.

All in all it continued on for some time. I was riveted at how far the antivaccination movement – or is it just Dorey’s mob – had fallen. I could not find any arguments or attempts at discourse beyond vicious, wailing ad hominem abuse. Dorey wrote her usual scathing personal reply seeming to latch onto two sentences that distort Mia’s intent:

I’m certainly not suggesting we become a flock of sheep or suspend critical thought. But I don’t need to ‘do my research’ before I vaccinate.

Dorey used this to accuse her of being a sheep proffering, “Well duh! If you don’t do your research first Mia, may I suggest you open wide and say baaaaaaaaaa!”

But the full paragraph is clearer:

I’m certainly not suggesting we become a flock of sheep or suspend critical thought. But I don’t need to ‘do my research’ before I vaccinate. Or before I accept that the earth is round and that gravity exists. Scientists far smarter than me have already done that research and the verdict is unanimous, thanks.

Therein lies the impact of Mia’s article. Cries of “I’ve done my research” just don’t cut it with something as irrefutable as vaccination. From a safety viewpoint, it is open to abuse and argument less than regulation of the aviation industry. I would also argue, one needs the skill to discern a reputable source rather than embarking on piecemeal “research”. And in this Age of Hilarious it’s plain that Meryl Dorey is a source of dangerous nonsense.

To top it off Dorey made her seventh appearance on Friday at Conspiracy Central Airwaves aka Fairdinkum Radio. I’ve snipped 3 minutes of grabs below [or MP3 here]. It opens with Leon Pittard criticising science and the “technocracy” we’re moving into. It continues with Big Pharma terror then Dorey attacking Mia Freedman who “is a product of the governments health policy [which is] everyone must vaccinate and we need to fear and hate those who don’t do it”. That’s right dear reader – that’s government policy according to Dorey. Just like racism she contends.

Despite knowing the pertussis vaccine gives dubious immunity and no vaccine is infallible Dorey can’t seem to grasp Mia’s argument that an unvaccinated child is a risk to all Australians, vaccinated or not. Meryl should read this post from a mother whose vaccinated daughter caught pertussis from an unvaccinated child and three months later, “is prone to chest infections, pneumonia, and more susceptible to viruses and Influenza.”

In the same program Dorey again repeats the myth that no children died of pertussis in the ten years to 2009. Reasonable Hank deals with it splendidly. Why she keeps insulting her hosts and listeners like this I don’t really know, only to politely assume it’s linked to the pitfalls of cognitive bias above. Between 1993 – 2008, 16 children under 12 months died from pertussis. Dorey is well aware of this. And so her cult-like cycle of bald faced untruths continues.

French atheist, philosopher and author, Michel Onfray suggests the coming century will be the century of religion. He is probably right, but exactly what form the religions will take and what passes for belief and faith might be hard to recognise by its end. Consider Scientology for a salient example.

Whatever the case it seems that for a number of reasons from human psychology, to arrogance to simple power and profit the Age of Hilarious will persist for a while yet.

Blind chiropractor who fiddled whilst patient lay dying suspended for 12 months

Dr Forte’s title of Doctor does not imply that he has any academic medical qualification. He does not. It is a courtesy title only and, ethically, is only utilised in the context of his chiropractic practice.

From Inquest finding into death of James Halloran, S.A. April 1st 2010

Mario Forte progressively lost his sight over many years.

Although holding a diploma in sports massage and working part time for himself, his loss of vision demanded a professional downgrade. By the mid 1980’s he would see only shades of light and dark. By the late 1990’s he would be totally blind. As a masseuse he would be subject to reviews, retraining, infrequent accreditation and occasional inspection. There would be… standards. Problems were foreseen (no pun intended).

Could there possibly be a related discipline that allowed contact with patients whilst you pretend to be doing something but actually do nothing? Where you just make stuff up and claim it is of the highest standard? Of course – Chiropractic! In 1978 he began training with a qualified chiropractor for a period of three years.

In the same year he began his own practice at home, whilst still working part time with his trainer. In 1979 he was accepted as a member of the United Chiropractors’ Association of Australasia Limited. When the Chiropractors Act 1981 popped up he became registered under it and has remained so ever since.

In December 2006 Mr. James Halloran visited Forte at his practice at the rear of Forte’s elderly father’s address. At some point Mr. Halloran collapsed and became “convulsive, unconscious [and] unresponsive” on the floor. Australian Doctor report that Forte rang a colleague (4 minutes) discussing options. He then rang a local doctor’s practice, whereupon he was advised to call 000. He ignored this advice.

Three minutes later he tried to call another general practice without success. Then he called 000. Time wasted: 9 Minutes. He fetched his elderly father and Forte claims they did their best to administer “late and inadequately executed” CPR.

Forte had guessed Mr. Halloran was suffering an epileptic fit. As he is totally blind and chose to work alone, a couple of problems with this spring to mind. Although he had no idea of Mr. Halloran’s medical history, for my money, if you’ve got to pick something along the spectrum from “practical joke” to “massive stroke or other cardiovascular event”, then epileptic fit is as good as any.

However, the S.A. Health Practitioners Tribunal, past whom no detail no matter how small shall pass without scrutiny noted that Forte was:

… effectively unable to monitor the patient’s vital signs because he was blind

Yay verily. They continue their astonishing insight:

In other words he did nothing effective towards assisting his patient during this time… He could not check pupil dilation and the other things that would depend upon vision, such as skin pallor or foaming at the mouth. The fact that he could not do so and had that limitation should have occurred to him.

Combining up to the minute health practice knowledge and 2 years hindsight of a 37 page Coronial Inquest Report they offer with blistering understatement:

[Even] if Mr Halloran was to die, Dr Forte’s negligence and incompetence remains just as grave, not in respect of the outcome but in respect of the fact that he did nothing.

This last statement is made due to the fact that Forte was cleared of contributing to Mr. Halloran’s death despite the Deputy State Coroner noting:

Dr Forte at times in his evidence had a reluctance to give a responsive answer to the question asked of him and was unduly intractable and argumentative. […]

In the event, I have not needed to resort to the evidence of the admission to make any finding about whether Dr Forte applied force to the cervical spine, but I do say that [“an impressive professional individual and indeed an impressive witness” – an attending paramedic’s] evidence raises a nagging doubt in my mind as to whether Dr Forte was being completely frank with the Court.

In short Forte had admitted manipulating the spine to paramedics yet testified that no such conversation took place and denied manipulation. As it eventuated the cause of death could not be isolated to having originated from his manipulation. There was pathology evidence pointing to a vertebral artery embolus that had originated elsewhere. This could have caused a respiratory arrest followed by a cardiac arrest. But this cannot be determined. The rare event of vagal inhibition leading to cardiac arrest was raised and dismissed.

In any event death resulted from lack of oxygen to the brain as a probable and direct consequence of Forte’s apathy. From the Inquest finding:

One thing that Dr Gilbert was certain about was that the global brain injury suffered by Mr Halloran was entirely consistent with his cardiac arrest and the consequent lack of oxygen delivery to the brain during that hypoxic period. Dr Gilbert suggested that a brain could survive without oxygen and not be damaged for a period of the order of 2 to 3 minutes. […]

If he was obtaining effective CPR, the 9 minutes that had been suggested might not be regarded as a full 9 minutes of hypoxia. The damage to the brain might not be as extensive as it would be if there had been a period of 9 minutes without CPR. Nine minutes of deprivation of oxygen would, however, involve a lethal insult to the brain and would cause a global severe anoxic injury incompatible with life. […]

All that said, it will be remembered that whatever the position was, Mr Halloran did suffer a severe global anoxic brain injury which signifies very strongly that there was a significant period of time following his cardiac arrest during which he was receiving no oxygen regardless of the competence of any CPR.

It must be noted that the emergency dispatch operator had offered to give CPR instructions to Forte’s parents who were present. Forte agrees with this. CPR was not commenced until 19 minutes after Forte called the other chiropractor to discuss options. At a minimum Forte spent 13 minutes alone with the deceased before physically going to fetch his parents.

However long beforehand Forte had taken guessing an epileptic fit is simply not known. His information is, for whatever reason, flawed. There were two emergency calls, the second including the offer of CPR instructions, yet he at first insisted there had been only one. The paramendic observed “very, very blue” extremities suggesting no effective CPR had taken place. Forte holds a lapsed St. John’s First Aid certificate.

This tragic event highlights much of what is wrong with the pseudoscience of chiropractic masquerading as a health provision service. There is no question of Forte’s ability to manage and triumph over his blindness. Yet one must seriously query exactly what support or interventions were instigated on behalf of the Chiropractic Association and the more responsible Chiropractic Board of Australia to address Mario Forte’s obvious needs and the consequential risk to each and every of his patients. This in turn raises serious questions about accreditation and basic standards.

Let me spell it out. How the hell can a practising chiropractor not hold a current First Aid certificate? There is simply no excuse.

Ill people are fooled by the abuse of the title “Dr.” and the absurdly ambitious claims made by this careless, arrogant and woefully trained sham discipline. Had proper CPR been administered and anoxic brain injury averted Mr. Halloran may likely be alive today. A method for coping adequately with such events should have been available and well drilled. Despite Forte’s shortfalls as an honest witness he has certainly been failed by his profession.

As for the cause of Mr. Halloran’s cardiac arrest we can only glean a possible hint from 3.6 of the Inquest report:

Mr Halloran had not consulted Dr Forte prior to the occasion in question. It is not known whether, at any time prior to Mr Halloran’s arrival at Dr Forte’s clinic, Mr Halloran had any appreciation of the fact that Dr Forte was blind, but it would have been obvious once he arrived.

Obvious indeed.


Scott Hedges from FIRIS chats on ABC Ballarat

Thurs. March 15th, 2012: Scott Hedges chats with Steve Martin during Mornings on ABC Ballarat about the Fairness In Religions In School campaign.

Catch up on the VCAT hearing.

  1. What’s going on at VCAT? – Dr. Meredith Doig, President of the Rationalist Society of Australia.
  2. Mike Stuchbery, Live Blogging – The Final Showdown
  3. Christians pray for VCAT ruling – Amber Wilson
  4. Trust kids when it comes to religious teaching – Dick Gross
  5. Victorian Humanists – Test case on religious discrimination
  6. Mail from Belfast
  7. ABC Law Report [MP3]:


“The one we serve (Jesus) is the same yesterday, today and forever. And his purposes (converting humanity) will not be thwarted!” (Forward Together Rally 2011)

“What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost”.

“It’s important that the church recognize its commission is to make disciples. Our young people need Christ”.

“What a commandment, make disciples (of school children). What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given. Let’s go for it!

Scott Hedges Interview – ABC Ballarat

Part of the crowd outside VCAT on March 1st

Judy Wilyman’s Vaccine Woo

Coincidence is not science – Judy Wilyman, June 30th 2010

According to conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine lobbyist Judy Wilyman, it is a “scientific fact” that “the chemicals” in vaccines and vaccines themselves have “synergistic, cumulative and latent effects”.

Most of us are familiar with the latent effect/s of vaccines. Prevention of disease and death spring to mind. Combined? Prevention of multiple diseases, passing them on to tiny babies or those who cannot be vaccinated. Yet Judy is pushing a barrow of malignancy. Cumulative effects are the cause of many ills, Judy claims. With vaccines widely used for 80 years, her evidence then, must be compelling. She states:

There is no measure of delayed responses of vaccines or long term health studies of children monitoring the combined effects of vaccines. That’s the hard evidence that we would need to say this programme is safe

Oh. Perhaps not.

Download MP3 from W.A. July 30th, 2010 or listen (quote at 21min 30s):

Wilyman claims diseases were reduced before vaccination and health department records show a rarity of adverse reactions. But of course, “often this link is denied”. Her evidence then, must be compelling. Nah – just kidding.

I previously wrote a little on the W.A. Woo Fest that Professor Fiona Stanley described as “bizarre” and ”so misinformed that it is scary”. I stuck to question one of the two that Judy reckons define “the context and the ethics” of immunisation programmes.

  1. Did vaccines play a significant role in controlling and reducing infectious diseases?
  2. What is in a vaccine?

No doubt the ghastly constituents of vaccines will be equally misrepresented. “This generation of children is the unhealthiest yet”, Judy intones failing to offer a definition of chronic illness or any insight into the massive leaps in diagnostic technology and paediatric medicine.

Obesity is a major chronic health problem in today’s children and it alone ushers in many more complications. Poor diet and restricted activity have a permanent effect upon the development of the endocrine system, in turn effecting fat and sugar metabolism. Unsurprisingly diabetes is more common.

Prolonged periods of sitting (including recreational choices) can lead to problems from chronic constipation to poor perfusion and oxygenation of peripheral tissues to the rare but steadily increasing incidence of childhood thromboses. Increases in long distance travel have brought an awareness of the importance of regular leg movement in adults. There is a delicate balance between haemodynamic pressure, lymphatic function and venous flow related to movement. Vaccination is not to blame.

Judy would have fun explaining why Vaccine Preventable Diseases make the list of childhood diseases on the increase in developed nations, following reduction in immunisation. Or the success of the Hib vaccine in controlling that disease in just 12 years. Rotavirus is not linked to intestinal problems in infants. Despite telling her audience in W.A. that the influenza vaccine may be more dangerous than influenza itself, last September 115 deaths from ‘flu were reported in the USA. Wilyman:

In epidemics where there is only a small risks to individuals from the disease then the risk of the vaccine may be greater. Particularly if multiple vaccines are being used – and this is the case with influenza. Influenza is not a serious risk for the majority of children

Judy goes on to misrepresent thimerosal and other preservatives (formaldehyde) “which are known to cause neurological and immunological diseases”. Thimerosal is in only two childhood vaccines. Bemoaning formaldehyde exposure is as outrageous as it is ridiculous. A backyard BBQ burning old wood off-cuts or timber fixtures would produce many thousands of times that of a lifetime of vaccination. It’s typical misrepresentation of how much dose makes a poison.

Antibiotics which “we know are linked with allergies and anaphylaxis” are other terrible ingredients. The same with aluminium which is also “linked to auto-immune diseases”. Judy omits telling the audience that breast feeding over a 6 month period exposes an infant to 2.5 times the amount of Al from vaccination. Formula delivers 10 times the amount whilst Soy formula introduces 40 times the amount of aluminium.

Exactly how an infant can deal with ingesting 40 times the aluminium as via vaccination over the same period without being poisoned, is of no moment to antivaccine lobbyists. Presumably they imagine the hanky panky “natural” approach via digestion is a fail safe. Yet ingested Al certainly makes it to the blood stream and is excreted the same way as any source of Al – the third most abundant element and most abundant metal in nature. We excrete all but 1% that we’re exposed to over a lifetime.

Judy goes on to link “autoimmune diseases” such as diabetes, autism, arthritis, M.S., lupus and thyroidism to pathogens in vaccines. You see, the hanky panky digestion caper means pathogen proteins would naturally enter the stomach as amino acids. But injected these whole proteins produce auto-antibodies and cause autoimmune disease.

In case you missed it Judy has seemingly discovered that autism is an autoimmune disease, whilst the rest of the world’s researchers claim it has no known etiology. Which is also at odds to Dorey’s claim of acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis and other instances of encephalitis being the cause. Their unique impact is graphed below.

Source: Theoretically Speaking

Judy also blames allergies and anaphylaxis on vaccination. Yet incidence of anaphylaxis is documented at 0.65 cases per million vaccinations. Larger studies have also found less than one case per million vaccines and no deaths attributed to the immunizing agent. However 500 cases per one million are attributed to eggs, tree nuts, cows milk, wheat, soybean, fish, shell fish, sesame, peanuts, latex, insect stings and anesthesia.

Allergies are also blamed on vaccines by Judy, despite greater intensity, duration and frequency already being linked to climate change. In fact everything is blamed on vaccines – even speech delay regardless of diagnostic criteria changing markedly in recent years. Other developmental delays include ADHD. Despite very few viable candidates for asthma, but many well known triggers that’s also squeezed into her discovery portfolio. All down to vaccine ingredients that parents are not warned about, according to Judy Wilyman.

Wilyman loves to quote government sources when it suits her but omits that The Australian Immunisation Handbook notes:

Research has constantly replicated no link in the following:

  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and any vaccine.
  • autism and MMR vaccine.
  • multiple sclerosis and hepatitis B vaccine.
  • inflammatory bowel disease and MMR vaccine.
  • diabetes and Hib vaccine.
  • asthma and any vaccine.

Being “an independent researcher” and fond of her “PhD researcher” title Judy would be aware of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety’s position on Hepatitis B vaccination and Multiple Sclerosis:

The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has concluded that there is no association between administration of the hepatitis B vaccine and multiple sclerosis (MS). Since 1982, hepatitis B vaccine has been given to over 500 million people around the world. The hepatitis B vaccine is the first and only vaccine that prevents liver cancer by preventing hepatitis B infection.

It would seem Judy consciously rejects accepted material for that which is clearly baseless. Despite this mad scramble to blame almost every childhood ailment on vaccination, Wilyman has forgotten her hypocritical quote above. “Coincidence is not science”. In an evidence vacuum, her “synergistic, cumulative and latent effects” simply do not exist.

Despite the coincidences and claimed conspiracies, Judy Wilyman is yet to produce the science.