Vaxxed III: the aim of the Vaxxed II bus tour

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.

Aneeta Hafemeister told viewers of a May 31st Facebook video

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. 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” [2]. 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.

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, Vaxxed was 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 from The 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].

 

Vaxxed history in Australia

The AVN were keen to promote Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe in Australia. In December 2016 they organised 8 screenings across QLD, NSW and Victoria. The article Lies and deceit from Australia’s “Vaxxed” promoters, was published here 30th July 2017 revealing nasty conduct behind the screenings. At one point the AVN posed as lovers of organic food to gain access to a venue, resulting in this front page of the Gold Coast Bulletin. The film was slammed by media and authorities at Lake Macquarie. The Newcastle Herald published Anger as Charleston Community Centre The Place screens film linking vaccines with autism

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.

Newsweek reported in October 2019;

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 [2]. 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.

An 8th May 2020 AVN member email claimed;

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 Channel features 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.

Conclusion

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.

Last update: 24 Nov. 2020

♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎

Coronavirus pandemic prompts increased transparency of drug companies

The unprecedented nature of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic has begun to influence the transparency of drug company trials of potential COVID-19 vaccines.

On September 17th The New York Times reported that Moderna and Pfizer were releasing the protocols that describe the trial process to test a potential COVID-19 vaccine. On September 19th they reported that AstraZeneca had done the same. This heralds a significant change on the part of drug companies. Although in practice complex vaccine trial protocols would need to be interpreted by say, science journalists, in order to be understood by the wider public particularly given the multicultural nature of today’s communities in developed nations.  [See references below for protocols]

As trials have progressed to Phase III in which data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines are collated, the interest of the public has grown significantly. Intense media attention surrounded the recent pause of the Phase III trial of the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with scientists from Oxford University. Not surprisingly public interest has turned to pressure for more transparency as to how trials are conducted.

From July 24th to August 7th Ipsos surveyed respondents from 27 countries [PDF] on attitudes toward a COVID-19 vaccine. 74% of respondents said they would have a vaccine if it was available. The most common reason for rejecting the vaccine was concern over side effects (56%). This was followed by doubt of its effectiveness (29%). The importance of transparency surrounding Phase III trials is confirmed by the weight of these two reasons for rejecting the vaccine.

These vaccines are being developed rapidly under the gaze of a public that expects at some time to be given such a vaccine. It’s understandable that anxiety surrounding both efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines existed long before the specifics of Phase III trials became public. That those specifics have become better understood due to an issue with safety does raise matters of trust within the public.

Of course the increased attention over safety and efficacy would never have arisen during development of the many so-called “alternatives” to regulated vaccines. Alternative products are not subject to reliable scrutiny and as such the acute and chronic effects are in fact undocumented or unknown. The safety and efficacy of such listed (as opposed to regulated) therapeutic products is almost always merely assumed.

Establishing trust between the public and the government and health authorities is important. Increased transparency of vaccine trials will help promote trust. Sustaining trust is significantly reliant on clear information and explanation of complicated issues that raise public concern. This is particularly true in the present environment where changing evidence may come across as inconsistency and if left unacknowledged may lead to suspicion. The proper interpretation and presentation of available information is essential.

Normally data gathered during a trial are published after the trial. However the dynamic nature of COVID-19 vaccine development and the global impact of this pandemic have already changed what may be considered normal. Added to this is information that is leaking out. The Oxford trial has recommenced on the advice of an independent safety committee. AstraZeneca announced that they “had not confirmed a diagnosis” of transverse myelitis in the study volunteer.

What has also recently become apparent is that the study was paused in July after a male volunteer who had received one dose of the vaccine developed transverse myelitis. See page 10 of this participant information sheet. There was a review by independent experts. The trial resumed after it was determined that the individual had a previously undiagnosed case of multiple sclerosis unrelated to the vaccine. Still, there was a persistent concern that AstraZeneca had not revealed in detail what had happened to the woman whose significant neurological symptoms led to the most recent trial pause.

On the September 14th edition of The Health Report Dr. Norman Swan interviewed Professor Bruce Neal, Executive Director of the George Institute Australia. The occasion was to discuss the launch of a project called Join Us. A challenging issue about Phase III trials is that drug or vaccine development may stall or fail due to lack of suitable participants. This isn’t due to drop out or resistance. Rather the cost and administrative difficulty of finding suitable participants is significant. Join Us aims to secure pre-consent to trials of a certain nature.

Whilst that’s interesting information about trials, Swan also asked Professor Neal about his thoughts on the reluctance of AstraZeneca to reveal details about the woman responsible for the second pause of the Phase III trial. Neal considered reasons to release more information. It would give a heads up to other researchers around the globe allowing them to “provide input and information into it”. However he also noted that releasing such information midway through a trial may have negative consequences.

There may be confidentiality issues as such a “severe unusual event” might lead to patient identity being leaked. Perhaps most interestingly was the observation that the trial may well end with a conclusion that the event was not an issue related to the vaccine. By then the damage is done. The public have already internalised the notion of a negative side effect. The media effort to reverse that belief is not likely to be successful.

Professor Neal stated;

And so the media surrounding the announcement of something like that is going to retain much more prominence probably than the media that tries to reel that back in and say, look, actually it wasn’t an issue. And that could have ramifications down the track when you try to get people to take the vaccine.

It’s important to note that the FDA has not allowed the AstraZeneca trial to resume in the US. The National Institutes of Health stated that it remains to be seen if the illnesses are coincidental and that, “pausing to allow for further evaluation is consistent with standard practice”.

Understandably some health professionals in the US remain concerned. Whilst investors were told of the second problem it has become clear that the company did not immediately alert the F.D.A. and advise them of the independent safety board’s recommendation to pause the trial. Virologist Dr. Peter Jay Hotez based at Houston’s Baylor college of Medicine has not been impressed. He claimed communication has been “horrible and unacceptable” citing the failure of UK regulators to provide rationale for resumption of the trial.

The New York Times also reported;

Dr. Paul Offit, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the F.D.A.’s advisory committee on vaccines, said that it’s unclear how the company — or the U.K. government — determined that the second case was not related to the vaccine.

Offit has also noted that the rarity of transverse myelitis in the general public has not been reflected in the UK trial population. The extra caution we are seeing in the US is reason for the public to have increased confidence in the influence regulators have over the safety of vaccine trials. Consequently there is reason for the public to be less anxious about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines that are eventually marketed. Given that independent safety experts in the UK have advised it is safe for the Oxford trial to resume it will be very interesting to see what further evaluation by US authorities concludes.

There has been research into immunisation and the likelihood of subsequent development of transverse myelitis (TM) and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). Key points from the 2016 paper Acute Demyelinating Events Following Vaccines: A Case-Centered Analysis are as follows;

Results: Following nearly 64 million vaccine doses, only 7 cases of TM and 8 cases of ADEM were vaccinated during the primary exposure window 5-28 days prior to onset. For TM, there was no statistically significant increased risk of immunization. For ADEM, there was no statistically significant increased risk following any vaccine except for Tdap (adolescent and adult tetanus, reduced diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine. […]

Conclusions: We found no association between TM and prior immunization. There was a possible association of ADEM with Tdap vaccine, but the excess risk is not likely to be more than 1.16 cases of ADEM per million vaccines administered.

Acknowledging vaccine safety concerns as a cause of vaccine hesitancy, in July this year Nicola Principi and Susanna Esposito published a narrative review, Do Vaccines Have a Role as a Cause Of Autoimmune Neurological Syndromes?

The authors wrote in part in their abstract;

Only well-conducted epidemiological studies with adequate evaluation of results can clarify whether a true association between vaccines and adverse event development truly exists. Autoimmune neurological syndromes that follow vaccine use are among these. […]

Literature analysis showed that most of the associations between vaccines and nervous system autoimmune syndromes that have been reported as severe adverse events following immunization are no longer evidenced when well-conducted epidemiological studies are carried out. Although the rarity of autoimmune diseases makes it difficult to strictly exclude that, albeit exceptionally, some vaccines may induce an autoimmune neurological disease, no definitive demonstration of a potential role of vaccines in causing autoimmune neurological syndromes is presently available. Consequently, the fear of neurological autoimmune disease cannot limit the use of the most important preventive measure presently available against infectious diseases.

The Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University logically argues that a number of vaccines “may prevent transverse myelitis”. The institute published Do Vaccines Cause Transverse Myelitis? Last updated September 18th 2020 the article opens with the conclusion;

Natural viral infections with influenza, hepatitis A, measles, mumps and rubella and varicella have all been associated with myelitis, albeit rarely. Thus, these viral vaccines may prevent transverse myelitis by protecting against natural infection. Vaccines currently routinely recommended to the general population in the U.S. have not been shown to cause transverse myelitis.

Ultimately this research in conjunction with the cautious US approach at present does not support a contention of general recklessness in the production of this vaccine or of other potential COVID-19 vaccines.

This dynamic provides yet another blow to anti-vaccination conspiracies. Namely the contention that there is collusion between drug companies and health regulators to suppress the supposedly inherent dangers of vaccines that anti-vaxxers wrongly insist lead to an abundance of vaccine injuries. More so Dr. Paul Offit has been derided, verbally attacked and threatened by the global anti-vaccine lobby for many years as a callous profiteer of vaccines. Yet he has constantly raised a voice of caution to ensure safe COVID-19 vaccine development.

It is certain that placing the AstraZeneca trial on hold following advice from the F.D.A. is not a unique event. Rather the fact that measures employed to control the current pandemic are being played out before the public in real time has provided insight into events that are usually ignored. In the previous post I listed some other aspects of anti-vaccine conspiracy that simply cannot be sustained following media reports of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Phase III trial pause. Even cursory attention to the details of this trial has exposed the dishonesty of anti-vaxxer claims.

Well before the trial pause led to media attention, public anxiety and now transparency of drug companies, the importance of trust in accepting a COVID-19 vaccine had been raised in Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a significant mistake with respect to public confidence in vaccine development and uptake. In August he announced that Australia had signed a deal to produce the vaccine being developed at Oxford University if Phase III trials were successful.

His mistake was to add that it would be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it”. Morrison realised the mistake and in under a day had produced the anticipated walk back. Nonetheless the many anti-science and anti-reason groups that are feverishly misrepresenting the motives of governments and health authorities during this pandemic were delighted. Within hours of Morrison’s announcement the AVN published a video mocking the notion of “safe and effective” vaccines whilst contending they “had always known this was coming”.

There were of course no “walk backs” from the AVN when Morrison corrected his position. Pushing fear of mandatory vaccination has always translated to profit for this group and Scott Morrison had done them a favour. Say no to mandatory vaccination read the back of a T-Shirt weeks later in Perth during Australia-wide “solidarity” rallies. Messages on social media continue in the same vein. Still, the reality is that messages and memes on mandatory vaccination would be common had Scott Morrison made no such statement.

Any harm done to the uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia is likely negligible. A survey conducted in April found that just under 86% of Australians aged over 18 would get a COVID-19 vaccine. 4.9% would not whilst 9.4% were indifferent. These figures are promising but were collated before the widely publicised pause in the AstraZeneca trial and increased public reflection on the safety of a COVID-19 vaccine. Survey responses were to the statement, If a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, I will get it.

Ipsos published their global attitudes results on September 1st, indicating an 88% uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia. 59% strongly agree and 28% somewhat agree with the statement, If a vaccine for COVID-19 were available, I would get it. Only China and Brazil were more likely to accept a vaccine. These figures were also collated before the pause in the AstraZeneca trial. Follow this link to read Key Findings for Australia.

Another area that’s causing anxiety is the posturing of Donald Trump toward authorising a COVID-19 vaccine before the upcoming election. Consider the measure of Trump for a moment. He will tempt the voters with the promise of a vaccine in weeks. However it is more realistic to expect a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in months. These promises demand a disregard for vaccine safety. Yet in March 2014 Trump was tweeting in support of the mythical vaccine/autism link, a bogus view that bemoans a lack of vaccine safety. After the last election, research fraud and vaccine/autism profiteer Andrew Wakefield attended an inaugural ball from which he posted a social media video calling for an overhaul of the CDC.

Others have long ago considered the measure of Trump in regard to the election and a COVID-19 vaccine promise. In early June University of Pennsylvania professors Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times entitled Could Trump turn a vaccine into a campaign stunt?

It included;

In a desperate search for a boost, he could release a coronavirus vaccine that has not been shown to be safe and effective as an October surprise. […]

Given how this president has behaved, this incredibly dangerous scenario is not far-fetched. In a desperate search for a political boost, he could release a coronavirus vaccine before it had been thoroughly tested and shown to be safe and effective. […]

Thousands of Americans have already died as Donald Trump has perpetually postponed effective public health interventions and made poor therapeutic recommendations. We must be on alert to prevent him from corrupting the rigorous assessment of safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in order to pull an October vaccine surprise to try to win re-election.

At the beginning of the second week of September the CEOs of nine drug companies, arguably competing in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, signed a pledge to stand with science and not launch such a vaccine until it met “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles”. The pledge statement as it appears on Pfizers website is in references below. It came at a time when public health specialists and scientists expressed concern that the Trump administration was pressuring regulators to authorise a vaccine before the November 3rd election.

The New York Times reported;

The joint statement by competitors was seen as an effort to restore public trust as President Trump has pushed for a vaccine before the presidential election.

An out-take from the pledge from Pfizer’s website is as follows;

Following guidance from expert regulatory authorities such as FDA regarding the development of COVID-19 vaccines, consistent with existing standards and practices, and in the interest of public health, we pledge to:

  • Always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority.
  • Continue to adhere to high scientific and ethical standards regarding the conduct of clinical trials and the rigor of manufacturing processes.
  • Only submit for approval or emergency use authorization after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as FDA.
  • Work to ensure a sufficient supply and range of vaccine options, including those suitable for global access.

We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which COVID-19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved.

Yes to the cynical eye this may seem to present the pharmaceutical CEOs as really great guys. However I recommend reading the entire Biopharma Leaders Unite pledge. More to the point with increased transparency the public and the media have an invested interest to see a suitable outcome here. This pledge is certainly a step up from Fauci saying he has “confidence and some faith” that the COVID-19 vaccine approval won’t be political.

Earlier in the year it was reported that a significant number of Americans are likely to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. A robust anti-vaccination lobby and rising numbers of the vaccine hesitant mean that the number of Americans who accept the vaccine may be insufficient to sustain herd immunity, which may require between 50 – 70% of the population to be immune. The more recent Ipsos survey found 67% of US citizens would have the vaccine.

Exactly how many must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity is still uncertain. The WHO suggest 95%. Mathematical modelling reflecting age and social activity level produces a herd immunity “illustration” as low as 43%. Other reports suggest a vaccine uptake of over 70% is needed. The Mayo clinic point out that reaching this level of immunity through infection and not vaccination would overwhelm the health system and cause millions of deaths.

Thus there is ample reason to hope greater transparency of vaccine trials leads to justified improved confidence in the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and increased uptake. Of course given the speed of current COVID-19 vaccine trials let us also hope that the vaccines that make it to market are extremely safe and splendidly effective. The fewer challenges that accompany immunisation on a global scale the better.

Another area that is getting more scrutiny if not exactly transparency is that of vaccine nationalism. This term refers to agreements between governments and vaccine manufacturers that ensure developed nations have secure access to vaccines for their entire population before they are available for other nations. With COVID-19 this may result in a delay in vaccinating health workers in developing nations, individuals at high risk of severe disease or death and those living in a region of a sudden dangerous cluster.

COVID-19 is a global pandemic. Yet we are faced with a situation where wealthy nations will be able to vaccinate their populations whilst countries that rely on aid organisations will be unable to vaccinate health workers and at-risk populations without organised help. A recent Science Friction podcast looks at the ways in which this problem can be combated. Australia’s Friends of Science in Medicine actively support equitable access to “COVID-19 vaccines and related health technologies”.

No doubt the anti-vaccine lobby will use information in the trial protocols in the same way they use vaccine package inserts. Thanks to exceptional cognitive dissonance they will list reasons as to why information from vaccine manufacturers can’t be trusted whilst using that same information to defend these reasons. The good news is that as we’ve seen, increased transparency and media attention has exposed tenets of anti-vaccine conspiracy and beliefs as vacuous and fallacious. On these points it’s a case of watch this space.

In conclusion it can be seen that the increase in transparency of COVID-19 vaccine development should indeed serve to increase public trust and confidence in the quality of eligible vaccines. I cannot finish without stressing again that the safety and efficacy elements of Phase III trials do not apply to the raft of concoctions marketed as alternatives to medicine. All consumers should seek reputable sources of information and beware of the many hoax “cures” of COVID-19. Discuss any novel plans to manage or prevent COVID-19 with a registered medical practitioner.

Finally whilst the importance of transparency with respect to vaccine trials has become clear, it was also confirmed by the Ipsos global survey on attitudes to a COVID-19 vaccine. The most common reasons for intending to refuse a vaccine are safety followed by efficacy. The establishment of which is the very aim of Phase III trials.


REFERENCES

Phase 3 clinical trial of investigational vaccine for COVID-19 begins

Moderna Clinical Trial Protocol – SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

Pfizer Clinical Trial Protocol – SARS-CoV-2 RNA vaccine

AstraZeneca Clinical Trial Protocol – COVID-19 vaccine

Oxford Vaccine Trials – Participant Information Sheet: COV002 (July 2020)

Oxford Vaccine Trials – Participant Information Sheet: COV002 (Sept. 2020)

Willingness to vaccinate against COVID-19 in Australia

9 in 10 Australians say they would get vaccinated for COVID-19 – Ipsos

Global attitudes on a COVID-19 vaccine – Ipsos [PDF]

A future vaccination campaign against COVID-19 at risk of vaccine hesitancy and politicisation

Biopharma Leaders Unite To Stand With Science – Pfizer

Moderna and Pfizer reveal secret blueprints for coronavirus vaccine trials – NYT

AstraZeneca under fire for vaccine safety releases trial blueprints – NYT

Do Vaccines Cause Transverse Myelitis? – Institute for Vaccine Safety, John Hopkins University Dept. of International Health

Acute demyelinating events following vaccines: a case-centered analysis
– DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciw607

Do vaccines have a role as a cause of autoimmune neurological syndromes?
– DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00361

FSM supports equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines

Vaccine nationalism threatens global plan to distribute COVID-19 shots fairly

The rise of vaccine nationalism – should we be worried? – ABC Podcast

Herd Immunity: Understanding COVID-19 – DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2020.04.012

♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎

How the Oxford trial pause challenges anti-vaccine conspiracies

Recently the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial was paused due to a possible case of transverse myelitis in one of the subjects. Today (Saturday UK time) it was announced that the trial would resume following advice from from safety experts.

Confirmation Update: Transverse myelitis has not been diagnosed in the subject [1], [2], [3], [4].

The news of the pause had the anti-vaccine lobby reacting with as much composure as dozing picnickers who have awoken to find they are laying atop a large nest of very active fire ants.

There is the urge to proclaim we told you so. Yet this includes the realisation that forfeiture of key pegs in anti-vaccine conspiracy is required. What has followed as we see below appears to be confusion, the inability to comprehend events, fabrication of fallacy and bogus reinforcement of elements of the Big Pharma conspiracy.

It’s important not to underestimate how disturbing genuine challenges to an individuals world view can be. In the case of the Oxford trial announcement, the anti-vaccine conspiratorial view of the world is threatened by a distressing reality. For the dedicated anti-vaxxer this leads to uncomfortable cognitive dissonance. In fact anti-vaccine conspiracies must exist in the first place to resolve the cognitive dissonance that arises when scientific evidence and epidemiology overwhelmingly refute the myth of dangerous vaccines and manufactured claims of vaccine injury and death.

In this case there are three main challenges to current anti-vaccine beliefs.

  1. The MSM (mainstream media) presented a transparent account of the Oxford trial pause.
  2. The pause in the trial itself shows that the safety aspect of Phase III clinical trials is working well.
  3. Cursory reading of the situation confirms the efficacy component of Phase III clinical trials and the use of a placebo.

The anti-vaccine lobby contend that mainstream media are biased against the “truth” of vaccine horror because what is reported is not anti-vaccine. If the mistake of giving anti-vaccine identities air-time to push unsubstantiated disinformation is made, criticism swiftly follows. Yet primarily it is the industry requirement to fact check that keeps anti-vaccination views from being presented unchallenged.

It’s more likely that their antics make tabloid or news segments because they are dishonest and at times vindictive. This attracts regular criticism of the Australian Vaccination-risks Network. A scheme by anti-vaxxer Kyia Clayton to interview AVN president Aneeta Hafemeister on ABC Hobart was met with outrage. It was justly criticised on Media Watch which yet again led to Meryl Dorey urging members to bombard the ABC and ACMA with complaints.

Rather than rise to the occasion and present evidence that meets the standard of scientific consensus the AVN has instead accused the media of being part of the larger conspiracy. Attacking mainstream media and articles that are based on vaccine fact is a substantial activity for Australian anti-vaxxers.

A constant claim of anti-vaxxers is that vaccines are never tested adequately for safety. This is partly due to the erroneous belief that vaccines are so full of dangerous chemicals and biological matter that they cannot possibly be safe. Ergo, any genuine monitoring for adverse reactions in large samples would reveal that a high percentage present with such reactions. As this is not the case their only conclusion is the biased testing conspiracy.

Another claim is that vaccines are never tested for efficacy. They don’t work and we have all been deceived. Herd immunity is a fake concept. Vaccines were introduced after improved sanitation and hygiene eliminated most disease and thus deserve no credit. This claim is made with the help of deceitfully crafted graphs plotting mortality, not morbidity, in such small numbers it appears that vaccines had no impact. The two claims specific to Phase III clinical trials are often made together.

This was clear when the AVN responded to an August 2019 SMH article by Liam Mannix, Anti-vaxxers live in an online bubble this scientist wants to burst. Their response is a strange collection of “propositions” the author angrily contends must exist, whilst citing pseudoscience and articles relating to medication, not vaccines.

The AVN piece included this under “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.

Oh my. This persists despite accessible evidence to the contrary and available WHO recommendations. More so, in line with all anti-vaxxers the AVN argue their definition of a placebo (such as saline) is what should be used in vaccine trials. In fact it is used in many trials but the AVN choose to ignore this. This may include shifting the goal posts. Virology Down Under discuss this no true Scotsman anti-vax fallacy related to placebos.

In some vaccine trials a saline placebo is not ethically suitable and the placebo used is not inert. With respect to the urgency COVID-19 presents this article argues that placebos aren’t needed for vaccine challenge trials. In the Oxford trial a non-saline placebo functions as a more effective control as Dr. Norman Swan explains below. The AVN have always objected to Gardasil studies which used AAHS (the amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulphate adjuvant) as a placebo.

Without citing any reference the AVN offer their definition of a vaccine trial placebo;

By definition, a placebo must be a totally inert substance which will never provoke a response.

In a recent Coronacast episodeThe Oxford vaccine’s troubles. Why it’s not doomed (yet) Norman Swan talked about efficacy and safety in this vaccine trial. Whilst the USA are using a saline placebo, the other participant countries are not. Swan explains;

A few weeks ago, phase 2, phase 3 studies, that’s dose finding and whether or not the vaccine works in large numbers of people and whether it safe, started in Brazil, South Africa and the UK, and they were aiming to recruit 17,000 people. There was also a phase 3 study just beginning in the United States in about 80 sites, trying to recruit about 30,000-odd people. The aim is to have a trial of about 50,000 people.

And interestingly it’s a placebo-controlled trial but the placebo is not saline. It is in the United States, but in Brazil, South Africa and the UK it’s actually not a dummy drug, it’s not saline, it’s a meningococcal vaccine, and they are doing that so that people don’t recognise whether or not they’ve had a placebo. It’s very important in a placebo-controlled trial that you don’t know that you are in the placebo arm. And if you get a shot in your arm and nothing happens and it’s pretty mild you think, well, maybe I’m in the placebo group.

The presenters talk about the seriousness of transverse myelitis and Norman Swan offers this context;

However, there was a study not so long ago which looked at 64 million vaccine doses and really found very little evidence, if any, that transverse myelitis is caused by immunisation. Out of 64 million doses they found seven cases or eight cases that may be associated with it. And they look really widely. They didn’t just look at the week after you’ve had the immunisation or the month after, they looked at almost any time after you’ve had the immunisation, and they conclude that transverse myelitis, unless in very rare circumstances, is not caused by a vaccine. […]

So what they’ve got to find out with this person is are they in the placebo arm, are they in the active arm, is it really transverse myelitis, what are the antibodies that have actually been shown? Are there any other symptoms? And did the person actually get infected with real COVID-19 after the trial had started…

I recommend reading the transcript or listening to this episode of Coronacast. Tegan Taylor and Swan talk more on Phase III trials and discuss the specifics of the Oxford vaccine. It’s an adenovirus carrying genetic material into cells to instruct the cells to produce fragments of COVID-19 virus. It is these fragments that induce an immune response. With respect to the use of placebos in vaccine trials a July 27th episode examines the ethics associated with the fact that subjects in the placebo arm of Phase III trials are not receiving a vaccine.

By the time the Oxford podcast was published on Thursday the AVN was already suggesting on Facebook that there may be more adverse reactions hidden from the public.

AVN Facebook post

Dubious message on AVN Facebook

“It does raise questions”? The problem with the above post is the apparent interpretation by an AVN Facebook administrator that one of the “close friend daughters” who took part in the Oxford trial “is in the Royal” [London Hospital], “diagnosed with Transverse Mylytis” (sic). There is an unverified claim that, “they have asked to keep this quite (sic) as they don’t want the public to know”. The AVN admit the information may not be true.

Yet is this really evidence of a covert case of transverse myelitis? Perhaps Karen McNab is referring to a) her friend’s daughter and also b) the “volunteer” mentioned in the WhatsApp message. The trial subject who had the presumed adverse reaction is a woman who is in hospital.

Of course my interpretation could be wrong. There is however no clear statement that one of the friend’s daughters has transverse myelitis.

Some AVN members were justifiably suspicious.

AVN FB members question source

Rixta Francis, a long term AVN member prone to simply inventing disinformation published her predictably outrageous fallacy of the Oxford trial. This is an excellent example of an immediate, and  feverish attempt to slap at the fire ants of cognitive dissonance. Fellow members are supportive.

Facebook: Rixta Francis misleads over Oxford COVID vaccine trial
Self published author of The Fiction of Science Rixta is prone to reinterpret reality in the manner above. To appreciate this we need to explore her approach more fully. In an interesting example of how things come round in circles Francis is infamous for her abuse of the memory and parents of baby Riley Hughes, who featured in the SMH article I mentioned above.

Riley died from pertussis in March 2015 before he was old enough to be vaccinated. Feeling a need to educate parents about immunisation Catherine Hughes began the Light For Riley campaign. She now runs the Immunisation Foundation of Australia. Ten months after the death of Riley, Francis falsely claimed Catherine was a member of Stop the AVN, suggested Riley and his pertussis had never existed or that the parents killed infant Riley themselves.

The post below suggests the Oxford adverse reaction has been staged. It includes dismissal of genuine media intention, dismissal of safety and dismissal of efficacy helped by quoting Australia’s CSIRO. Again this is textbook management and minimisation of cognitive dissonance.

AVN Facebook post

Other comments in the thread follow a similar theme and manage to reveal quite ridiculous thought processes. The reason people placed themselves at such risk is because they were offered “a small fortune… it all comes down to money”. Vaccines always cause “horrific injuries”. We “can’t cure cancer but we can make a vaccine in six months for a disease we don’t understand?”.

It will be interesting, but not surprising, to see how this group reacts to the news that the trial has resumed.


Further reading:

Oxford Vaccine Group

Oxford vaccine trial – University of Oxford

How Vaccine hesitancy could undermine Australia’s COVID response – The Guardian, September 12th 2020

Fact Check: Mastercard partnership on vaccination records is unrelated to finances – USA Today, September 9th 2020

Halting the Oxford vaccine trial doesn’t mean it’s not safe – The Conversation, September 9th 2020

Vaccine testing and approval process – CDC

♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎

Meryl Dorey suddenly believes viruses can only be transmitted by injection

The driving force behind the Australian Vaccination-risks Network is Meryl Dorey who is tagged on this blog, and was highly active at the time of the HCCC Public Health Warning about this group.

Thanks to a tweet by a highly effective critic of the AVN my attention was drawn to a post Meryl made on her Facebook page during a live video broadcast on April 11th this year. What I found compelling was that suddenly – and I do mean suddenly as Dorey had never made this claim before – she announced that her “personal opinion is that viruses can only be transmitted by injection”. As we’ll see this causes problems for one particular anti-vaccine position Meryl has promoted.

The comment below was posted in the context of discussing viral testing and the strange notion of buying “a private test”, presumably to avoid the COVID conspiracy pitfalls. The last sentence contains Meryl’s view about viral transmission by injection. This pattern of adopting stand out themes of conspiracy theories is one Meryl Dorey has followed for years.

Meryl Dorey: viruses only transmitted by injection

Source: Comment 32

The compelling aspect to Dorey’s sudden revelation is that this claim had already been made 12 days earlier by anti-vaxxer and erstwhile Involuntary Medication Objectors Party candidate, Tom Barnett. The video in which he made his claims was removed from Facebook and YouTube.

Barnett claimed in the video;

You can’t catch a virus; it’s impossible. The only way you can catch a virus is by having it injected into your bloodstream.

I say. Meryl apparently decided this sounded pretty good to however she is planning to profit from the COVID-19 crisis. Feel free to search her online material prior to Tom Barnett’s comments for a statement suggesting Meryl Dorey believes viruses can only be transmitted by injection. I for one am having trouble finding such a reference.

Claiming to hold such a position enables one to reject the need for immunisation and to argue that vaccination against viral disease may in fact be the cause of the disease.

Meryl is clearly spinning more plates than is wise with this latest addition of evidence denial. To be specific, her claim that viruses can only be transmitted by injection is a form of germ theory denial |Wikipedia|. Denial of germ theory |Wikipedia| is as old as germ theory itself. Thanks to germ theory significant advances in personal hygiene and public sanitation have brought about improvements in health and reduction in the spread of disease.

Which brings us to a real problem for Meryl Dorey. She claims that vaccinations have done almost nothing, if not absolutely nothing, to prevent disease. She has fallaciously argued before that the documented fall in vaccine-preventable disease is in fact due to better hygiene, diet and sanitation and occurred before the introduction of vaccines. This is very common misinformation pushed by anti-vaxxers usually with heavily doctored graphs that chart disease mortality as opposed to morbidity and are falsely attributed to official sources.

It fails utterly to explain the success of vaccines introduced in the later half of the 20th century such as measles (1963) and haemophilus influenzae type b (1993). The WHO do a good job of dispelling this misinformation here. At the beginning of 2012 I looked at the AVN’s use of this myth and included an explanatory video with audio from both Meryl Dorey and Judy Wilyman.

In it we hear Dorey during a radio interview with Helen Lobato on Melbourne’s 3CR in December 2011 make the familiar claim;

Meryl Dorey: A lot of the credit that’s been given to vaccines for the decline in deaths and infectious diseases has nothing to do with vaccines. Because it all happened before the shots were even introduced.

Helen Lobato: Mmmm… and it was more the diet and the sanitation?

Meryl Dorey: That’s right. Engineers did more to improve the health of Australians than doctors ever have.

You might like to listen to Meryl on the audio player below;

Looking back at Dorey’s frequent promotion of this misinformation on the AVN website, social media and other media it is impossible to find any clarification specific to viral infection being only possible by injection. Nor is there any delineation between bacterial infection and viral infection being controlled by sanitation.

Thus in one foul swoop Dorey has removed the logic behind her claim that sanitation, not vaccination, brought about the control of specific viral infections. If viruses can only be transmitted by injection then improved sanitation must only be responsible for reducing infectious diseases caused by bacteria.

This also removes her concerns over “vaccine shedding” [1], [2] with respect to vaccines designed to prevent viral infection. This is highly significant concerning Dorey’s new claim as material presented to defend the notion of unbridled “vaccine shedding” refers exclusively to viral shedding in stools or in the case of LAIV nasal spray, in nostrils.

As Meryl Dorey and the AVN have challenged health ministers and authorities to accept being injected with a body weight adjusted equivalent of the entire childhood vaccine schedule, I do hope there is no intent to demonstrate strength of conviction by ingesting or inhaling any viral material associated with disease.

Therefore as it now stands I would be fascinated to know how Meryl Dorey intends to justify believing that sanitation, not vaccination, reduced the spread of viral disease given her claim that viruses can only be transmitted by injection.

♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎ ♠︎

Government cuts to ABC harm quality journalism

Sky News Australia, owned by News Corp, has a well earned reputation for denying the evidence of climate change and the need for reducing carbon emissions, which host Chris Kenny recently referred to as “leftist climate policies”.

The occasion was indulgence in what has earned the outlet another, equally concerning reputation. Regular attacks directed at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation based on the contention that they promote biased leftist ideology. That the ABC leads unwarranted leftist media campaigns, the most significant recently being an apparent “attack” on Cardinal George Pell, although it was News Corp which first reported charges brought against Pell. Since Pell’s High court acquittal of historical child sexual abuse charges the tone and pace from Sky News seem to have increased.

More so a specific amount is levelled at ABC Media Watch and its host, Paul Barry. Yet they fail to mention it was Paul Barry on Media Watch who tackled the claims that Pell was not innocent because he had been found not guilty due to reasonable doubt. Barry insisted that Pell was innocent until proven guilty. As he was now not guilty, has was innocent.

The brazenness combined with the shoddiness of these attacks has been percolating for years. Accusations in the main are made with no real evidence, simply opinion. This is doubly true when it comes to attributing motivation to the ABC or its journalists. The present environment that allows the confidence for Sky to present what is often junk journalism often with the aim of smearing the ABC exists in very large part thanks to successive Coalition governments.

Australian Government criticism of the ABC has a long history and its tone reflects what party is in power at the time. Yet moves to manipulate the ABC through budget cuts and misleading verbal attacks about “ideological bias” have proven to be from the game book of the Coalition. Despite a pre-election promise to maintain budgets of both the SBS and the ABC, the Howard government targetted both. His governments 1996 budget included a 2% ($55 million) annual cut to ABC funding beginning in 1997-98. And an independent review of the ABC was commissioned to be led by Bob Manfield.

Howard continued to verbally attack the ABC over his four terms. His former Chief-of-Staff Graeme Morris described the ABC as “our enemies talking to our friends”. Dennis Muller (Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne) noted in The Conversation in February last year that Howard himself labelled the ABC nightly news as “Labors home video”.

And that;

Howard’s communications minister, Richard Alston, kept up an unremitting barrage of complaints that the ABC was biased. This culminated in 2003 with 68 complaints about the coverage of the second Gulf War. An independent review panel upheld 17 of these but found no systematic bias.

I could not agree more with Muller that;

This playbook – repeated funding cuts, relentless allegations of bias, and recurring inquiries into the ABC’s efficiency and scope – has been followed to the letter by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison administrations.

Interesting then that The Howard Years, in which he worked at shaping his legacy, was a successful ABC-TV event.

But I really wonder if Howard could have foreseen what he’d put in motion. Yes Howard was conservative. Morally, socially and politically. His fawning to the Australian Christian Lobby left behind inestimable damage in that it swung the gates wide for organised bigoted fundamentalism. His record of demonstrable apathy in response to climate change and his capitulation to the Greenhouse Mafia was inescapable. Less than eight months ago in a keynote speech to mining industry representatives he criticised “climate change zealots” and perhaps foolishly said he was “agnostic” when it came to climate change.

But John Winston Howard was not anti-science as were those around him. Of course, when we look at the evidence of climate change there is really no room for agnosticism. Yet Howard was defending his legacy and the contribution Australia’s mining industry had made to economic stability during the GFC of 2008. He didn’t deny the existence of climate change or label it a leftist conspiracy without foundation.

Certainly he was not an enemy of reason. Climate change aside he understood the importance of evidence and the risk of turning ones back on it. Perhaps he wondered at the wisdom of the Liberal Party Council. On June 16th 2018 they voted to privatise the ABC, despite this going against the very pursuit of journalistic independence that led to the founding of the ABC. The Institute of Public Affairs was delighted with the prospect of privatising the ABC. Two members of the IPA had published a book on “how to do it” just a month before.

This wasn’t a sudden decision in conservative politics. By then the Abbott-Turnbull administrations had already cut $338 million from ABC funding since 2014. The 2018 Budget handed down by then Treasurer Scott Morrison included a three year freeze on ABC funding beginning in June 2019. He said at the time, “everyone has to live within their means”. The tied funding of $43.7 million will cost the broadcaster $83.7 million in budget cuts over three years, on top of the cumulative $254 million in cuts since 2014. There was no better news in the 2019 budget.

It was reported in The Conversation in April last year;

This has resulted in an accumulated reduction in available funding of A$393 million over a five-year period, starting from May 2014. According to current budget forecasts, this also means the ABC stands to lose A$783 million in funding by 2022, unless steps are taken to remedy the situation.

Earlier this month Opposition leader Anthony Albanese asked the PM to reconsider the ABC budget freeze in respect of their essential role over the bushfire season and now the coronavirus pandemic. SBS reported;

“Will the Prime Minister restore funding so the ABC can keep doing its job so effectively?” [asked Albanese]

Mr Morrison responded: “The ABC is doing an excellent job and they’ll continue doing that job with the resources that have been provided to them.”

“Like all agencies, like all Australians, they will all do the best job they can with the resources they have available to them.”

The funding cuts are brutal and are a clear sign of the federal government’s aim to restrict the journalistic vision of the ABC. The ABC was clear in stressing that the most recent cuts threaten delivery of the ABC Charter requirements. More so 800 staff have lost their jobs. As I noted above, I wonder if Howard would be comfortable with this. Leading up to the last Federal election Labor promised to reverse the budget freeze and ensure the $83.7 million the ABC stood to lose. They also promised $60 million to the ABC and SBS.

Writing about the Young Liberals call in late June 2018 to sell the ABC, Vincent O’Donnell noted;

But most members of the conservative movement are hostile to the ABC because it is said to be biased. Accusations of bias are useful tools to undermine confidence and support for the ABC…

[…]

…there are folk whose political beliefs are so far to the right that just about all of Australia, and most of the world, is to the left. Any media that reflects this reality is necessarily left wing and biased.

Intermingling of the Coalition government and right wing conservative journalists criticising the ABC goes back some time. In August 2014 a parliamentary library research paper noted (part 4: Disbanding the network);

Following its victory in the 2013 election, the Abbott Government became increasingly critical of the Australian Network for what it argued [were] overly negative representations of Australia. In addition, Prime Minister Abbott was critical of the ABC’s overall reporting stances; the Prime Minister claiming the ABC took everyone’s side but Australia’s.

The same paper reported in Box 5: Spy scandal and the role of the media that the ABC had reported on Edward Snowden’s leaked information that Australian intelligence officials tried to tap the phones of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife. The ABC also reported on asylum seeker claims that they had been abused by members of the Australian Navy. In respect of the Indonesian phone tapping incident Chris Kenny, “accused the broadcaster of embarrassing Australia and Indonesia, undermining co-operative relations and diminishing national security”.

Andrew Bolt contended that the ABC, “was ‘not just biased. It is a massive organ of state media, strangling private voices and imposing a Leftist orthodoxy that thinks it fine to publish security secrets’.” The ABC apologised with respect to the asylum seeker claims, saying it was sorry if the report had led people to assume they believed the claims. Their intention was to present the material “as claims worthy of further investigation”.

The government continued to criticise the ABC, accusing it of “maligning Navy personnel”. Defence Minister at the time, David Johnston claimed the ABC had “maliciously maligned” the Navy and contended that their reporting justified an investigation. In March 2014 the ABC reported evidence supporting abuse of asylum seekers in Indonesian detention centres. The then Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, argued the claims had no credibility and that the ABC should “move on”.

The same research paper includes in Box 1 – One man’s satire another man’s distress, which covers a 2013 Chaser segment wherein a photoshopped image of News Corp journalist Chris Kenny having sex with a dog was shown. Initially the ABC refused to apologise arguing that viewers were, “adequately warned by an onscreen classification symbol and accompanying voice over of the likelihood of seeing potentially offensive content”.

The point I wish to make here is relevant to the opening paragraphs. Kenny did have a defender. On Media Watch Paul Barry firmly disagreed with the ABC and The Chaser view of satire, arguing it was neither satirical nor clever. The saga rolled on for a time with further developments, some serious, some frivolous. Ultimately the ABC did apologise to Kenny.

These examples deal almost exclusively with TV journalism. Of course Media Watch ranges across radio, internet, social media, printed news and TV. Ongoing criticism and bullying of the ABC by the Coalition government is quite telling. As Muller wrote in Constant attacks on the ABC will come back to haunt the Coalition government;

The bipartisan political vision for the ABC was that it should not be vulnerable to sectional interests or commercial pressures, but should exist to serve the public interest in the widest sense

The ABC cannot do this without financial and factual support from governments. More so attacks on the ABC from unapologetic right wing ideological bastions such as Sky News are indicative of a wider social problem. A lack of critical thought and an inability to understand and respect the impact of evidence.

It may well be worth looking more closely at that soon.