Debunking Anti-Vaxxers

Just over a couple of months ago the video Debunking Anti-Vaxxers was published by Toronto based AsapSCIENCE.

There’s a lot of very helpful information packed into less than seven and a half minutes, and it’s particularly worth visiting the YouTube page for a very comprehensive list of “further reading references”.

You can follow @mitchellmoffitt and @Whalewatchmeplz on Twitter and on Instagram here and here, respectively. There are also links to AsapSCIENCE on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

 

I was also interested to come across Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2018 Annual Letter. It’s entitled The 10 Toughest Questions We Get. The questions are answered with graphs, videos and margin notes.

They are;

  1. Why don’t you give more in the United States?
  2. What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?
  3. Why don’t you give money to fight climate change?
  4. Are you imposing your values on other cultures?
  5. Does saving kids’ lives lead to overpopulation?
  6. How are President Trump’s policies affecting your foundation’s work?
  7. Why do you work with corporations?
  8. Is it fair that you have so much influence?
  9. What happens when the two of you disagree?
  10. Why are you really giving your money away—what’s in it for you?
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Seven Ways to Identify Pseudoscience

Original seven ways – © Relatively Interesting

  • The use of psychobabble – words that sound scientific and professional but are used incorrectly, or in a misleading manner;

Self-help books, folk and pop psychology, and motivational seminars often use psychobabble.  Deepak Chopra is a name that comes to mind at present. Nothing more than a fraud according to Professor Jerry Coyne, one may delight in the Wisdom of Chopra which is a Twitter stream made up of seeming quotes that are randomly generated by words that can be found in his genuine Twitter stream. If anybody breathes prescient life into the words of the late Carl Sagan it is the scoundrel and intellectual mobster Deepak Chopra.

Sagan proffered;

I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive.

  • A substantial reliance on anecdotal evidence;

Without a doubt the alternatives to medicine behemoth would be lost without dramatic tales of self-limiting illnesses merely running their course, or completely false or hugely exaggerated stories of serious, disabling or terminal disease executing an about face due to the power of some wonderful concoction. The frustrating hurdle here for those who promote reason is that almost all work undertaken to convince the patient occurs in their own mind. Scam artists from peddlers of herbs to chiropractors, Baptist religions and indeed even the Catholic Church are swift to take credit if they have been involved.

  • Extraordinary claims in the absence of extraordinary evidence;

From 9/11 being an inside job to images of the apparent exhumation of giant skeletons to alien autopsy videos and shaky vision of UFOs drifting across a grainy background it seems all these and other extraordinary claims have one thing in common. A powerful need to believe in their truth by those that ensure certain – in fact sometimes many – conspiracy theories indeed exist. Now thanks to Netflix we can wander through a range of delightful titles that offer everything from reasonable special effects to WW2 era reports and “experts” convinced our governments expect us to believe the laws of physics have been broken.

  • Claims which cannot be proven false;

Insisting oneself or perhaps a number of people in the world have communicated telepathically at infrequent and random intervals with aliens from a distant star is impossible to disprove on face value. The claimant can continue to insist he/she is unaware of who the other telepathic human recipients are, or when he/she will receive or has received a communication. The communication may be quite benign such as, “Happy Birthday Deepak”.

Ideally the burden of proof should be placed on the party making the claim.

  • Claims that counter established scientific fact;

Often going hand in hand with claims that rely on anecdotal evidence are those that defy scientific fact. Homeopathy stands atop the podium in this regard. Not only is it absolutely certain to not work but it’s adherents may insist on relaying impossible tales – often knowing they are outright lies – to besmear evidence based medicine and promote junk, bogus cures. For example pertussis (or Whooping Cough) is sometimes referred to as “the 100 day cough”. Prominent Australian antivaccinationist Meryl Dorey claimed on national TV both her vaccinated and unvaccinated children “got it”. She treated it homeopathically and “none of us were sick for more than two weeks and it was nothing worse than a bad cough”.

Countering established fact may be said of an enormous number of claims made about pseudoscientific “cures” for many ailments. Some treat energy meridians or “chakras” that don’t actually exist. These involve peddling herbs, acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, osteopathy, chanting, cupping, aligning activities with moon cycles, astrology and more.

Without a doubt denial of anthropogenic climate change should be mentioned here and we might again reflect upon to Carl Sagan’s worrying prediction.

  • Absence of adequate peer review;

In 2015 antivaccinationist and science fraud Judy Wilyman, under the auspicies of antivaccinationist and conspiracy sympathiser Dr. Brian Martin, finished her PhD at the University of Wollongong. The controversy surrounding inadequate peer review between 2012 to 2016 and indeed until today is a function of the copious inaccuracies in her thesis. Entitled “A critical analysis of the Australian Government’s rationale for its vaccination policy”, it was an immature an inaccurate antivaccination conspiracy rant. The fact that it was accepted, and indeed accepted with it’s discredited bibliography, indicates a clear absence of adequate peer review.

Tragically this eventuality has emboldened Wilyman to demand respect from academics and to level outrageous personal claims at her critics, rather than attempt to publish respectable material.

  • Claims that are repeated despite being refuted;

Whilst a great deal of the above intellectual repugnance deserves a slice of this pie, the authors at Relatively Interesting have populated it with the anti-vaccination obsession with the globally damaging claim that vaccines cause autism. Originally at a 1998 media conference designed to reassure parents, head author of the now rejected paper Andrew Wakefield proffered the baseless claim that rather than use the MMR trivalent vaccine, parents should consider choosing single shot vaccines. The “vaccines cause autism” claim has not only been shown to be false and cannot be replicated, but it is now well established that Wakefield acted with the sole aim of making tens and probably hundreds of millions of pounds via his plan to establish immuno-analysis laboratories for the new condition he was calling autistic enterocolitis. He also held patents for single shot measles, mumps and rubella vaccines.

A five member General Medical Council panel found Wakefield guilty of over 30 charges including 12 of causing children to endure “clinically unjustified” invasive testing procedures, buying blood at children’s birthday parties and managing four counts of dishonesty. Then, his “continued lack of insight” into his conduct, and consequences thereof, meant that only “total erasure” from the medical register was warranted. Today on the back of countless refutations of Wakefields claims he now pushes the fraudumentary Vaxxed full of false information and complete with the tampered audio of phone conversations.

 

Regrettably today more than in recent years we can benefit from keeping an eye out for these seven markers of pseudo-science.

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;

“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.

Lies and Deceit from Australia’s “Vaxxed” promoters

Lies and deception are second nature to the Australian Vaccination skeptics Network and particularly the group’s conspiracy-pushing driving force, Meryl Dorey.

Never one to stray far from the spotlight Dorey has been active in promoting the anti-vaccine conspiracy theory propaganda flick, Vaxxed. Along with Polly Tommy, Brian Hooker, Tasha David and Suzanne Humphries, Dorey has recently caused a stir in misleading the managers of venues booked to screen the bogus “documentary”.

This sort of scam was to be expected given the mid-May warning about the film and involvement of disgraced ex-doctor, Andrew Wakefield. On May 15th The West Australian published Parents warned on Perth screening of anti-vaccination film, Vaxxed.

Parents are being warned to ignore propaganda promoting the first WA screening of the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed.

The screening of the controversial film in Perth on Friday is being advertised through social media, with the southern suburbs location due to be given to ticketholders 30 minutes beforehand.

Directed by Andrew Wakefield — a former doctor whose debunked study played a key role in the anti-vaccination movement — the film reignites false claims about a link between the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine and autism. […]

Australian Medical Association national president Michael Gannon said people only had to see who the filmmaker was to know the content was questionable.

“Andrew Wakefield was found to have fraudulently produced evidence around the original MMR scare in Britain, which led to him being deregistered as a doctor,” Dr Gannon said

By the time the planned July 25th screening in QLD was due, the group was seemingly getting creative. QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk heads a state government that is firmly pro-vaccine. Still, the venue chosen by the Vaxxed crew to peddle their nonsense was Miami State High School. As the ABC later reported;

Earlier this month Health Minister Cameron Dick urged residents to boycott the film that has caused controversy by linking a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to autism.

Oh my.

In order to slip by the looming conflict of interest and the likely surety that anti-vaccine twaddle would be denied a state school venue, the Vaxxed crew decided to, well.., to lie. About the booking. The, um, purpose. About the purpose of the booking. Mmm, yes um, they did. The ABC quote the QLD Premier;

My preliminary advice is that there has been some misrepresentation to the school in question, Ms Palaszczuk said.

“They conveyed to the principal that it was to be conveying information about organic produce.”

A report at Diluted Thinking (which I recommend reading) includes a statement from the Miami State High School Principal, Sue Dalton. It’s quite clear that at no time was the intention to screen or the eventual screening of Vaxxed conveyed by those deceiving Miami State School. Sue Dalton’s statement notes;

The school hall was hired to an independent local business owner to promote their healthy lifestyle business of organic foods and coffee. It is incredibly disappointing that the agreed purpose of the use of hire did not reflect the forum that was presented last night.

Reasonable Hank also covered this abuse of state education facilities and has fortunately included video of Polly Tommy revealing her unstable anti-vaccinationism. This would appear to be a woman crippled by malignant ideology and intent on spreading potentially lethal falsehood.

The next morning, July 27th, The Gold Coast Bulletin published an ideal front page.

Incredibly the dishonest Vaxxed crew again played their hand at deceit on July 28th taking advantage of Lake Macquarie City Council. Diluted Thinking covers this matter in depth presenting an excellent examination of the facts leading to a comprehensive conclusion. Dorey and Tommey are exposed as the amateur charlatans that they are.

The Newcastle Herald have covered the appalling conduct of the Vaxxed crew. Anger as Charleston community centre The Place screens film linking vaccines with autism;

HEALTH authorities and a Lake Macquarie councillor whose son is on the autism spectrum have slammed a decision to screen a film linking vaccines with autism at a Charlestown community centre.

On Friday night The Place, a not-for-profit centre set up between Lake Macquarie council and property group GPT, hosted a screening of Vaxxed, a documentary that is being toured by the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network (AVN).

The AVN told Hunter ticket-holders of the venue by text and email two hours before the screening.

Lake Macquarie Liberal councillor Kevin Baker, a director of The Place, said he was shocked centre management had agreed to screen the film, whose central premise is that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine may be leading to an epidemic of autism diagnoses in children.

“It’s something that’s pretty close to me. I’ve got close family with autism including my nephew, and my son sits on the spectrum,” he said.

[…]

Hunter New England Health firmly refuted the film’s portrayal of vaccination as harmful to children.

“High vaccination rates have ensured that serious childhood diseases including measles have become rare in Hunter New England,” a spokesperson said.

“We will continue to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.”

[…]

The health service also took aim at Vaxxed director Andrew Wakefield, the lead author of a controversial study published in 1998 and since retracted that claimed the autism link.

On the topic of Dorey deception, she was behind a microphone the following day, July 29th, at the Club On East in Sutherland NSW. Dorey spends almost ten minutes preaching to the converted. However this doesn’t lend a grain of truth to anything she says. Except of course that they find it harder getting media attention than previously. This is due to the effective and ongoing work of Stop The AVN which has simply held the AVN and AVsN to account with respect to various health, fair trading and business legislation in NSW and Australia.

  • Listen to the audio below;

——————————-

Dipping into her fantasy bag Dorey claims that “we have pushed really hard to try and make vaccination reaction reporting mandatory for doctors”. It seems that until doctors report vaccines as striking down huge numbers of children through illness and death, Meryl Dorey will not be satisfied on adverse reaction reporting.

They have also tried to get an ethically impossible study completed to compare the health of the fully vaccinated and the fully unvaccinated. Perhaps this is part of the reason anti-vaccinationists dismiss herd immunity. Sound methodology for such a study is quite a challenge given that the health of “the unvaccinated” benefits from herd immunity.

Dorey then claims that following a visit to Canberra the head of the Liberal Party wrote a letter to the AVN stating, “we know why you’re asking this question and we will not do this study, because it could lead to changes in vaccination policy”.

To laughter Dorey contends that this response she has plainly made up means that, “vaccination policy is what requires protection in Australia, not the children”.

Later Dorey argues that, “we have the Health Minister in Victoria saying there are no side effects for any vaccine”. Jill Hennessey said no such thing. In fact I remember this incident because there was anti-vaccine hysteria splitting hairs. It was the media release in concern that led to the wave of abusive emails, Facebook posts and tweets. The minister never mentioned “side effects”. She mentioned vaccine “risks” and unfortunately she suggested there “are no risks”, when in fact there are minuscule risks.

There are no risks in vaccinating your children, the science is really clear. Talk to a G.P. Don’t get your advice from a quack on the Internet.

This anti-vaccine video channel has the minister’s media appearance. Still whilst she was likely overly focused on the fear being pushed by the anti-vaccine lobby and made a general statement she has since made other statements. A media release in 2017 again never mentioned “side effects”, but included.

Despite scientific evidence proving they are safe and effective, and have saved millions of lives, around 25 per cent of people still have concerns about vaccines.

This more recent and more accurate statement is what Meryl Dorey should focus on, rather than conveniently making up something based on the hysteria of almost 18 months ago. This doesn’t stop Dorey getting audience members “who know someone with a vaccine injury” to stand up. About 25 people stand up. Dorey suggests this is about half. Yet not only is this an inaccurate manner in which to gather data Dorey was present when this statement listing serious vaccine injuries between zero and five per year was made to the Social Services Legislative Amendment in 2015.

After misleading her audience on the topic of vaccine injuries Dorey leads into “the right to have free and informed health choices for our children. Nobody has the right to take that away”.

In fact I agree. So one must ask Meryl Dorey why she would seek to sabotage the Australian vaccine schedule and place countless individuals at risk of vaccine preventable disease? Why take away the very best informed health programmes that evidence based medicine has to offer? What she calls “free and informed health choices”, are in fact misinformed and radically dangerous choices prompted by fear and ignorance.

To the pile of misinformation that Meryl Dorey has been pushing onto the ignorant for her own gain for years we must certainly add Andrew Wakefield’s latest scam; Vaxxed.