Last week AstraZeneca announced demonstrated varying efficacy in two different dosing regimens of its candidate COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222 (ChAdOx1 nCOV-19).
In a November 23rd press release [PDF] the company announced efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose and followed by a full dose at least one month later. This sample group had 2,741 subjects. Vaccine efficacy of 62% was evident when two full doses of AZD1222 were given at least one month apart. This was observed in a sample group of 8,895. They also announced a “combined efficacy” averaging 70% in a sample of 11,636.
Whilst this sounded like a positive outcome it soon became apparent that the Oxford-AstraZeneca team still had hurdles to clear. It emerged later that the dose regimen yielding efficacy of 90% was given by mistake. This wasn’t made clear in the press release. The first dose should have been a full dose but due to a “manufacturing issue” only half of the expected dose was given. Regulators were told at the time and agreed the trial could continue with the immunisation of more volunteers. It is problematic that the trial wasn’t designed to test this regimen and less than 3,000 subjects aged 55 or less were involved. In order to validate the results another study examining the efficacy of the regimen will take place.
The other problem was the notion of “combined efficacy”. These data come from two different trials with different dosing regimens. One trial arm in the UK began in May. The Brazilian trial arm began in late June. So this information has not come from a single large Phase III trial as was the case with Pfizer and Moderna. Averaging efficacy from two different trials to yield “combined efficacy” of 70% is not acceptable. This doesn’t provide a sound assessment of what level of efficacy, or regimen, the public can expect. So again, further trials are needed. Also press release is not the vehicle to present scientific information and the AstraZeneca issue is an example of how problematic this can be. Study specifics that have been peer reviewed carry far more weight.
Which raises a point made by Norman Swan on today’s Coronacast that rumours are circulating, apparently with very little confirmation, that suggest Oxford-AstraZeneca are rushing to publish. He referred to a Financial times article which reported on Saturday;
Regulators and the rest of the world will soon have the full data. The Oxford academics who developed the vaccine have submitted a paper setting out their full Phase 3 results to The Lancet medical journal. They will be working over the weekend to answer questions from the journal and its referees and the article could be published as early as Thursday [UK time].
Concern and criticism about transparency and trust has been raised, particularly in the USA. Natalie E. Dean, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida posted a series of tweets on November 25th. Apart from transparency, concern about scientific rigour was raised. Her tweets included;
AstraZeneca/Oxford get a poor grade for transparency and rigor when it comes to the vaccine trial results they have reported. This is not like Pfizer or Moderna where we had the protocols in advance and a pre-specified primary analysis was reported.
The point about protocols in advance, along with the fact that AstraZeneca was one of nine vaccine makers to sign a scientific rigour pledge in September was raised in a highly critical article by Hilda Bastian writing in Wired. The article goes into the Phase III trial arms in depth and the manner in which Oxford-AstraZeneca has deviated from their trial protocol. Comparisons are made to the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine at 90% efficacy and the Moderna vaccine at almost 95% efficacy. Bastian certainly casts them in a positive light. These two companies use messenger-RNA as the vector in their COVID-19 vaccines. Oxford-AstraZeneca use an adenovirus vector in their vaccine. How variously each approach effects COVID-19 vaccine efficacy is presently unknown. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine results were also made public by press release.
It’s important to note that the FDA has argued a vaccine must be at least 50% effective to be useful in combating the pandemic. Whilst concern has been raised about the AstraZeneca situation it is over efficacy and not safety. The fact that regulators will accept an efficacy of at least 50% was noted by Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s executive vice president for research, who dismissed concerns. AstraZeneca also want to alter the specifics of the US trial under the auspices of Operation Warp Speed. The aim is to change the two full dose regimen to a half dose, full dose regimen.
Certainly further successful trials are well within AstraZenecas grasp. The BMJ recently published COVID-19 vaccines: where are the data? The article examines the position of the three recent candidate vaccines and what is expected through peer-reviewed publication. The UK government has asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to evaluate authorising supply of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The cold chain needs of each vaccine vary. The Pfizer candidate requires storage at -70 degrees Celsius. This alone provides a challenge difficult to meet in developed nations and impossible in nations without significant infrastructure. Moderna’s candidate vaccine can be stored at -20 degrees Celsius meeting most pharmacy and hospital freezer temperatures but providing transport challenges for developing nations. Moderna claims that after thawing the vaccine will remain stable for up to 30 days at 2 – 8 degrees Celsius. AstraZenecas candidate can be stored in a normal refrigerator at 2 – 8 degrees Celsius and thus meets conditions in present healthcare settings and realistic options in developing nations. A successful outcome for Oxford-AstraZeneca is significant for the management of a global pandemic.
And remember, this is a vaccine that they promised not to make profits out of, that is cheap and they are committed to giving very large doses, I think something enormous like a third of the world’s doses of vaccines are relying on AstraZeneca. So there’s a lot riding on this vaccine.
The anti-vaccination community have taken the challenges faced by AstraZeneca as more evidence Big Pharma is always up to no good. A recent AVN Facebook post observed that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to let drug companies release their own study information without independent oversight.
So again we might consult the press release. It includes (para 3);
An independent Data Safety Monitoring Board determined that the analysis met its primary endpoint showing protection from COVID-19 occurring 14 days or more after receiving two doses of the vaccine. No serious safety events related to the vaccine have been confirmed. AZD1222 was well tolerated across both dosing regimens.
Our Directors are collectively responsible for the success of AstraZeneca. In addition, the Non-Executive Directors are responsible for exercising independent and objective judgement and for scrutinising and challenging management.
Quickly scattering the seeds of disinformation in this manner is what the AVN always do. One expects this manipulation of their members. What I’m more interested in is the inability of the group to acknowledge that the focus on COVID-19 vaccine development has revealed a number of long standing claims to be false. In September I posted on how the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial pause alone refuted long standing anti-vaccine claims. Namely transparent mainstream media coverage and the documented process of Phase III trials. Despite the ample criticism of AstraZeneca’s handling of data the AVN are even further from defending their claims than they were in September.
As a quick reminder it is the claim that vaccine manufacturers do not assess the safety or efficacy of vaccines. Ever. Added to this is the strange insistence that a placebo must always be inert. Let’s revisit quotes promoting these errors. Given that the COVID-19 candidates are new vaccines the following quote published in a response to a journalist is particularly relevant. See Proposition 4;
…there have never been double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective studies done on either the safety or efficacy of vaccines, not even when a new vaccine is introduced.
This piece on HPV is highly misleading. Yet it’s the claim in the second paragraph under Safety In Question I find compelling;
By definition, a placebo must be a totally inert substance which will never provoke a response.
That definition might be fine for the “sugar pill” placebo. As in when we think of the “placebo effect”. Yet in vaccine trials it is more important to sustain the double blind nature of the trial. Simply put a subject must not know what group they are in. The AVN are anti-HPV vaccination. Gardasil trials have used the amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulphate adjuvant, or AAHS as placebo. This, unlike saline, produces an injection site effect like a genuine vaccine. Thus members of the placebo group and those administering the dose are unaware they have received or given the placebo. The randomised double blind nature of the trial is preserved.
Double blind randomised control trials are what Meryl Dorey, founder of the AVN calls “the gold standard” insisting they are ignored in vaccine research. The claim is part of the AVN Did You Know? leaflet. In this case demanding only inert placebos be used helps to both refute the value of trials and contend a heavy metal neurological injury is potentially caused by adjuvant placebos. The impact of this rhetoric can be seen below in an image of an interviewee on the Vaxxed II bus (27 Nov. 2020). Her T-Shirt has the words “gold standard science” and “inert saline placebos” amongst others written on it in Texta.
Finally as discussed in this article, by contending that no vaccine trials using saline placebos have ever been conducted the insistence that vaccines are primed to harm persists. It’s a simple no true Scotsman anti-vaccine fallacy. Also when saline is used as the placebo in an HPV vaccine trial, there really is nowhere to hide. Vaccine studies using saline placebos abound. Period.
As it happens saline has been used in the USA arm of the AstraZeneca Phase III trials. In other groups a meningococcal vaccine is given as placebo. This won’t only create an injection site effect but a general feeling in line with being vaccinated. Not being aware they are receiving a placebo ensures subjects don’t introduce an unexpected variable to the trial. This fact, and the ethical nature of the approach is discussed in a well written article here. Finally in establishing the safety of vaccines a more convincing and in depth picture is gained through the application of more than just placebo controlled studies.
The more we see of Phase III trials for COVID-19 candidates, whether they be immediately accepted or controversial, the greater the refutation of the above anti-vaccine tropes. Senior members of the AVN are reading material that describes Phase III trials and their testing of both safety and efficacy. The above claim that double blind, placebo controlled trials don’t exist, “even when a new vaccine is introduced” still exists on the AVN website and in discussion. In the bright light of facts this is a true measure of the group.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca AZD1222 results have been met, understandably, with specific criticism. This relates to efficacy only. Safety is not being questioned. Some media reports have hinted that AstraZeneca will have difficulty getting the vaccine regulated for emergency use in the USA based on present data. Further, larger studies are needed to establish the veracity of the 90% efficacy finding in the smaller sample given a half dose followed by a full dose. This is entirely within reach of AstraZeneca.
Given the unscientific notion of a “combined efficacy” of 70% it is within AstraZeneca’s interests to pursue further research. Indeed everything being equal one may hope that the “combined efficacy” rate is not reinforced with further research. As STAT reported;
If it’s 70%, then we’ve got a dilemma,” said Fauci. “Because what are you going to do with the 70% when you’ve got two [vaccines] that are 95%? Who are you going to give a vaccine like that to?
AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 vaccine has enormous potential. The low cost, cold chain specifics and the company’s offer to not profit from the vaccine meets a global imperative for pandemic recovery. What the scientific community and the public need to see is a large robust Phase III trial that reproduces efficacy in the region of 90%.
During the Vaxxed II bus tour in Australia the AVN has been extremely vocal about the tour’s aim to realise the rights of individuals and families “killed or injured by vaccines”. To give them a platform on which to exercise free speech. In the last post we heard Meryl Dorey accusing Australia’s “fascist dictatorship” of suppressing the voices of the vaccine injured. In the midst of Dorey’s vocal insistence of selfless goals we must remind ourselves of other goals. An email to members on 8th July 2020 described the noble aims of the Vaxxed II bus and included;
Parents will be filmed for an up-coming Australian documentary as well as having their stories livestreamed to hundreds of thousands around the world.
We are the media now… We have to get the best footage we can, make the best job of this and make our own documentary. This will be the Australian version of Vaxxed II I assume.
As we will see below involvement with Vaxxed films can prove quite lucrative. However the claims of a vaccine injury epidemic (or VIE) are not backed by evidence. The science supporting public health policies demonstrates a different reality. Protection of public health must, in an age of social media, also address the abuse of free speech. It causes demonstrable, long lasting harm of significant individual, social and financial cost. Such harms were addressed when the Vaxxed II bus was banned from local council land by Sydney City Council in a unanimous decision on October 26th. You can access Facebook entries, read related council material, hear audio of the motion being passed and the AVN reaction via this link.
Four days after the council took action the bus was again told to move on. As noted in the last post the Vaxxed II bus had chosen to set up in Centennial Park NSW on October 30th. The park is itself a suburb split between the local government area of the City of Sydney and the City of Randwick. One presumes that being banned from Sydney, the bus team has chosen a park area of the Randwick local government. Nonetheless they were asked to move on. After receiving legal advice Meryl Dorey came to a very amicable agreement with police and left.
Shortly before this however park rangers had raised Meryl’s ire, leading to a video request for help and the promise that she would be arrested before conceding to “these petty dictators”. The full audio of that video is here [4.9MB]. A shorter version of highlights can be listened to below.
“We are here to ensure their voice is never silenced” – Meryl Dorey [2min 16]
It is interesting that Dorey wants Polly Tommey to be notified. As we’ll see Tommey is a senior identity in the Vaxxed movement having turned the role into full time employment. Regarding the Vaxxed II bus one conclusion is certain. A large database of Australian anti-vaccination and unverified vaccine injury testimonial is being created. Every time the Vaxxed II bus is banned or asked to move on the database is threatened. Under the Vaxxed brand such material has already proven to be both lucrative and an ideal vehicle for the promotion of individual anti-vaccination identities. The rewards from co-producing a Vaxxed III film would be significant. As the AVN is using the Vaxxed brand there are likely contractural obligations, increasing the need to inform Tommey of interference.
The first Vaxxed film led to a Vaxxed bus travelling the USA, promoting the film and recording identical unsubstantiated testimonials of vaccine injury and vaccine fatality. The most compelling of these accounts formed the basis of Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth. Now a year after the release of Vaxxed II the AVN is four months into the Vaxxed II bus tour. Meryl Dorey and AVN president Aneeta Hafemeister have already established a narrative of struggle against tyrannical state and federal governments actively suppressing accounts of vaccine injury and death. This is happening during the COVID “scamdemic” and vocal AVN opposition to a mandatory or dangerous COVID-19 vaccine. Footage of these unsubstantiated accounts would be used in the production of an Australian version of Vaxxed. Dorey has a long established history of presenting photos of children purportedly injured or killed by vaccines. Stories are hosted on the AVN website. A closer look at the Vaxxed timeline allows greater insight into long term aims.
The making of Vaxxed
We should revisit the history of the pseudoscientific films under the title Vaxxed to understand how such film making and busses are related. First was the 2016 film Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe directed by Andrew Wakefield whose elaborate fraud launched the global scare over the MMR vaccine and autism. It was produced by the Informed Consent Action Network of which Del Bigtree is CEO. Bigtree’s background in filmography included a small stint with Dr. Phil and the production of 30 episodes of an entertainment advice show The Doctors. The latter carried an FDA disclaimer. Vaxxed was co-produced by Polly Tommey who is a director of the Autism Media Channel (previously also run by Wakefield) and presently hosts We Are Vaxxed (Vaxxed TV).
A full time vaccine-autism theorist and frenetic anti-vaxxer, Tommey is presented by Hachette Australia as a film producer and journalist, and also, “[F]ounder and Editor-in-Chief of The Autism File magazine and founder of The Autism Trust”. Vaxxed’s entire narrative is built from the audio of phone calls between CDC employee William Thompson and anti-vaccination theorist Brian Hooker. Part of the audio was even spliced together. You can read in detail, and listen, about how the audio was manipulated here. There are a host of references debunking the film here.
Thompson was unaware that the calls were being recorded or that his name and voice would be used. He had referred to a correlation between African-American boys with autism and the MMR vaccine that was omitted from a 2004 CDC paper. The sample was omitted because the boys were diagnosed with autism before they were vaccinated. MMR is just one vaccine that secures eligibility for autism services. Brian Hooker published a reanalysis of the data in 2014 which purportedly found that the sample of boys were at significantly higher risk of autism after MMR. The paper was later retracted due to “serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions” . In 2015 the CDC concluded on further examination that the correlation did not exist. William Thompson unwittingly became the CDC whistleblower. Despite hours of recorded phone calls none of that audio supports the film’s central claim of “cover up”. Nor does Thompson appear in the film.
At no time did Thompson argue that data had been suppressed or destroyed or that it demonstrated a link between MMR and autism. Yet the narrative of data destruction, nefarious suppression of a causal link between MMR and autism and the contention Wakefield is the victim of a conspiracy is the central message of the film. In reality the data remain on the CDC website for researchers to analyse. Thompson had released a statement through his lawyers in August 2014 in which he stressed his support for immunisation and his belief that “vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives”. All of this, and the retraction of Hooker’s paper was omitted from the film. I recommend reading this deconstruction of the claims in Vaxxed which expands on the details that are misrepresented in the film.
In an October 9, 2016 Vaxxed TV video Del Bigtree stood in front of the Vaxxed bus and claimed;
The story that Vaxxed is about which is the CDC whistleblower, top scientist from the Center for Disease Control, has come forward and said that vaccines are causing autism.
Memorably, Vaxxedwas dumped from the New York based Tribeca film festival which Robert De Niro co-founded. Award winning documentary director Penny Lane had written an open letter to the festival about Vaxxed. It is devastating to the credibility of Vaxxed. It included;
While it is true that we documentary filmmakers constantly debate vexing questions about the perceived and real differences between our work and the work of traditional journalism, I assure you that we are not debating whether it is okay to knowingly spread dangerous lies.
Issues around truth and ethics in documentary can get thorny. But this one is easy. This film is not some sort of disinterested investigation into the ‘vaccines cause autism’ hoax; this film is directed by the person who perpetuated the hoax.
On July 10 this year AVN founder Meryl Dorey interviewed Wakefield for an episode of Under The Wire (UTW). They discussed his latest film 1986 The Act, Vaxxed, the COVID pandemic and Wakefield’s research fraud. His contention is that he was deregistered in an attempt to silence revelation of MMR causing autism. “[I]t was all made up. I’ve never committed research fraud in my life”, he told Dorey. Wakefield mentions that Australian paediatric gastroenterologist John Walker-Smith was part of his research team. In fact Walker-Smith had told Wakefield about possible compromise of the research a year before publication because parents of research subjects were engaged in litigation against pharmaceutical companies.
As the world now knows Wakefield was well aware of the litigation, as he was secretly funded by the plaintiff’s lawyers to conduct the research. His research paper was eventually retracted fromThe Lancet. He was ultimately found guilty of more than 30 charges. Articles here tagged “Wakefield” are under this link. The full audio of Dorey’s UTW interview with Wakefield is available here [28 MB]. Interestingly he tells Dorey that the key to 1986 The Act was is not the “dense” content, but in making it entertaining by having a couple act to a script (10.20). Wakefield’s response to Dorey’s question is available below.
“How can I help?”: Andrew Wakefield’s account of his deregistration and research fraud [3min 59].
When members of the USA Vaxxed team visited Australia and toured with the AVN from July to August 2017 to screen the film and collect vaccine injury stories, early criticism and problems eventuated. Most notably that on leaving Australia, co-producer Polly Tommey was banned from entering the country for three years over visa breaches. Fairfax reported she had told her Australian audience that “doctors were murderers”.
The involvement of Tommey continued. In October 2017 Tommey announced the Australian Vaxxed team on the We Are Vaxxed Facebook page. It would include Taylor Winterstein, her sister Stevie Nupier and Deveraux David, daughter of (then) AVN president Tasha David. The three had travelled about on the Vaxxed bus in the USA with Tommey, learning how to conduct vaccine injury interviews. For further insight please see the comprehensive coverage at Diluted Thinking in Australian Vaxxed Team Announced.
Tommey’s supporters and the AVN insisted she was banned for her views on vaccination. Tommy appealed against the suspension and on July 15th 2019 the AVN reported in a “media release” that Judge Barnes of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia overturned the ban, reinstated the visa and awarded costs to Tommey. The following day the Informed Medical Options Party (IMOP) reported the same information on their Facebook page. It must be noted that no other media reports of the overturned ban exist. Neither group provided a link to, screenshot or image of relevant documentation despite publishing quotes from Judge Barnes’ finding. Under the heading A victory for truth and justice in Australia each publication included;
The AVN assisted Ms Tommey in fighting against this unconscionable ban. The Minister for Immigration tried to claim that Ms Tommey, a mother of 3 children, one of whom has been seriously injured by vaccination, was somehow a terrorist and needed to be kept out of Australia.
The importance of this can’t be underestimated in light of the language used by the AVN. The overturning of Tommey’s ban is a mark of a fair democracy in action. The suppression of rights in a so-called “fascist dictatorship” is then far from accurate.
It was reported at the time that another member of the 2017 visiting AVN Vaxxed team Dr. Suzanne Humphries was also banned from entry for three years. SBS updated an article to this effect in August last year. In late August 2017 anti-vaxxer Kent Heckenlively was denied entry into Australia because of his “dangerous” views. He was planning a tour to urge parents to stop vaccinating their children. The ban was not surprising. Just over two weeks earlier the Australian Government had launched a $5.5 million immunisation education campaign in response to the anti-vaccination message and falling vaccination rates. Nonetheless, Tommey and Heckenlively hosted Q&A sessions at AVN Vaxxed events via Skype.
The AVN Australian promotion of Vaxxed was further criticised. Prior to the Bundaberg QLD visit the Fraser Coast Chronicle published a piece in which (then) QLD Health Minister Cameron Dick called on the public to boycott the film. On October 22nd The Chronicle published a piece in which doctors warned of the film’s risk to children’s lives. The chair of AMA QLD was concerned parents could be “duped” into believing the anti-vaccination message. There was further criticism and coverage. An in-depth overview of the tour events is available at Diluted Thinking.
The use of Vaxxed busses
After the film’s release the 2016 Vaxxed Nation Bus Tour in the USA rolled out to promote and screen the film to paying audiences. Dorey and then president of the AVN, Tasha David, attended a CDC rally as part of an elaborate trip to the USA presumably at expense to AVN donors. During the tour unsubstantiated claims of vaccine injury and death were recorded on film forming the purpose of the We Are Vaxxed movement. Over the weekend of October 15-16th 2016, Tasha David appeared as an interviewee for We Are Vaxxed. Her fallacious contribution included claims there is no freedom of speech in Australia, the public can be “force vaccinated” for something as minor as a cold under the Australian biosecurity act, No Jab No Pay has left women living in cars and forced to have abortions and the AVN cannot choose their own name. This article published at the time looks more closely at these claims which can be heard below.
Past AVN president Tasha David interviewed in the USA Vaxxed bus [1min 50].
The bus continued its tour of the USA collecting unfounded stories of vaccine injury, death or apparent abuse and bullying at the hands of medical professionals. Popular targets were vaccination against HPV, hepatitis B, pertussis (DTaP), influenza, varicella, Hib, rotavirus, or any childhood vaccine. SIDS was blamed as a vaccine induced death often post DTaP. Horrific stories about the effect of autism brought on by MMR or other childhood vaccines were common. The bus is covered with the signatures of individuals who contributed a story.
This material provided the basis for Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth which was released in November 2019. It was produced by Robert F Kennedy Jr and co-produced by Polly Tommey. The Guardian previewed the film and reported that it;
[I]s slickly produced and carries considerable dramatic punch – making its message all the more potent.
Footage includes a gallery of photographs of dead babies, without evidence to back suggestions their deaths were linked to vaccines.
The Australian Vaxxed II Bus
So now we turn our attention to the Vaxxed II bus tour of Australia. An identical bus wrapped in an identical Vaxxed logo, serving an identical purpose. The bus is a 34 foot 2005 Coachmen Miranda registered in NSW as VAXXD2. Market availability suggests a quality 2005 model may sell for between $100,000 – $135,000 and similar models have varying prices. The interior of the AVN Vaxxed II Miranda is well appointed. The new paint finish with an AVN logo, personalised plates and even a logo’d spare wheel cover has delivered a quality, eye catching vehicle for the Australian tour. It too is being signed by everyone who contributes to a story. It has been registered, insured, made road worthy and prepared in the manner a Coachmen Miranda must be. It was certainly not a cheap venture and according to the AVN “a massive undertaking”.
Donation requests for the bus began on 16th February 2020 – the same day sales of Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth DVD’s were announced via email. Shortly after, the AVN shop provided a formal bus donation page. The set request was $50 and the range was from $5 to $500. 82 days after provision on the AVN site for donations to the Australian Vaxxed II Bus the announcement of bus ownership was made. If we accept a conservative total cost of $150,000 donations must equal $1,830 per day. Once rolling there are costs for accomodation and meals for volunteers along with the necessary $400 plus to fill the tank. Donations had been generous indeed.
It’s important to note the AVN have a history of accumulating member donations [PDF] for many purposes and not investing them. Misappropriating a minimum of $136,270 for the sale of a magazine that was not supplied and simple theft. More than once. In 2010 the NSW OLGR confirmed multiple breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 . In December 2016 the AVN announced that their planned High Court challenge to the No Jab No Pay legislation was unsuccessful. Of $152,203.73 raised $72,526.37 was spent on legal advice, leaving just over $79,677. The AVN offered to refund 52 cents for each dollar donated (email) and then 66 cents (website). The money was kept for other campaigns. No follow up announcements were made. Of interest is that in September of that year members were advised over $160,000 had been raised for the High Court challenge but over twice that was needed. So please keep donating.
Regular income is from donations, memberships, AVN shop sales and sales at seminar events. Fair trading documents show annual income is declared as “less than $250,000”. The point being made is that the AVN may have a substantial balance of which financial supporters know nothing. The AVN may have financed the bus themselves. Anti-vaccination media coverage increased 900% over March – May this year. This equates to increased profit for the AVN and may assist in keeping the bus on the road.
The AVN team is very excited to announce that WE HAVE PURCHASED A BUS! Things have been very busy behind the scenes to make this vision a reality and we can’t wait for the next steps in this process. We can’t wait to bring you more updates as things progress. The AVN is extremely thankful to all the AVN members who have contributed to this project and made it a reality.
A media release on 8th June 2020 was equally noncommittal with respect to the entire funding of the purchase;
Thanks to the help and support of members of the Australian Vaccination-risks Network Inc. (AVN), Australia has become the first country outside of the United States to have its own Vaxxed Bus. […]
The AVN owes a huge debt of gratitude to our members, without whose help, love, encouragement and financial support, this dream never would have been realised. We also want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Polly and Jon Tommey, Dr Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree and the entire US Vaxxed team whose dedication and energy has birthed a worldwide movement of informed vaccination choice for all.
That final statement of gratitude leaves one wondering just how much of the new bus venture members of the AVN were truly supporting. Perhaps it is cynical to link the bus to a long term goal of financial profit and self promotion for Meryl Dorey. After all, according to the first AVN email to announce the need for a bus readers were told, “Our members have demanded it, so it’s going to happen”. A lot of time and money would be involved, yes. “But due to the current climate of censorship on the issue of vaccine injury we feel the time is now!”.
Since the bus appeared urgent requests for donation campaigns have stopped. It is not unreasonable to conclude that this present incarnation of the Vaxxed brand has included some funding from outside the AVN. Nor does the AVN own the Vaxxed brand. Thus, all profit from a third film will not go to the AVN.
Financial backing of the Vaxxed movement
Thoughts of money bring us back to the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) who we met above as the producers of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Also we can better understand why involvement with Vaxxed films is lucrative. The Washington Post published an in-depth investigative article in June 2019. Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement examined hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife Lisa, who is president of ICAN. Amongst other anti-vax groups, the Selz’s donated handsomely to ICAN through the Selz Foundation.
When Vaxxed was released in 2016 Bigtree founded ICAN. US tax records show that in its first year the Selz’s donated 83% of ICAN’s income, or $100,000. As Bigtree’s status grew so did Selz Foundation donations. Records show ICAN spent $600,000 on legal fees in 2017. The following year, according to The Washington Post, the charity launched FOI Act lawsuits against the FDA, NIH and the US DHHS. The aim was, “to compel the release of data and documents related to vaccine safety”. If ICAN had any success accessing documents, their silence on the matter speaks volumes.
In 2017 the Selz couple donated $1 million of ICAN’s $1.4 million income. CEO Del Bigtree earned a salary of $146,000. Bigtree travels the country speaking at rallies against bills designed to increase childhood immunisation, lobbying legislators against passing such bills or attending wellness conferences. ICAN spent $148,000 on travel in 2017.
The Selz’s began supporting the anti-vaccination movement in 2012 with a $200,000 donation to the Dr. Wakefield Justice Fund. After Wakefield moved to Texas this fund was set up by supporters with the aim of “responding” to apparent false claims made against Wakefield. This would “protect his work from both profit- and politically-motivated censorship and retribution”. Despite the semantics it’s now documented that as many as four lawsuits brought against Brian Deer and media organisations were fruitless. Anti-SLAPP legislation demanded Wakefield provide evidence for his libel claim which was impossible as the case against him was demonstrably true.
Wakefield launched two nonprofit organisations in 2014. Over years the Selz’s donated $1.6 million. One group, the AMC Foundation, “was registered as a charity to fund documentaries about public health issues”. The money was used to help produce Vaxxed. The Vaxxed website states that the film was funded by a small group of philanthropists and “brave parents”.
In 2018 Wakefield dissolved the nonprofit organisations. Whilst active the AMC Foundation had directed grants to Wakefield and Tommey’s Autism Media Channel which claims on YouTube to “make informative and educational videos” for individuals with autism. In the article The Washington Post report;
Attorney Marc Owens, a former head of the IRS division responsible for monitoring tax-exempt organizations, said the arrangement is “a very suspicious transaction.”
“They transferred all of their income, it appears — with the exception of a small amount — to, basically, themselves,” Owens said. “It is extremely unusual to see this sort of expenditure from a public charity.”
Bigtree meanwhile continues his weekly online production of The Highwire, which was recently banned from YouTube. It has attracted supporters with deep pockets. New York City real estate executive Stephen Benjamin and his wife, Elizabeth donated $20,000 in 2017. They feel that the vaccine issue is not well managed by industry or political leaders and that opinion and discussion is being censored. Bigtree has landed on his feet and like Wakefield, has found the shift to anti-vaccination conspiracies a shortcut to a type of fame and fortune.
Without ranging through every avenue of profit that anti-vaxxers pursue one may conclude the very public attention that follows a Vaxxed bus creates an avenue of profit itself. Becomming a Vaxxed identity, particularly now, is as good for the bank balance as it is the ego. The initial Vaxxed film only generated a worldwide box office income of $1,215,647 with the vast majority being USA sales, according to The Numbers website. The DVD sells for around $25 AU, $15 US. Sales are impossible to calculate but Vaxxed TV has almost 88 thousand subscribers, the Autism Media Channel 7.3 thousand. The income from other sources, donations and control of charities appears significant. Polly Tommey’s Autism Media Channelfeatures in Snap Charity‘s business directory.
Possible script items for Vaxxed III
The involvement of the Vaxxed team and movie in Australia in 2017 has already produced published footage of vaccine injury and death accounts. The AVN YouTube channel now mimics Vaxxed TV and the Autism Media Channel in content and appearance. So without a doubt the promised “documentary” will feature identical accounts of vaccine injury and death recorded on the Vaxxed II bus and may well include the footage from 2017. As noted above there are accounts of vaccine injury on the AVN site. It is unlikely this fits with the Vaxxed brand however.
The most common themes will be the most familiar. SIDS caused by DTaP. Injury and death following influenza vaccination. A raft of neurological problems and death following HPV vaccination. Infant injury after hepatitis B immunisation. Autism following MMR and other vaccines. Images similar to those used in this attack on Sydney City Council, which were requested on Facebook by an AVN member will be used. People are bullied into vaccination whilst doctors who share these views are fearful of speaking out and deregistered if they do. Other topics may be included to shape an Australian identity to the film.
The threat of mandatory vaccination in Australia may fill part of any vaccine injury film Meryl Dorey and Aneeta Hafemeister are involved with. To understand some of the primary tactics Dorey has used for years follow this link. The requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated in some instances leads to injury, unemployment, ruin and death contend the AVN. No Jab No Pay legislation is often referred to as a means to mandatory vaccination or results in homelessness and poverty.
Protection of the Vaxxed brand should dictate not referencing Dorey’s claim of mandatory vaccination lobbyists. Not because the idea is poor. Rather because her approach is bogus, bitter and brutal. It includes attacking parents who have lost a child to vaccine preventable disease. On its Get The Facts page the Department of Health publishes these personal stories in which grieving parents contribute to public awareness of vaccine necessity. Together with Judy Wilyman the AVN wrongly insist these accounts are merely anecdotal, therefore unreliable. A criticism selectively omitted from assessing vaccine injury accounts.
A constant narrative of a cruel and tyrannical government at state and federal levels suppressing accounts of vaccine injury is a feature of the Vaxxed II tour. Council bans and orders to move on are likely to be covered with the approach that The People can’t be silenced. Another theme around mandatory vaccination is that the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory and dangerous.
In July Dorey informed Andrew Wakefield that this, “man-made situation is not really a pandemic… we are in the middle of a government take-over of human rights in this country”. In fact Dorey presented aspects of vaccine legislation and the COVID-19 situation in Australia with such dishonesty it was impressive. Such misleading accounts may feature in the film. The audio below is from the same episode of Under The Wire as Wakefield’s claim to innocence above.
Doctors are being “Wakefielded” (a new verb Dorey contends) and deregistered for even asking questions about vaccines or reporting adverse events. As are physiotherapists, nurses… anyone who’s registered with AHPRA. The film mentioned is 1986 The Act. Daniel Andrews is power mad and if Australians watch the film,“there will be an uprising”. The audio is a sequence of out-takes. Please listen below.
Meryl Dorey informs Andrew Wakefield about suppression of rights in Australia [4min 45]
Other topics might include the need for “vaxxed vs unvaxxed” studies funded by the Australian government and the lack of vaccine safety trials. The AVN insist in using suspect studies to show that vaccinated children are less healthy that unvaccinated. Despite the fact that efficacy and safety testing in Phase III trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidates has been widely reported the AVN still deny it. In a recent post looking at how increased transparency of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial has exposed anti-vaccine conspiracies we saw that the AVN still have this dishonest claim on their site. See Proposition 4;
…there have never been double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective studies done on either the safety or efficacy of vaccines, not even when a new vaccine is introduced.
There may be input from Wakefield, who also denies proper safety studies are conducted. In the UTW interview with Dorey he chose to ignore the necessity for non-sterile placebos in trials. Without evidence he attacked the use of aluminium adjuvants as placebos. He is critical of COVID-19 candidate vaccine phase III trials because he can twist facts to fit his narrative. Some trials use a meningococcal vaccine as placebo so recipients will not know they have received a placebo. In essence, this is excellent methodology.
The two Vaxxed films produced to date are demonstrably false accounts of a vaccine link to autism and a vaccine injury epidemic (VIE). The involvement of disgraced ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield and his account of being the victim of conspiracy has ensured a level of interest and popularity for the Vaxxed brand. This has increased financial backing from his supporters who believe he is a victim with important work to do. Contributions from wealthy benefactors ensure donations to Wakefield are lucrative. Never the talented success his fans portray him as, wealth gained from anti-vaccine conspiracy promotion and his current lifestyle are well documented.
The key Vaxxed identities are Wakefield and producers Polly Tommey and Del Bigtree. The latter two are also fervent anti-vaccine campaigners. Bigtree is well paid with travel funded in his role as CEO of Informed Consent Action Network which produced the Vaxxed films. Tax documents confirm Wakefield and Tommey profited significantly from nonprofit tax-exempt organisations established to fund anti-vaccine media. The first Vaxxed bus significantly increased the profiles of Wakefield, Tommey and Bigtree. Media is continuously published on YouTube.
AVN founder and supporter of Andrew Wakefield, Meryl Dorey has battled controversy to promote both Vaxxed films in Australia. Her support of a VIE has been vocal for over 25 years and she has overseen the raising of significant funds through unmet promises and deception. The AVN have launched an identical Vaxxed bus in Australia. The full source of funding is unclear. Its purpose is to promote the second Vaxxed film and collect footage of Australians who believe they or a loved one are victims of vaccine injury or death. Meryl Dorey and current AVN president Aneeta Hafemeister acknowledge they intend to make a third Vaxxed film.
The AVN have clearly met more resistance from health authorities and local councils than expected. Supporters are constantly told the intention is to give the vaccine injured a voice. However given the involvement of Vaxxed the AVN must have contractural obligations. Despite professing noble intentions the show, it would seem, must go on. Exactly what arrangement Meryl Dorey and the AVN have with the Vaxxed brand is unknown. By not investing supporter donations into promised campaigns the AVN have accumulated significant monies, the extent of which is kept secret.
Income from film screenings and video sales is quite modest but not insignificant. Overall profit from the production of these films is helped by using volunteers. Here they staff the Vaxxed II bus, conduct filming, run the promotion and sales stall at events, collect, edit and post material on social media and address the multiple administrative details that senior AVN identities do not. Constant requests for donations via email and social media ensure income. Presenting a constant narrative that politicians and health authorities have a vested interest in silencing the vaccine injured encourages further support.
Despite justified opposition Meryl Dorey and the AVN will continue as they have. The aim is to mimic the USA Vaxxed bus and cover the nation. This will be costly. The more noise made and attention gained the more likely donations will increase. Australia may not have the wealthy benefactors of the anti-vaccination lobby in the USA but this doesn’t mean the AVN have not been well funded. Nor does it mean they have. The group has a history of accumulating significant finances for purposes unmet. Promised investment in campaigns never eventuates. The Vaxxed II bus has increased income. The sooner the Vaxxed III film can be produced the sooner the AVN will be taken seriously by potential benefactors.
Meryl Dorey has always craved success and legitimacy. She is presently in a good position to be co-producer of the Vaxxed III film. Her problem is that the AVN and Vaxxed are quite rightly regarded as a threat to public health in Australia. The COVID pandemic has increased exposure, support and donations for the AVN. Yet by embracing COVID conspiracies they have come under closer scrutiny from health and government authorities.
They will continue to meet resistance. They will respond dramatically. Dorey and Hafemeister will continue to rave about the suppression of rights and their fight to provide a voice for the vaccine injured. It will at least be entertaining. As Wakefield told Dorey, without entertainment you don’t have a film.
The prize for Meryl Dorey is to become Australia’s Vaxxed representative and if one conclusion is clear, it’s that being a Vaxxed intimate is lucrative.
NB: The first and fourth audio files are made up of out-takes from the original file which is available. The out-takes are added in chronological order.
24 Nov. 2020: Updated details of misappropriated income from undelivered magazines and “member donations” spreadsheet at The Australian Vaxxed II bus.