A casual review of anti-vaccine submissions pertaining to the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015, reveals a striking repetition of unsubstantiated or demonstrably false claims, mixed with more of the misguided beliefs that have brought Australia to this point in the first place.
The most prominent theme backed by deceptive pseudoscience or distortion of genuine science is that vaccines are harmful. More so they are either not needed due to the wonders of modern snake oil or have never had the dramatic impact on the scourge of vaccine preventable diseases, that they have indeed irrefutably had. Vaccines are however, capable of causing the diseases the public is deceived into believing they prevent, and go on to enable their spread.
A while back I touched on the triumphant antivaccinationist claim of “having done my research”. I suggested a lack of critical thinking and cognitive bias left a great deal of these “researchers” incapable of discerning reputable source material from nonsense. That the unwary reader is presented with huge volumes of championed material, yet lacks the rather vital tools of cognition to identify and trust the genuine expert. This is a fast track to accepting opinion (or worse) as fact.
Tim Harding tackles this problem in more depth and with far more care than I, in his article How Dr Google spawned a new breed of health ‘experts’. Harding identifies key elements contributing to this phenomenon. Under the heading Misunderstanding democracy, he writes;
Reducing the influence of experts is sometimes mistakenly described as “the democratisation of ideas”. Democracy is a system of government — it is not an equality of opinions.
While the right of free speech prevents governments from suppressing opinions, it does not require citizens to treat all opinions equally or even take them into account. Equal rights do not result in equal knowledge and skills.
Deakin University philosopher Dr Patrick Stokes has argued the problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that it has become shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” without justification; and that disagreement is somehow disrespectful.
Dr Stokes suggests that this attitude feeds into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.
The truth and import of Dr. Stokes’ observation of false equivalence between experts and non-experts is a reality I feel we should readily accept. Skeptics and science advocates have experienced and will continue to experience such when it comes to the anti-vaccination lobby.
In recent weeks this lobby has accused its critics of being worse than Nazis. They have launched a concerted attack against the families and grieving parents of infants lost to pertussis. They have produced memes likening vaccination to rape – and defended criticism of this. Whilst less insulting but no less ludicrous they’ve insisted democracy in Australia is dead.
Yet they never doubted their democratic right to swamp the No Jab, No Pay Social Services Amendment process with submissions accommodating a host of patently ridiculous, fallacious and time wasting material.
Some don’t know they are parroting nonsense. Meryl Dorey’s old trick attacking pertussis vaccine efficacy pops up here and there. 1991 was the first year for compulsory notification of pertussis cases, which were recorded by the National Notifiable Surveillance Diseases System. 1991 was a different time. Not all health professionals were logistically prepared to diagnose, much less report pertussis cases. Sensitivity of diagnostic equipment was magnitudes less than today. This was five years prior to the Immunise Australia campaign, launched by Michael Wooldridge.
So the deception runs that in 1991 with only around 71% of 0-6 year olds vaccinated, there were only (according to one submission) 347 cases. In fact there were only that many cases reported. NNSDS pertussis figures for 1991 still creep up at about five per year. 1991 notifications in 2012 are 332. This year to date: 345. The same submission goes on to report that in 2011 with a 95% pertussis vaccine uptake in 0-6 year olds, “there were 38,725 cases of whooping cough”.
Notice the age of vaccination is the 0-6 years cohort, but the pertussis notification figure is Australia wide. This includes overseas visitors, workers and new arrivals who brought the infection with them.
And of course by 2011 it’s not that PCR testing can detect Bordetella pertussis in samples hundreds or thousands of times smaller. And days older. Or that practitioners are constantly on the lookout for signs, or that documentation of notification is meticulous. Or sciencing in this field is better and faster.
Or that it is therefore significant that last year’s total of 11,866 (approx. 700 more than 2005) is comparatively low, and the high figures collated for 2009 – 2011 reflect the national outbreak that is reported as beginning in Meryl Dorey’s backyard. NB: article uses a number of media sources.
Nay. It’s the vaccine whatdunnit, dear reader, and Meryl Dorey has been peddling that lie and tripping up people who “do their research” for years. She never has replied to my January 2012 email wherein I step by step showed her how she pulled off this trick.
Vaccines it is argued, still cause autism. One may read that “autism-like symptoms” are in fact autism. That the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has compensated cases of autism arising from vaccination. This is most certainly untrue. The VICP continue to deny ever having compensated any individual for autism caused by vaccination.
Whilst terms such as “autism-like symptoms” are used the Compensation Program at no time refers to anything like “autism arising from vaccination” or “autism as a result of vaccination”. The Pace Law School scandal is deconstructed here. Meryl Dorey’s fraudulent addition of the word “[Autism]” to the US Court of Federal Claims case file dealing with the case of Bailey Banks is documented here. Sadly it is not realistic to think these claims have not influenced opinion in some.
Across the internet the false tale of 83 vaccine induced autism cases, compensated by the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program will pop up. It refers to a paper written by Pace Law School Students entitled, Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A review of compensated cases of vaccine induced brain injury.
Reading the document reveals ample use of terms such as “settled cases suggesting autism”, “language that strongly suggests autistic features”, “published decisions that used terms related to autism”, “payment of vaccine injured children with autism”, and not – as Seth Mnookin pointed out – “because of their autism”. More so, the authors spend some time arguing why there should be no distinction between autism and autism-like symptoms. This is a major concession they award themselves.
The paper includes caregiver opinion, parental opinion, phrases from doctors who gave evidence at hearings and provides a case table of “Language suggesting autism or autistic-like symptoms”. A notable concern is referencing The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic  by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill.
This issue of insisting “autism-like symptoms” should be accepted as autism may have an intuitive feel to it but would ultimately reap an injustice on individuals involved. If we consider patients who have experienced brain injury from head trauma, stroke, near drowning or drug overdose, each may present with near identical symptoms. However the mechanism of brain injury is different and demands specificity of treatment.
So it is with autism. Diagnosis, treatment and prognosis are not opinions one can choose. Other erroneous opinions we find as a result of anti-vaccine research lean towards the legislative change being an abuse of rights and freedoms. It is an abuse of our constitution. Vaccines, being poisonous and responsible for chronic disease in children will reap harm because natural is best whilst chemicals and toxins are bad.
In fact the submissions rejecting No Jab, No Pay appear to be a cornucopia of all anti-vaccine misinformation. The authors have indeed “done their research”.