The fight against anti-vaxxers continues despite Andrew Wakefield’s ongoing deceit

In early August last year the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network held one of many Australian screenings of the fraudulent, debunked anti-vaccine film Vaxxed at Hawthorn town hall in Melbourne Victoria. The director of this nonsense is disgraced former gastroenterologist and persistent enemy of public vaccination, Andrew Wakefield.

At this event the AVN hosted a rogue Melbourne GP who, using bogus claims, was helping parents circumvent No Jab No Play legislation. With video of the GP published online, the outcome was immediate revelation of his identity. Three weeks later Dr. John Piesse faced suspension by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). At that time it was reported he “vowed” to continue placing innocent children and the community at risk until he was indeed suspended. Not long after he agreed to stop practising while AHPRA investigated his conduct.

By mid September he had his licence suspended. The ABC reported;

A Melbourne doctor who has been under investigation for his anti-vaccination stance has had his licence to practise suspended.

Dr John Piesse’s practice in Mitcham was raided by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and police officers last week following allegations he had helped families avoid compulsory childhood vaccinations.

He had agreed to stop practising temporarily while AHPRA investigated the matter.

But the Medical Board of Australia’s Immediate Action Committee met on Thursday and decided to suspend his registration while the investigation into his practice continued.

An excellent and comprehensive summary of Dr. John Piesse may be found at Diluted Thinking.

Because of the danger posed by Piesse and an unknown number of other GP’s who may be engaging in similar conduct, new No Jab No Play laws were recently announced by Victoria’s Minister for Health, The Hon Jill Hennessy MP. [PDF]

The damage done by the anti-vaccination lobby across the developed and developing world continues. Their lies cost lives and quality of life. In addition they promote angst for innocent parents and attack hard working advocates – who may be grieving parents themselves – with relish.

It is now 20 years since Wakefield published his fraudulent paper in The Lancet contending a link between the MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism. It was ultimately described by The Lancet’s editor-in-chief as “utterly false”. A 2004 investigation by Brian Deer of Britain’s Sunday Times uncovered enormous financial conflicts of interest. Wakefield was exposed as a liar and fraud and struck off the UK medical register. Astonishingly three dozen charges were found proved. Almost all of his fellow authors withdrew their names and support from the fraudulent paper.

With thunderous arrogance Wakefield “rejects” all of the findings against him.

Years of research failed to reproduce or uncover phenomena similar to his claims. Wakefield continues to push his fraud from the USA, profiting now from the global Conspiracy Theory movement, destroying public health and what is left of his callous character as he goes.

One understands Vaxxed is simply his most recent project. If and when more follow, as has been suggested, they too will be debunked.

Recently BBC 4 produced an excellent review of the anti-vaccine movement titled, In the Wake of Wakefield (BBC).

Twenty years ago, in February 1998, one of the most serious public health scandals of the 20th century was born, when researcher, Andrew Wakefield and his co-authors published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet.

  • You can access the audio below, © BBC 4;
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Measles makes a slow start to 2018 in Australia

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Health;

Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by the Morbillivirus. The virus is spread from person to person through droplets in the air. Symptoms take between 10 and 14 days to show after infection and include rash, fever, cough, runny nose and inflammation of the eye. Complications of measles include ear, brain and lung infections, which can lead to brain damage and death. Approximately one child in every 1,000 who contracts measles will develop inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). Immunisation rates of up to 95% are required for the sustained control of vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles.

The description above was last updated on March 20th, 2014. As evidenced in the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System table below, 2014 was a frightening year for measles infection. The year’s total of 339 was the highest for 16 years and each of the first three months had higher notifications than any other month of the year. Although June and July notifications were only two and four less, respectively.

Numbers of measles notification per State and Territory are tabulated here.

In fact 2014 saw measles outbreaks across the globe. Australia experienced an influx of cases from Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines which resulted in unvaccinated children in Australia being infected according to the Department of Health. There were over 58,000 cases in the Philippines and 110 deaths, reported in February 2015. The USA experienced an outbreak with a similar cause.

The Disease Daily reported in Outbreaks of 2014;

Over the course of the last year, there have been 610 reported cases of measles across twenty states.  The reemergence of measles can be attributed, in part, to increased international travel where infected travelers have imported the disease into the United States. Particularly for 2014, many measles case clusters were traced back to the large ongoing measles outbreak happening in the Philippines. However, those in the United States who have become infected are generally unvaccinated, often by their own volition.

Further highlighting the role the unvaccinated play in sparking measles epidemics, one notes that the CDC also highlighted the role of unvaccinated Amish communities;

2014: The U.S. experienced 23 measles outbreaks in 2014, including one large outbreak of 383 cases, occurring primarily among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio. Many of the cases in the U.S. in 2014 were associated with cases brought in from the Philippines, which experienced a large measles outbreak.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also raised concerns of measles infection and unvaccinated children;

Widespread use of the measles vaccine has dramatically reduced the numbers of cases in Canada over the past 45 years. But the recent outbreak in British Columbia is underscoring how the highly contagious virus can very effectively seek out groups of unprotected children.

With respect to The Netherlands a paper by Woudenberg, et al, entitled Large measles epidemic in the Netherlands, May 2013 to March 2014: changing epidemiology examined two measles epidemics (1999-2000 and 2013-14) that primarily effected orthodox Protestants. In the second epidemic, 27 May 2013 – 12 March 2014, 2,700 cases were reported. Molecular typing of the outbreak strain indicated a sequence indistinguishable from a strain first identified in Wales UK in the second half of 2012: the Taunton sequence.

The first Dutch case was identified with the Taunton sequence in May 2013. By this time 900 identical sequences had been reported from the UK, France, Ireland and the Russian Federation, making a source country difficult to identify. The Netherlands outbreak was indicated as the source of outbreaks in Belgium and Canada and from Canada to the USA. Social ties between orthodox Protestants in the Netherlands and Canada leading to the spread of vaccine-preventable disease such as polio, measles, mumps and rubella to Canada has been previously reported.

Reinforcing the importance of national herd immunity to international control of measles the authors of this study conclude in part;

The number of individuals refraining from vaccination is insufficient to sustain endemic measles transmission in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, this situation does pose a risk to public health in the Netherlands and contributes to the worldwide spread of measles, thus forming an impediment to the elimination of measles in Europe and elsewhere.

Amish communities and orthodox Protestants had a documented impact on reducing measles herd immunity in the USA, and Europe and Canada respectively and this was reflected in the 2014 outbreaks. In Australia whilst small numbers struggle to meet immunisation requirements due to social hardship, the anti-vaccination lobby have for years worked hard to spread disinformation, driving down immunisation rates nationally.

In June 2015 the ABC reported that the “surge” of measles the year before resulted in health authorities calling on Australians to ensure they were up to date with immunisations. If we compare this month’s present number of 4 notifications to the 78 for January 2014 it is clear measles notifications for the first month of this year are just over 5% of January 2014. The figure may rise slightly as further notifications for January reach the NNDSS but at this stage such a low figure is comforting.

Still, there have been warnings specific to measles this year and late last year. Victoria issued a measles health alert (Confirmed measles case in Melbourne) on December 5th 2017. This was a single case acquired overseas and fortunately the national total for December 2017 remains at 2. The alert is now resolved. An identical measles health alert for Melbourne, differing only in where the individual travelled when infectious was issued on January 17th 2018 and remains active.

This was reported in The Age on the same day.

Passengers who flew from Dubai to Melbourne last Thursday have been warned that a fellow passenger has an “extremely infectious” case of the measles.

[…]

Measles has an incubation period of seven to 18 days, so fellow passengers may develop symptoms from Thursday until the end of the month.

As today is the last day of the month this status may change to resolved as of midnight. W.A. Health issued a very similar warning via Twitter on January 11th.

This was reported the same day in Perth Now by Cathy O’Leary.

We have no way of telling what measles notifications will be over the remainder of 2018. September and October last year saw a worrying spike in notifications in Melbourne. However we in Australia can be grateful for No Jab No Pay legislation.

Globally at present measles is proving a problem in developed and developing nations. In the UK the NHS has confirmed well over 100 cases in five regions. The high risk of being unvaccinated and travelling is being stressed to the public. Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England said;

People who have recently travelled, or are planning to travel to Romania, Italy and Germany and have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine are particularly at risk

Countries at risk are evident in this January 12th, 2018 report, Measles in the EU/EEA: current outbreaks, latest data and trends – January 2018. Most cases were unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated. The report included.

The spread of measles across Europe is due to suboptimal vaccination coverage in many EU/EEA countries: of all measles cases reported during the one-year period 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017 with known vaccination status, 87% were not vaccinated.

In the first two weeks of January the measles outbreak in the Ukraine has resulted in 1285 cases. Ukraine measles vaccination uptake is regarded as the worst in Europe, being under 50% in recent years according to the Ukraine Health Ministry. It was reported on January 21st that The Acting Health Minister Ulyana Suprun said;

Yesterday it became known about yet another death from measles. This is a child who has not been vaccinated. This is the eighth death case since the start of the outbreak, and this is the tragedy of our society, in which people die from diseases that are prevented by vaccinations […]

In order to achieve the measles elimination goal, the vaccination coverage rates for children targeted by routine vaccination programmes should increase in a number of countries, as the vaccination coverage of the second dose must be at least 95% to interrupt measles circulation and achieve herd immunity.

Presently a tragedy due to neglect, poverty, malnutrition and measles is unfolding in Papua, Indonesia.

AFP reported on January 28th;

Some 800 children have fallen ill and as many as 100 others, mostly toddlers, are feared to have died in what Jakarta called an “extraordinary” outbreak that was first made public this month. […]

When Widodo took office in 2014, he vowed to speed up infrastructure development and services, bolstering hopes for the region, observers said.

“What the government is saying is what we think is important to do (for Papua) is in fact not being done,” said Richard Chauvel, a Papua expert at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute. […]

“As measles is easily prevented with a safe and inexpensive vaccine, these deaths should never have happened,” said Freddy Numberi, a former governor of Papua. [He added] that Papua has Indonesia’s lowest life expectancy and highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates.

Without a doubt it is the same pattern across the globe. Measles epidemics will sprout wherever herd immunity is unsuitable. More so it is the unvaccinated who will suffer the consequences of widespread infection, whether in developing or developed nations.

Indeed even with low levels of infection the unvaccinated, with an infection rate of approximately 90%, bear the brunt of infection. Australia’s anti-vaccination lobby has for years pushed fear and disinformation, spreading ignorance and apathy leading directly to low herd immunity and epidemics of vaccine preventable disease.

This has resulted in effective legislative change manifesting as No Jab, No Pay and No Jab, No Play. The policy has been successful in raising vaccination uptake.

According to Immunise Australia;

The disease which requires the highest level of vaccine coverage to achieve herd immunity is measles as it is highly infectious. It is estimated that coverage of 92-94% is required for herd immunity from this virus. For this reason the national aspirational immunisation coverage target has been set at 95%. This target provides sufficient herd immunity to prevent transmission of other vaccine preventable diseases and supports Australia’s contribution to achieving measles elimination in the Western Pacific Region.

Fortunately January 2018 has indicated measles notification the lowest in four years. Whilst measles continues to present challenges around the world, Australia should remain vigilant and ensure we keep ahead of any potential outbreak.

Features of the anti-vaccination movement on Facebook

Recently Australia’s most vocal, persistent and offensive anti-vaccine pressure group, The Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network argued vaccination is a breach of religious freedom. They misinformed the federal parliamentary inquiry into religious freedom that vaccines were prepared with “the products of abortion”.

Vaccination was therefore “a moral evil”, violating teachings of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, they contended citing absolutely no evidence to support their stance. The Australian Medical Association noted that their position was “irrational” and “unscientific”.

It was clear that the AVN was trying to find its way around the No Jab No Pay family assistance requirements and the No Jab No Play policy requirements. In April 2015 it was initially announced that religious exemptions for vaccination would cease. This was reinforced by health minister Greg Hunt in March this year. The only grounds for exemption of childhood vaccination are medical. The AVN’s claim that vaccines contain “the products of abortion” is not only baseless, but well refuted.

The AVN’s ignorance of the moral considerations involved are not difficult to discern. A Vatican City 2005 Statement, Moral reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human foetuses, includes in reference 15;

…the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations [due to rubella infection] in question, and for the subsequent abortion of fetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.

Still it is quite predictable that this morally bereft pressure group will continue to press the fallacious contention that vaccines contain aborted foetal cells. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter are means by which the anti-vaccination lobby interact. Indeed the conduct of antivaccinationists on Facebook has revealed much of their conspiratorial, cruel, cult-like nature.

First we witnessed the anti-vaccine lobby grow with simple access to misinformation via the Internet combined with the ability to invent and spread more. With the growth of social media we have witnessed this social malignancy improve it’s networking skills and spread their dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories in real time.

In this light I was grateful that the sharp eyes of others interested in the impact of the anti-vaccination lobby had come across the following research paper.

Mapping the anti-vaccination movement on Facebook. Naomi Smith and Tim Graham.

Information, Communication & Society

Published December 27th, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1418406

It looked at 6 anti-vaccine Facebook pages.

  1. Fans of the AVN
  2. Dr. Tenpenny on vaccines
  3. Great mothers (and others) questioning vaccines
  4. No vaccines Australia
  5. Age of autism
  6. RAGE against the vaccines

Post, like and comment data were further used to generate 6 social networks which were then further analysed.

Abstract;

Over the past decade, anti-vaccination rhetoric has become part of the mainstream discourse regarding the public health practice of childhood vaccination. These utilise social media to foster online spaces that strengthen and popularise anti-vaccination discourses. In this paper, we examine the characteristics of and the discourses present within six popular anti-vaccination Facebook pages. We examine these large-scale datasets using a range of methods, including social network analysis, gender prediction using historical census data, and generative statistical models for topic analysis (Latent Dirichlet allocation).

We find that present-day discourses centre around moral outrage and structural oppression by institutional government and the media, suggesting a strong logic of ‘conspiracy-style’ beliefs and thinking. Furthermore, anti-vaccination pages on Facebook reflect a highly ‘feminised’ movement ‒ the vast majority of participants are women. Although anti-vaccination networks on Facebook are large and global in scope, the comment activity sub-networks appear to be ‘small world’. This suggests that social media may have a role in spreading anti-vaccination ideas and making the movement durable on a global scale.

Some key points from the paper’s Discussion and Conclusion might be listed as follows.

  • There is a large amount of online information that is important to the anti-vaccination (AV) community.
  • Social media acts as an “effective hub” in the communication of AV information. The information is “designed to encourage grass roots resistance”.
  • AV communities are relatively sparse, not functioning as close knit communities of support.
  • Yet participation alone in AV groups can reinforce AV beliefs.
  • AV participants are reasonably active across a number of groups.
  • This suggests AV users participation in various AV groups is more autonomous than would be explained by Facebook’s recommender system.
  • Liking and commenting across a number of AV pages may create a “filter bubble” effect.♠
  • This effect is a pattern of involvement and activity that reinforces AV beliefs and conduct.
  • More research is needed to discern how much of this effect is due to the users own conduct as opposed to Facebook’s algorithmic structure.
  • AV Facebook pages exhibit “small world” network structure characteristics. Information diffuses quickly through the network via user comments.
  • “Small world” characteristics may be due to inherent aspects of the AV movement or may manifest due to the Facebook “platform”.
  • Either the former or latter aspect driving development of “small world” specifics will have unique and interesting implications.♣
  • The former suggests that as a social movement the AV lobby might develop as a “small world” network that may be amplified and made more visible online.
  • If the latter, the Facebook platform may be instrumental in the growth of the AV movement, protecting from disruption of outside influences.
  • Wide sharing of posts suggests the AV community has scope beyond the public Facebook pages.
  • Sharing may be important in spreading AV information and growing the AV movement.
  • Gender composition of AV movement reflects cultural understanding of parenting – primarily maternal.
  • Vaccination is historically “a mother’s question”. AV is described by the authors as “a mother’s question”.
  • “AV movement is primarily led by women”. Note; Sherri Tenpenny runs “Vaccine Info” on Facebook.
  • Whilst anti-vaccination is not gender specific, the “gendered nature” of Facebook page participation suggests the AV movement is “feminised”.
  • Several key pre-occupations of AV communities are evident on Facebook pages; institutional arrangements are seen to be perpetuating the harmful practice of vaccination.
  • AV community is “morally outraged about vaccination and structurally oppressed by seemingly tyrannical and conspiratorial government and media”.
  • There is a strong belief in conspiracies driven by government and media; Cover up of vaccine injury and death, spreading of Zika virus by Bill Gates and belief in chemtrails.
  • Comparison of vaccination to the Holocaust indicates strong sense of persecution within AV Facebook pages studied.
  • Strong anti-science and anti-medicine beliefs in tandem with use of natural remedies.
  • Findings limited by sample size.
  • Further, more comprehensive research is needed.

♠ Commonly referred to as an “echo chamber’.

Final paragraph;

The results of this investigation suggest a robust and highly gendered network structure that has a strong sense of moral outrage associated with the practice of vaccination. This ‘righteous indignation’, in combination with the network characteristics identified in this study, indicates that anti-vaccination communities are likely to be persistent across time and global in scope as they utilise the affordances of social media platforms to disseminate anti-vaccination information.

Concerns about vaccination reveal a community that feels persecuted and is suspicious of mainstream medical practice and government-sanctioned methods to prevent disease. In a generation that has rarely seen these diseases first hand, the risk of adverse reaction seems more immediate and pressing than disease prevention.

♣ Regarding “small world” characteristics being due to either AV specifics or to the Facebook platform, the authors write;

Both outcomes are equally interesting. The former suggests that social movements (like anti-vaccination) may inevitably develop as ‘small world’ networks structure that is further amplified and made visible online. If it is the latter, this demonstrates that Facebook as a platform has important implications for the dynamics, spread, and durability of social movements outside of the specific case examined here. Indeed, if the materiality or architecture of Facebook shapes networks towards ‘small-worldness’, this suggests that such platforms may be instrumental for the anti-vaccination movement and social movements more broadly to blossom, flourish, and resist being dismantled or disrupted by outside influences.

The above paragraph rings true and undoubtedly applies to a number of anti-science movements and conspiracy theories across the developed world.

“Vaxxed” and the manipulation of William Thompson’s telephone audio

Back in April I published a list of 15 reputable references that debunked key claims put forward in the fraudumentary, Vaxxed; from cover up to catastrophe.

They continue to gain relevance. This year the anti-vaccine lobby in Australia has pushed the Vaxxed mantra of widespread fraud at the CDC, targetted ATSI communities and launched an insulting plan for profit. As usual Meryl Dorey is heading the push for hard cash, this time via the Patreon site. Unfortunate donors will get nothing in return beyond access to “bi-weekly webinars” should she manage an income of $2,000 per month. And why? According to her blurb on patreon.com;

…to keep everyone up-to-date on the most recent news and information from around the world regarding vaccination and health rights

This, dear reader, would preclude accepting that one cannot access such misinformation already in countless anti-vaccine echo chambers. However Dorey really wants $5,000 per month. Again the reward is to nothing more than a rehash of her anti-vaccine beliefs and a smattering of more recent anti-vaccine articles with a very likely history of rejection, retraction or both;

This class will aim to help parents and health professionals to make informed choices regarding vaccination by providing them with a broad ranged (sic) of historical and up-to-date references and outlining some of the questions they need to be asking before saying yes (or no) to vaccines.

Dorey is seemingly on a high thanks to recent attention received because of harm the bogus messages spread via Vaxxed and Vaxxed Q and A sessions can cause public health. Reasonable Hank has published an excellent piece pulling back the covers on Dorey’s latest scam, reminding readers there is still the matter of $160,000 raised for the promised High Court challenge of No Jab No Pay legislation. The video clips provided by Hank are just a couple of those in which Dorey is basking in the controversy created by the Vaxxed production team.

This raises the rather inescapable fact that audio from Dr. William Thompson was manipulated on two separate occasions. Discerning this, shall we say, fraudulent presentation of what William Thompson said when talking to Dr. Brian Hooker is thanks to the publication of Vaccine Whistleblower: Exposing Autism Research Fraud at the CDC, by devoted antivaccinationist Kevin Barry. The book contains four legally obtained telephone conversations between Hooker and Thompson. This allowed for a comparison between transcripts of recorded telephone conversations and the conversation audio in Vaxxed.

The first here was when the Vaxxed trailer was released. You can listen to the audio below;


The two segments spliced together come across as (Thompson broaching discussion with Hooker);

you and I don’t know each other very well. You have a son with autism, and I have great shame now.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, 15 reputable references were published here last April. The above audio from the trailer was splendidly exposed by Matt Carey of Left Brain Right Brain in March 2016. Carey clearly explains what has happened with manipulating audio here – and the context Wakefield was trying to create for the audience. This is a trailer, so to be sure listeners are indeed misled as they are supposed to be, Del Bigtree follows the spliced sentence with an explanation (10 second mark).

We see that a single sentence is the result of splicing together two sections of conversation and removing parts of those sections in Call 2. Looking at the transcript one can see that 90 words from Thompson and 39 words from Hooker are omitted. So 129 words of conversation actually lie between the two segments of audio that make up the manufactured sentence;

you and I don’t know each other very well. [129 missing words] You have a son with autism, (and) I have great shame now.

Next is audio describing the same call from Thompson to Hooker, yet produced for the final film itself. This audio is the product of three separate segments spliced together, with the third introduced in between the original two segments. We can now hear Thompson say, “I don’t know how this is all going to play out”.

You can listen to the audio below;


It is quite clear that segments 1 and 2 in the transcripts below have been significantly edited with the purpose of creating a certain context.

Brian, you and I don’t know each other very well. I don’t know how this is all going to play out. You have a son with autism and I have great shame now when I meet families with autism because I have been part of the problem.

 

Click transcript below to embiggen

Click transcript below to embiggen

The anti-vaccine lobby in Australia, particularly members of the AVN should offer their members and those who attend Vaxxed screenings an explanation as to why this audio was tampered with on two separate occasions in two different ways. With apologies to those who dislike colourful annotation I trust the volume of audio modification is clear.

The context sought through modifying the audio is false. William Thompson did not ring Hooker with the aim of revealing that the CDC had suppressed information that any vaccines cause autism. He did not ring to claim the CDC was committing fraud. If Thompson had accused the CDC of fraud in order to hide a link between vaccines and autism, one can be certain that Wakefield would have shouted this far and wide.

I don’t know where in the four transcripts the sentence “I don’t know how this is all going to play out”, has been lifted from. Yet one can see plainly that the sentence has been inserted. It is not an original part of the transcript above.

Finally there’s Thompson’s statement of August 27th, 2014. One cannot reconcile the claims of the Vaxxed charade with Thompson’s position on vaccines. Concerns over the omission of certain findings “in a particular study”, does not a CDC fraud make. As one may well have concluded, Thompson had no control over what his name was attributed to following the deception of Brian Hooker.

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub­ group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.

I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his belief that CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.

It seems that despite the increased efforts of the AVN to promote Vaxxed and to push further lies onto Indigenous Australians the reality remains that there is no demonstrable CDC fraud and no viable CDC whistleblower.

Catherine Hughes interviewed on radio about a troll site “fact checking” the Light For Riley charity page

If [the death of infant son Riley] wasn’t enough for the Hughes family they were then subject, and continue to be subject, to a targeted
campaign of online abuse and harassment from the antivaccination movement. But they have kept up their public campaign
because they know better than anyone else the devastating consequences of these diseases.

August 8th 2017 – Shadow Health Minister Catherine King (video)
Australian Immunisation Register and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

The above was read out almost three months ago during House Debates in Parliament, by Shadow Health Minister Ms. Catherine King. She had just previously said;

I would like to finish today by sharing a story of a Western Australian family who I met a number of years ago and who continue to be huge champions for vaccination. They have had very personal and deep experience of just how dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases are. I refer particularly to Catherine and Greg Hughes, who’ve experienced what no parent should have to go through, losing their baby boy to whooping cough

It is clear that the regular consistency of what reasonable hank has called “the abhorrent attacks on the Hughes family”, has also caught Minister King’s attention.

Some minutes later Nola Marino MP, Liberal Representative for Forrest rose to speak and made reference to the Hughes family’s use of social media.

The family took to social media at the time not only to share their grief but also in a desire to help eradicate the disease. They were encouraging people to make sure that their children were vaccinated. In the days before Riley’s death, Mrs Hughes made an impassioned plea to other families to consider vaccinating their children against the disease. She said, ‘If you have not been immunised against whooping cough, please consider getting it done. It was heartbreaking to watch four-week old Riley struggle with it at Prince Margaret Hospital. Please keep him in your thoughts.’

For over two years Australians have benefited from the nonprofit organisation Light For Riley. As is clear in the audio below this charity relies on donations and strives to educate woman about the importance of pertussis boosters during the third trimester of pregnancy. The Hughes have campaigned not only for awareness but also for availability. Every State and Territory offers free pertussis booster shots to pregnant women.

An example of the work done by Catherine and Greg via light For Riley

Catherine Hughes was awarded the 2016 W.A. Young Australian of the Year. There are five words describing Catherine’s work in this summary that take on more significance, given the lies and accusations spread by antivaccinationists; With no thought of reward. Catherine and Greg also won The Australian Skeptics’ Thornett Award, which is given for the Promotion Of Reason, in October 2015.

Still there have been attacks of a reprehensible nature arising from the anti-vaccine lobby. Hank has examined these slurs since their inception and revealed those who invent accusations of barbaric cruelty. Catherine Hughes has responded more than once in writing to address attacks against Riley. By manufacturing conspiracy fantasy those responsible are convincing any observers with an eye for evidence that there is none to discredit Catherine Hughes, Greg Hughes or the Light For Riley charity.

Little has changed in two years and it appears little fresh air is on the antivaccine horizon. From Inside the anti-vaxxination cult, August 6th 2017;

WITHIN 24 hours of their baby boy’s death, Catherine and Greg Hughes were confronted with the ugliness that drives the misinformed anti-vax warriors.

The grieving parents were bombarded with vicious attacks claiming they were “baby-killers” and that their infant son Riley had died because they did not treat him with vitamins and essential oils.

But the inconvenient truth which the Australian Vaccination-sceptics Network and other anti-establishment radicals do not want to acknowledge is that Riley died of whooping cough, for which he was not vaccinated.

“We were told that we were baby-killers simply because we were raising awareness about pregnancy vaccination — a proven method of protecting infants from this disease which we weren’t told about at the time we were pregnant with Riley,” Ms Hughes told the Herald Sun.

“We were accused of being employees of pharmaceutical companies, we were told that our child didn’t ever exist, and we were even accused of killing Riley ourselves.”

[…]

Recently a page attacking Light For Riley appeared on Facebook. Capturing the very nadir of human behaviour in antivaccine circles, it is titled Light For Riley Fact Checker. Predictably the lies begin immediately. The logo proclaims, “Nearly died after my last vaccines. Still can’t get a medical exemption”. An image of a young girl accompanies this nonsense, but that’s as far as it goes. There’s no story, no evidence, no medical statement. Nothing. It is vile and insulting but yet again reveals the fantasy world dependent upon conspiracy that the anti-vaccine lobby can’t live without. Wayne Baird – the AVSN’s shiny new public officer is an administrator.

Any child who genuinely almost died from a diagnosed Adverse Event Following Immunisation would be afforded exceptional care. Yet the bogus claim made over and again by antivaccinationists is that vaccines cause serious injuries and death. The reality is that they do not, yet making this claim appears to assuage any need for diagnosis, documentation or indeed any evidence beyond the claim itself. More so if a claimed vaccine harm occurs in consonance with a supposed conspiracy designed to suppress information the antivaccinationist may confidently argue that deaths from vaccine preventable disease serve to promote vaccination.

This particular Big Pharma claim is a favourite of Judy Wilyman and the AVSN. Also without any evidence the so-called “fact checker” has accused Catherine and Greg Hughes of being paid off by pharmaceutical companies. Tracy Hardy from Mouths of Mums has written about the scam page here. OUTRAGE: Antivax Facebook group mocks the death of baby boy. This is beyond outrageous and has our blood boiling along with this poor family. Yes indeed. Hard to disagree with that observation.

The page not only presents an outright lie concerning a near fatal vaccine injury but attempts to discredit information on Light For Riley. One bizarre post challenges donations for polio vaccines in third world countries. Apparently Light For Riley, “haven’t told your supporters is that polio is transmitted via the oral-faecal route, so hygiene and clean water are very important for preventing polio transmission.” It’s more likely that supporters are aware of this and also of the horror of polio in developed nations before Salk’s vaccine.

What I find most concerning about this “fact check” page is that it relies on the dodgy kudos inherent in vaccine injuries. Across the anti-vaccine lobby the notion that all vaccines potentially cause serious harm all the time is being pushed. Therefore vaccine injuries are rampant. Vaccines don’t really work and the pertussis vaccine is the cause of pertussis.

Disinformation being pushed about vaccines is big on fear yet free of substance.

  • ♣ Below – Catherine Hughes speaking with Oliver Peterson on Perth Live, 6PR October 25th

Greg Hughes responds to the so-called “Fact Checker” page;

Just when you think anti-vaccine lobbyists can’t sink to a new low, last night we were alerted to a page set up, mocking our dead son and lying about us.

Normally I’m not one to provide any oxygen to pages full of misinformation, however a couple of items on the page caught my eye and so I refused to let this one slip.

The about section states as follows:

“This page is making the Light For Riley page accountable to the misinformation they spread about vaccines. Light For Riley are funded by pharmaceutical companies to promote the death of their baby. This page is unfunded and has no conflicts of interest when it comes to promoting accurate information about the vaccine industry.”

Let me give these anonymous liars a fact-check of their own.

We have NEVER accepted funding from pharmaceutical companies. We are run by volunteers, nobody is paid a wage and our activism has only come at expense to us. For the most part we have poured our own money and efforts into the campaign with the two primary motivations being to honour our son and to ensure no family endures the heartache we suffered.

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