Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

The following post is an exceptionally detailed review of the evidence, and scientific consensus, specific to the persistent claim of a link between vaccination and autism.

Those familiar with the integrity of the scientific method and its value in examining this particular issue will be grateful for both the quality and extent of this review.

Use of the seven tiered Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence provides an excellent device by which to gauge the value of evidence, and as such, introduces one to a reliable tool for similar endeavours.

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

One of the most common concerns that people have about vaccines is that they might cause (or exacerbate) autism. This idea is perpetuated by celebrities and innumerable websites, and it has become one of the cornerstone arguments of the anti-vaccine movement, but is there any truth to it? Perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides claim a superiority of evidence. Indeed, you can find numerous websites presenting lists of papers that they claim provide evidence that autism is caused by vaccines (such as “124 research papers supporting the vaccine/autism link“). Conversely, those who support vaccines also have lists of papers which they present as evidence that vaccines do not cause autism (for example, here and here). So which is correct? The internet is full of misinformation on this topic, so I want to cut through that crap and talk about the actual studies themselves rather than simply tossing lists around…

View original post 17,466 more words

Advertisements

What SAVN doesn’t want you to read, reviewed

Recently Brian Martin of Wollongong University penned a selective piece headed What SAVN doesn’t want you to read.

Selective in that material used and omitted leans strongly toward sustaining the primary claim of the article. Arguably deceptive and certainly erroneous in that a great deal of baseless extrapolation must occur from each example to contend SAVN wants certain material unread.

My name appears a couple of times, both in the body of the piece and an apparent standout in “Acknowledgements”.

I thank the many individuals who read drafts of this comment and offered valuable feedback, especially Paul Gallagher who helped clarify several points.

Brian asked if I’d like my input to be acknowledged and I agreed. Yet it’s important I stress that input was not in support of the article’s contention but against it. As it stands readers may assume the opposite. The item which drew most comment from me is “March 2014: “Biased reporting”. It refers to a “lengthy critique” by Martin of an article by Rick Morton.

The article revealed that Wollongong University paid $3,000 for anti-vaccine lobbyist and PhD student of Martin to attend an overseas conference run by the frequently discredited OMICS group. The student/lobbyist/conspiracy theorist is Judy Wilyman. Wilyman presented what has been demonstrated to be flawed, offensive and misleading views contending that the HPV vaccine is not cost effective.

Australian information on sound cost effectiveness may be found here. Research finding positive or high cost effectiveness includes Chesson et al, 2008, Xian Wen Jin et al 2013 and Mark Jit et al 2014. Wilyman’s contention is false.

Meryl Dorey published Martin’s piece on her anti-vaccine conspiracy blog. Initially in What SAVN doesn’t want you to read Martin wrote under “Biased Reporting”;

Meryl Dorey wrote a blog about my critique; her blogs are scrutinised by some SAVNers, but I did not see any comments by them.

Actually Dorey didn’t write a critique but simply cut and pasted the first two paragraphs then linked to Martin’s full article. But that’s not the point. In 2012 Brian had sought comment before publishing “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing”. I responded then, mentioning Dorey’s refusal to discuss or respond at a rational level. Weeks later I noted her selective censorship of comments to her blog and Facebook. This allows her to shape the tone of reader feedback and thus, mislead readers in general.

In this light one can see “onslaughts” and “mobbing” are the result of provocation by Dorey, who indeed revels in the opportunity to cry brutal persecution, hate speech and general woe. I was keen for Brian Martin to realise many of his concerns can only exist in the milieu Dorey constantly nurtures.

At one point Professor Martin replied;

As I’ve written before, there is a fundamental asymmetry in the encounter between the AVN and its opponents. SAVN and perhaps others are trying to shut down the AVN. In this context, I think it is unrealistic for those in SAVN to expect the AVN to open its columns to its opponents. As I think I asked before, can you give me an example of any advocate of a minority, fringe view opposed by a powerful establishment who, having come under heavy attack for years, is still willing to open their own organisation’s columns to their opponents? If you can give me a few examples, it might help me rethink my views.

Thus as Martin had conveyed he is both aware and supportive of Dorey censoring her blog it is impossible to suggest the absence of SAVN comments is evidence that SAVN has something to hide. There was quite some back and forth until Martin could see the point I was making. He then altered the text of the “Biased reporting” paragraph to that in the published draft.

Another aspect where I’m directly mentioned is in the paragraph headed, “September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories”. Martin refers to his paper Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning. At the time I wrote in response, Dealing with the Brian Martin dilemma. There’s only one published comment. That’s from Ken McLeod who referred to being asked to comment on another draft article by Brian Martin. I didn’t publish Martin’s reply as I predicted a response or responses to be biased and unhelpful.

I informed him of my reason for omitting his reply. Of course it wasn’t lost on me that as an academic who actively supported Dorey’s manipulative and deceptive censorship of posts and comments he should understand.

At 7:42 PM +1100 9/10/12, Paul Gallagher wrote:
Hi Brian,

Sorry for the delay.

As you may know Ken is the subject of unremitting attacks from Meryl Dorey and I would be unwilling to provide her with any more material.

I have forwarded Ken your reply and he has rejected your account.

I have weighed – and continue to seriously consider – whether to publish any of your content. Given the vast amount of material omitted about the AVN’s conduct and your defence of Ms. Dorey censoring critics and misinforming the public, I fear any content published would be biased.

Over our exchanges I have raised many issues pertinent to the AVN, yet none are accepted by yourself. Thus I am reticent to provide yet another platform for what is arguably intellectual dishonesty. This appears to be happening on Hank’s blog.

I remain keen for your input on AVN matters such as fraud, monetary scams, deleting of material, tormenting grieving parents, refusal to acknowledge recent TGA/CRP requests, or obsessing over claims of persecution, etc, etc.

In fact as an example the matter of the $180,000 in subscription fees taken for many as yet unseen magazines (a dupe still attracting professional advertisers), does beg acknowledgement or comment.

I’d be interested in how a “citizens group” can attract your interest and continually be presented as benign.

Omitted from Dealing with dilemmas in health campaigning

In the same paragraph he also referred to Peter Tierney’s piece Of publication and sleights of hand. This was also in response to his piece on dilemmas in health campaigning. As you will see by following the link there are 42 responses, many from Professor Martin. His “September 2012: SAVN and conspiracy theories” paragraph initially concluded with a reference to Hanks post that he (Martin) was “winning the argument hands down” and thus the comment thread was terminated. The published version however offers;

My interpretation is that they terminated the interaction to prevent others from seeing their refusal to submit our views to review by experts.

“They”? The blog is under the control of Peter and only Peter. Perhaps assuming “they” control it and terminated it for a reason other than avoiding time wasting is insightful. Yet as I’d observed in the above correspondence I was worried about biased input, taking the place of genuine exchange and wasting time. As Hank more directly put it before terminating the thread: “Last warning. Piss or get off the pot.”

Another arguably ridiculous paragraph refers to the manufactured claims by Meryl Dorey that she is subject to serious death threats, abusive comments, false claims and is regularly sent pornography. Dorey has manufactured this from tepid insults almost six years old. Her desperation shines through in that Dorey published her “Dossier of attacks” in August 2012. Clearly she isn’t troubled by the material. The “dossier” was simply another scheme by Dorey to embellish the persecuted victim persona. The content of the “dossier” is rather pitiful compared to Dorey’s own insults.

Dorey’s narcissism shows as she likens herself to Charlotte Dawson, even quoting then police minister Michael Gallacher that (in Dawson’s case) there may be grounds for prosecution under 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act. Dawson was subject to hundreds of vile and offensive tweets. Dorey has a couple that are years old. She would delight in receiving a genuine insult or threat.

On February 22nd this year Charlotte Dawson died by suicide. Dorey has not seen fit to edit or delete her offensive page which exploits this tragic series of events. As a social scientist this is a dynamic Professor Martin should be pursuing. Instead he notes of the “dossier”;

There was an initial flurry of criticism of the dossier by SAVNers, but subsequently they seem to have largely ignored it. It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack.

Given these are not methods of attack employed by SAVN, but lies and misrepresentation on the part of Dorey why would anybody wish to engage continually on her obsessive hatred of critics? Two individuals have been removed from SAVN for their conduct. One admitted sending porn circa early 2010. Another had called Dorey’s home and left insulting messages. These events and the standard expected on the SAVN Facebook page and elsewhere (regardless of topic) were intentionally publicised at the time.

Dorey’s obsession with casting those who hold her to account as dangerous, and seeking to gag critics extended to taking out Apprehended Violence Orders. This was all quite jolly but somewhat spoiled by Dorey publically taunting the subjects she concomitantly insisted posed a threat of violence.

Essentially Martin’s claim that It is reasonable to suggest that SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack, is without merit. The purpose of SAVN is stated clearly on the Facebook page Stop The Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network. Whilst “exposing [AVsN] lies, their endemic corruption and their fraudulent practices.” is mentioned as a purpose of SAVN, nothing appears as part of the SAVN mission that precludes obsessing over this unique aspect of Dorey manufacturing the impression she is unjustly persecuted.

The so-called dossier includes Complaints to Government Bodies as a mode of “attack”. It really goes without saying that complaints follow the strict and legal guidelines laid down, reflecting the reality that Dorey is accountable for and guilty of many breaches of public health legislation, corporate and financial responsibility and based on their own disseminated material is the subject of a NSW Health Care Complaints Commission warning.

Put succinctly this absurd and irrelevant “dossier” dragged together by a narcissist is utter rubbish. Fiction. There’s no evidence to mount a serious critique of vaccination schedules or vaccines themselves and more appropriately the arguments have all been debunked. Faced with this reality antivaccinationists often fall back to generating outrage and disgust in the minds of their readers. No real cognition is needed but the pseudoscientist appears somehow correct.

Indeed Dorey made much of this in December 2010 via Death threats and suppression of vaccine truth in Australia, hosted by another bastion of lies and quackery; International Medical Council on Vaccination. Attempting to participate saw SAVN banned and disconnected from the webinar. Ample commentary and deconstruction occurred at this time.

It is not at all “reasonable to suggest SAVNers are not keen to draw attention to their own methods of attack”.

Under “April 2014: Medical Observer”, Professor Martin draws attention to a critique of Patrick Stokes’ article No, you’re not entitled to your opinion. Stokes’ piece has been exceptionally well received. The article provokes thought about the consequences of not not just giving respect to another’s right to hold opinions, but of treating certain opinions as fact and acting as if they were truth. Stokes presents a crisp example of very poor thinking on the part of Meryl Dorey.

Dorey “reasoned” that if Dr. Bob Brown can comment on nuclear power she can seriously comment on vaccination. Brown of course isn’t a nuclear physicist. Dorey doesn’t see what having a medical background has to do with (immunology). Dorey is equipped with the full knowledge Andrew Wakefield was struck from the UK medical registrar for his fraudulent paper seeking a link between MMR and “autistic enterocolitis”, and his callous disregard for the disabled children he exploited. She is aware that the paper was retracted by The Lancet.

The Essential Baby article cited by Stokes also includes;

Did the Wakefield case cause any doubt in her mind about his research? “No, not at all,” she says. “I knew he was being scapegoated, because there is so much money involved in vaccination.”

You can see where Stokes is going and the vital importance of affording serious consideration to understanding the when, why and how certain opinions cannot be dismissed as polite entitlement. The case for denying Dorey (and many others for that matter) the right to be taken seriously is strong. Arrogant, intellectual disregard should be considered reason for forfeiture. Although Dorey mentions Ken McLeod’s 2009 complaint to the NSW HCCC in her “dossier of attacks”, we should now turn our attention to her 2009 HCCC reply (pp.5-7) addressing McLeod’s challenge to AVN free speech which may harm or maim innocents.

Citing High Court rulings Dorey argues that activity of the (then) Australian Vaccination Network is akin to;

…the right to unfettered communication and discussion of all matters relating to government and public policy

Freedom of communication on matters of government and politics has been determined by the High Court as being an indispensable incident of the system of representative government that the Constitution creates…. This freedom of communication and discussion is protected against the exercise of federal and state legislative and executive power and extends to all those who participate in ʻpoliticalʼ discussion (such as the AVN) and therefore is not limited only to electors and elected.

… The High Court has extended this freedom of communication on matters of government and politics extends to all non-verbal conduct [Citation], which would include content on the AVN website and all published materials of the AVN which is the subject of this complaint from Mr McLeod.

In this case the reasoning as to why Dorey is not entitled to her opinion is manifest.

Professor Martin refers to an article penned by Neil Bramwell 18 months after Stokes’ The Conversation article. It mentions vaccination and dedicates a few lines to Patrick Stokes. Entitled Not qualified to speak out? Martin’s concern appears to be that SAVN has not given due attention to Bramwell’s piece. Why?

I think the main reason is that the article is so balanced, presenting various perspectives, not just ones favoured by SAVN.

Two other items draw Martin’s attention. SAVN did not respond publically to his article On the suppression of vaccination dissent. The piece includes a dozen paragraphs under the heading A high-profile researcher. That researcher? Andrew Wakefield. Yep. Taking up the lions share in an article on suppression of dissent. Yes, dissent. Not fraud and deception as he is guilty of.

The other name in this piece by Professor Martin is Gary Goldman. Goldman – known for being anti-varicella vaccination – is the founder and president of that appalling anti-vaccine mess of scam and quackery, Medical Veritas international. His abuse of VAERS is almost legendary. Orac has written about him here and here. Also mentioned in this paragraph is Dr. Jane Donegan, antivaccinationist who was charged (unsuccessfully) with scientific misconduct in 2007.

She is also a hero on the pages of another vaccine conspiracy blog, Child Health Safety. This hive of conspiracy, skepgoating and nonsense has been kind enough to publish Martin’s very same article we’re examining today, What SAVN doesn’t want you to read.

Next is our “citizen campaigner”. Without evidence Martin accepts the probably bogus claim of her son suffering vaccine “reactions”. It’s known he suffered inconsolable crying after whole-cell pertussis vaccination. The others Dorey fabricated. Her section includes a list of SAVN evils, suggesting by implication Dorey is mobbed and attacked.

Is Brian Martin seriously suggesting SAVN has something to hide regarding the claims of Andrew Wakefield, Gary Goldman and Meryl Dorey? Apparently so. The likelihood of this being true deserves no comment.

Which brings us to the final piece on two articles authored and co-authored by Professor Martin. In March 2012 Martin attacked SAVN in both Online onslaught and Public mobbing. These describe criticism of Meryl Dorey and the then Australian Vaccination Network by SAVN. Whilst Dorey is indeed challenged by SAVN it is impossible to seriously suggest she is a victim of onslaughts or mobbing when she refuses to engage in discourse and censors online content to present false impression. One would expect better of Professor Martin.

More so Martin had in 2012 sought input from members of SAVN. Indeed I have referred to such exchanges above wherein he makes no attempt to hide the fact Dorey is censoring material. Rather he supports this conduct. In fact by then members of SAVN were arguably exhausted with the insistence of Professor Martin to defend the intellectually dishonest conduct of Meryl Dorey.

In March 2012 Brian Martin wrote to me:

On 26/03/2012, at 9:42 AM, Brian Martin wrote:

Hi Paul,

I’ve written a couple of new articles about the vaccination debate, and would welcome your comments. They are “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing” and are available at http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/preprints/.

Regards,
Brian

Brian Martin
Arts Faculty
University of Wollongong, NSW 2522

I replied;

On 26/03/2012, at 8:09 PM, Paul Gallagher wrote:

Hi Brian,

I’ll aim to read more in detail but for now would simply note Meryl’s refusal to discuss or reciprocate on a rational level.

Usually when errors or problems are demonstrated some reply is forthcoming. You may be interested in a couple of topics I’ve sent to Meryl via email to no avail:

Pertussis;

https://luckylosing.com/2012/01/04/my-personal-request-of-meryl-dorey/#personalrequestpertussis

Autism;

https://luckylosing.com/2012/01/06/vaccine-induced-autism-how-meryl-dorey-misled-her-woodford-audience/

Also:

Reflections on the “skeptic involvement” and “free speech” myths. Considering reluctance to discourse the perpetual claim of bullying and oppression is a little tiring:

https://luckylosing.com/2011/12/22/are-meryl-doreys-critics-really-against-free-speech/

https://luckylosing.com/2012/01/23/meryl-dorey-claims-that-australian-skeptics-suppress-free-speech-why/

Finally her misrepresentation of the court judgement continues. Certiorari was not granted, yet as recently as last Friday on “Fair Dinkum Radio” Meryl claimed the HCCC ruling had been wiped (not so) and the OLGR admitted to using only HCCC material.

It seems this is an attempt to avoid discussing the 23 breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and breaches of The Charitable Trusts Act 1993.

Regards,

Paul Gallagher
paulgall@westnet.com.au
=====================

Yet in reference to “Online onslaught” and “Public mobbing” Martin fails to mention any exchanges with SAVN prior to publication. He maintains “to my great surprise, there was hardly any response.” And that “it was the first indication of an emerging pattern of not responding to contributions that are well written and that SAVNers do not want others – including their supporters – to read.”

Perhaps in truth it reflects the poor quality of material which seeks to defend evidence denial behind the veil of “scientific dissent”. Certainly Professor Martin was simply ignoring the fact that perfectly rational material was being sent to Meryl Dorey. She was choosing to ignore this and instead both were presenting the highly biased claim that Dorey was subject to “attacks” and “mobbing”.

It is likely members of SAVN were both wary of being manipulated and quite rightfully ignoring Brian Martin’s intellectual dishonesty. Also at these times Martin was asked how he justified involvement with a cruel, callous and dishonest individual like Dorey. No reply or indeed acknowledgement was forthcoming.

Martin has offered no critical reasoning for his claim. Simply correlating the odd absence of comment around the time that suits him seems good enough. He’s ignored confounding variables and failed to reference or justify when there was indeed SAVN comment.

Professor Martin might like to explain if he accepts and defends Dorey censoring material, does he seriously still contend there is a “fundamental asymmetry in the encounter between the AVN and its opponents.” Looking at this article it’s difficult to comprehend the extent of Dorey’s manipulation by censorship. It appears to me the only asymmetry is Dorey crying her disdain for censorship yet proceeding to engage it excessively and dishonestly.

Ultimately it appears that What SAVN doesn’t want you to read by Professor Brian Martin is a dishonest article.

  •  For now it’s best to remember how deceitful and dangerous this anti-vaccine group is.

HCCC warning with WmarkFrom The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission – April 30th 2014

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

Kerryn Phelps’ support for vaccination is timely and welcome

On January 30th this year Radio National Breakfast aired a lively discussion between Professor John Dwyer, co-founder of the newly formed Friends of Science in Medicine and Professor Kerryn Phelps, President of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association and prior AMA head.

As it so happened the AVN were delighted with the interview, discussing it on February 3rd. They immediately set to work sculpting an armour for Dr. Phelps to wear into battle for “Health Freedom”. The AVN had no doubt. If you support alternatives you would never vaccinate, their president reasoned.

In answer to an anti-medicine anecdote, Meryl Dorey commented at the time:

It just shows you [redacted], that people will pay for health but you can’t give them sickness for free no matter how hard you try. Doctors hate the competition. They know that people like yourself have left mainstream medicine because you have found something that works better. But that can’t be allowed so the scientocracy that we live in will try to control the situation so you no longer have the choice. This is what we are fighting against and it has to be all of us – healthcare consumers and healthcare organisations. If you use a natural health practitioner, get in touch with them and ask them to find out what their national organisations (CAA, ATMS, etc) is doing about this situation. It’s not the time to sit on their hands and hope it goes away. It’s time to fight!
MD

The day Dr. Phelps and Dwyer were on air Dorey published on healthcare choice, falsely accusing FSM of seeking to shut down alternatives to medicine and drive consumers into the prison of her imagined Scientocracy. I didn’t expect to revisit this article so shortly. Nonetheless… In what may be mistaken for a description of Mordor under the whip of Sauron she began:

There is an organisation in Australia which hates every natural therapy. They hate the healthcare practitioners and they hate the healthcare consumers who ‘turn their backs’ on Western medicine in favour of a range of other modalities which put no money in their pockets and take away their prestige. Worst of all, they hate anyone who chooses not to use vaccines! That is the ultimate heresy, as far as they are concerned.

But it’s OK – because they have a plan and they have the money and media backing, they think, to bring this plan to fruition. This group, the Australian Skeptics, has been instrumental in setting up the organisation, Stop the AVN.

Now, they are working on a new initiative – and this one is more ambitious then just stopping a small, parent-run community support group. Now, their goal is to stop anyone in Australia (today Australia – tomorrow the world as far as this bunch of ratbags is concerned) from learning about or using natural therapies. Their mad campaign is getting plenty of publicity too!

They have just set up a new front group called Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) which is behind the new effort to outlaw the teaching of any natural medicine course in University. This organisation ultimately wants to shut down homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, herbalism, ayurvedic therapies and on and on. In their unspeakable arrogance, they claim that there is no evidence for therapies which have been used safely and effectively, in many cases, for thousands of years. Instead, they say, we should all be forced to exclusively rely on mainstream medicine with its dreadful record of poor safety and effectiveness!

By February 17th, Dorey was using Kerryn Phelps as a proxy figurehead for this nonsense. As someone who uses the term “alternatives to medicine” and cringes at the “integrative” semantics, I don’t agree with Dr. Phelps on many non conventional medical issues. Yet Dr. Phelps’ Uclinic is unmistakably professional. Was Dorey serious or just ripping off Dr. Phelps’ image? Was a prior head of the AMA honestly backing Dorey’s new attack on FSM? On conventional medicine? On vaccination?

I tweeted, and seven minutes later received an honest, slightly baffled reply:

Oops. Rather tactless of me. But, as Meryl had written on February 8th:

Excellent observation. It continued to come true.

Predictably, Meryl Dorey had forged a fiction around Dr. Phelps’ role as President of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association. It must have chafed somewhat to be reminded Dr. Phelps is a GP, supporter of vaccines, proponent of necessary vaccination rates and “diametrically opposed” to the activities of the AVN.

A close follower of the #StopAVN tag, this must have shattered Meryl’s very black and white world view of health care and practice. One is either against the evil of medicine or a skeptic and actively involved in a plot to enslave humanity to illness. At least that’s the battle cry we see in place of actual evidence to challenge evidence based medicine.

Could it possibly get any worse for Dorey? Dr. Phelps wouldn’t retweet anything from strident Dorey critic, that nasty Mia Freedman would she?

Oh.

Poor Meryl has to absorb someone with extensive experience could be a GP, proponent of non conventional medicine and conventional medicine, opposed utterly to the AVN whilst actively supporting and promoting vaccination. Still Dorey peddles homeoprophylaxis and is fanatical about the long dead association between autism and vaccination.

Last night Dr. Phelps happened to tweet in conversation:

@Havenr64 is convinced vaccines do cause autism and took umbrage to an article Dr. Phelps had written in Medical Observer ♣. Entitled It’s time we objected to conscientious objectors, it is a splendid article with excellent timing. Most importantly however is that Kerryn Phelps is a real doctor, with actual research and a life time of genuine experience backing her.

Health consumers who are cautious of conventional medicine or interested in “alternatives” would do far better to seek similarly well balanced advice. Those questioning vaccination, and not trusting their GP, would also benefit enormously from seeking advice through the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association.

The last person to trust is Meryl Dorey or her Australian Vaccination Network. Dorey profits from ensuring you will not trust vaccination. In truth your “health freedom” or choice is abused from the moment you make contact. If you believe the path to making sound choices on vaccination is to donate money to fund a “fight” between imagined forces, you have been conned handsomely.

Nicola Roxon and Jenny Macklin announced the Stronger Immunisation Incentives last November. It was a poor read of the antivaccination movement. Dorey seized immediately upon the option of conscientious objection not being promoted as the primary variable by the government. Claiming details weren’t present at all in Roxon’s announcement, they were actually prominent in the centre of the text. Still, today Dorey has exhaustively promoted how to receive the immunisation incentive without having children immunised.

Kerryn Phelps writes:

HOW far are you prepared to go to engage with so-called “conscientious objectors” to childhood immunisation?

Everyone has a line they will not cross. The line for informed consent gets very blurry when it comes to the proxy consent provided by parents on behalf of their children. […]

As GPs we are convinced of the merits of immunisation against the vaccine-preventable infectious diseases that were so feared by previous generations who did not have the benefit of effective treatments or prevention. […]

I hesitate to even mention groups such as the Australian (Anti-)Vaccination Network.., but… I feel I can mention the harm they are doing to public health with their misinformation campaign aimed at scaring parents away from immunisation.

Parents have been encouraged through various government incentives to have their children fully immunised before starting school.

However, from 1 July the system changes. The PIP incentive for doctors has been scrapped and parents will need to document that they have fully vaccinated their child in order to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A Supplement of $726.35 per child. […]

If parents want to claim the money, they have to demonstrate that their child is fully immunised, or have their doctor complete documentation that they are a conscientious objector.

One of my colleagues told me last week that she intends to be a conscientious objector to conscientious objectors. I must say the idea appeals to me.

When parents request that she fills in the government form indicating the child is exempt on the basis of parents being conscientious objectors, she will politely indicate that is against her principles and advice, and will refuse to provide the documentation. […]

It is a convincing argument. Ethically doctors wish to support their patients’ choices. Yet with vaccination, rejection of this nature is not a choice, but a clear mistake. A cursory grasp of the manipulation at play to scare parents off vaccinating their children is alarming. An understanding of the entire abusive scam should be regarded with concern and disgust.

Presently parents are objecting because many feel there is this attack on their freedom of choice. A read of Dorey’s material finds the same theme over and again. Forces seek to control. Why is the default position vaccination? You are being told what to do. Health fascism. Loss of health choices… etc. It’s an appeal to emotion, not intellect. Vaccination is cast as a mockery of individuality, of democratic freedom.

Fortunately Dr. Phelps is a voice of reason at a time when false dichotomies are used to fool those who seek more natural choices, to also fear vaccination. A wedge has been driven into Meryl Dorey’s fictional scheme. No longer is it simply “us and them” as her members pay dearly to hear. False balance need no longer be the only choice.

This isn’t unique. Most natural therapy organisations recommend conventional vaccination. Chiropractic and homeopathy are two that mislead clients about vaccination. What we certainly lack is a public voice bridging the unnecessary gulf between vaccination and non conventional medicine. It is certainly time to detach the choice of alternative medicine from refusal to vaccinate.

I for one am very grateful to Dr. Phelps for making her views known.

– ♣ Subscription to Medical Observer is free.

Skepgoating: why antivaxxers need to devalue skepticism

Skepgoating: Skepgoating (adj) is derived from the notion of scapegoating. It refers to the practice of falsely accusing (scientific) skepticism, skeptics or other individuals of pursuing predetermined agendas derived from distortions of (scientific) skepticism. Used as both defence and attack it aims to cast the other party as inferior, negative and wrong. Particularly found within or in relation to discourse in which truth can demonstrably be derived from evidence. In this way the accuser seeks to drive onlooker or reader attention away from the lack (or presence) of evidence and evoke an irrational and emotional response toward the individual or organisation being skepgoated.

Claims made in skepgoating are false. Rather than address evidence, attempts are made to malign the other party to such an extent that a Faux Victory is claimed. Eg: “Skeptics worship science and are too close minded to understand”. Or, “Skeptics want to suppress your freedom of speech and your right to choose”. Or, “Skeptics want to do bad things to me, that is why they say words that make me appear stupid”.

Skepgoating is also used by certain cult-like groups to imply skepticism by association, by group members who exhibit independent thinking. In such cases skepgoating may have similar power to the belief in witchcraft leading to swift and disproportionate retribution directed at the skepgoat (n). Banishment of the skepgoat and expunging of their visible history follows in an attempt to convey unity to remaining cult members. Dominant or Alpha skepgoaters decide who will be deemed a skepgoat.


As pseudoscience, anti-science, sham disciplines and conspiracy theories have blossomed with high speed information flow, those with a critical eye have kept pace. Some go on to embrace skepticism (scientific skepticism) with an astute and passionate awareness of critical thought and evidence based decision making. Others take great delight – perhaps comfort – in reading skeptic material. Skeptic social events and presentations (often together) are well attended.

Here’s where an observation is needed. There isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between how active a person is skeptically speaking, and how they identify with organised skepticism. In certain areas of interest to skeptics, the most active are not remotely interested in organised skepticism. Alternatively, active skeptics may well spread their interests across many areas. This might prohibit ongoing activism in one area but produces valuable skill sets in skepticism itself.

Some skeptics are deeply involved in areas that demand all ones skeptical faculties, yet find it absent from skeptical topics. In my case drug law reform and a host of human rights issues spring to mind. Having been around these areas a very long time, my advice to skeptics would be to not involve the skeptic movement in major law reform. Being generally apolitical is a valuable feature of skepticism. Exactly when topics enter mainstream skeptical discourse, in part reflects social evolution.

Perhaps it’s best worth noting that some areas involving research, science, critical thought and ample evidence may at once yield unambiguous themes and needs, yet not suit skepticism. Said differently, some areas of scientific consensus receive the attention that reflects political climate more than scientific veracity. Beliefs change in the wake of evidence and the process cannot be rushed. The sacking of Professor David Nutt by the UK Home Office in 2009, is a powerful example of this.

Nutt was of course, absolutely correct. Yet the skeptic in me can spot the evidence he perhaps should have lingered to consider. No matter how you approach it, the facts about drug related harm appear to trivialise the matter. Politically and emotionally Australia, the UK and the USA still blame the inanimate drug and not the policy that denies us control. Unpalatable for many, yes. Slowly changing, indeed. But a fact no less and one that impacts on conclusions.

Rest assured, I’m not diverging onto that topic. Rather, hoping to point out how this fits with the observation above and offers insight into the intellectual paucity that sustains generalised attacks against skeptics in the form of skepgoating. Labelling skeptics as beholden to predetermined agendas is born of the same in-group type thinking that labels science a belief system.

When it comes to skepgoating, your relationship to skepticism may at times be defined for you, by someone with a need to pigeon hole interlocutors or label critics. Note this recent Facebook comment.

As most here know, the AVN is a strident anti-vaccine group, falsely professing to offer “informed choice”. However, as demonstrated by this comment there is a dominant theme emerging peculiar to taking sides rather than discussing vaccination choices. Both the person addressed, and the topic of that address, are very much fans of the AVN. Apparently if one is out of step it’s “outrageous” and one is a friend to a ‘skeptic’. Yes, those inverted commas are intentional and I’ll get to that.

I conclude this comment is quite representative of the AVN. One notes praise and support for the commenter from the AVN president and her own similar combative monochrome approach used to restrict independent expression. Particularly one notes the absence of tolerance for freedom of expression with the AVN.

Of course this is a very silly comment – albeit important to this post. So, what’s going on? Although the subject being attacked here merely thanked another member for posting something “from the pro side” she has been skepgoated. No praise for vaccination took place, and nothing “outrageous” occurred. No rationale is needed. Just point the finger and intone the magic word.

This comment brings up the need for another observation. Whilst passive deconstruction of pseudoscience, scams and paranormal topics of all manner is as old as skepticism itself the internet radically changed communication about these topics. There are no cigars for spotting that skeptics are known for one primary trait. Requesting and examining evidence to substantiate claims. In this light skeptics tend toward a strong appreciation of the scientific method and the role of science.

It follows quite predictably that scientists, those working in or with a background in science, those with an appreciation of science and scientific education to communities and others who understand science, may gravitate toward skepticism. This is by no means absolute but suffice it to say there is overlap. A cursory search would indicate skeptics feel motivated toward activism and use of modern media to publish critiques of pseudoscience and exposure of scam tactics. Ultimately skeptics value scientific inquiry, the scientific method and tend to seek out and conclusively judge scientific consensus.

This helps to grasp the genesis of the irrationalism in the above comment. In an age in which non evidence based claims are pitched toward the health consumer, skepticism is proving a bitter natural pill to swallow. Regarding vaccination the science and pseudoscience are easily identified. “Pro-vax” is quite meaningless, but has been promoted heavily to falsely qualify conclusive evidence and sustain the illusion of a debate.

There is no “pro-vax” and there is no “informed choice”. There’s fact and mistakes. Vaccine science makes vaccination a no brainer. Misinformation leads to fear, confusion and poor or delayed choices – aka mistakes.

For skeptics however, this topic presents examples of evidence denial, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, conspiracy theory, flawed reasoning, blind belief, belief in the absurd, exhaustive scams and schemes, in-group thinking, cult like features and so on.

A veritable banquet of non critical thought and destructive behaviour, the antivaccination movement is of enormous interest to skepticism. Of course, the notion that someone deemed to not be a “fan” of an antivax group, are therefore friends to skeptics is utterly ridiculous and paranoid. It helps underscore just why these groups attract so much interest from skeptics.

Forget vaccination for a moment. What if you’re interested in the psychology of quasi-religious bigotry, how leadership dogma drives members to attack, how the need to belong shapes perception of the Self and others, the primal need to identify “enemies” and thus elevate our own importance, and on and on. There’s practically an entire Skepticamp in that one comment.

In this case it goes beyond “If you’re not with us you’re against us”. It’s essentially asserting that if you deviate from arbitrary rules you can be labelled in a manner that defines a great deal about you as a person – including loyalty, belief and motivation. Whether on a micro or macro scale one need not be a skeptic to appreciate how destructive the dictatorial thought process is.

This actual skepgoating comment exists in a thread relating to a major skepgoating article by Mike Adams. In fact the person who published it on Facebook goes to extreme lengths to devalue skepticism almost daily. This is primarily to fill an evidence vacuum and to convince members or observers that skeptics have malignant intentions. Meryl Dorey is that person and first published this article two weeks after it was written – 2, 1/2 years ago.

Then again only days ago.

I’m not convinced Dorey believes very much of this at all. It’s rampant ad hominem generalisation that, presented with no reference to Adams, would appear to be Poe’s Law in action. As noted here before, the pseudo-neoconservative philosophy she peddles flips the argument away from evidence based discussion to a claim of being persecuted. “Thinking” with ones gut yields poor results and this is Dorey’s aim.

As AVN member and coach University of Wollongong lecturer Dr. Brian Martin argues, this allows one to provoke outrage in onlookers with the hope of causing backfire of critics’ evidence based techniques.

Martin reveals in his writings that his grasp of what separates pseudoscience and actual dissent is remarkably poor. Referring to scientific theories as “dominant paradigms” he seems incapable of grasping scientific consensus, the scientific method, the import of evidence, altruism and moral responsibility. A champion of both pseudo’ and anti-science we see that fierce devaluation of demonstrable facts and scientists themselves, pepper his writings.

Depending on the sophistication of your audience, almost any attack will do. Engender outrage. Force backfire. Justify censorship. Divert from evidence. Inhibit thinking. Which brings us back to Dorey’s second posting of Mike Adams at his most absurd. The fact that it’s bogus is kind of cute given that he did some “research”. It includes;

Skeptics believe that many six-month-old infants need antidepressant drugs. In fact, they believe that people of all ages can be safely given an unlimited number of drugs all at the same time… Skeptics believe that the human body has no ability to defend itself against invading microorganism and that the only things that can save people from viral infections are vaccines. Skeptics believe that pregnancy is a disease and childbirth is a medical crisis. (They are opponents of natural childbirth.) Skeptics believe that ALL vaccines are safe and effective (even if they’ve never been tested), that ALL people should be vaccinated, even against their will, and that there is NO LIMIT to the number of vaccines a person can be safely given. Skeptics believe that the SUN has no role in human health other than to cause skin cancer. Skeptics believe that human beings were born deficient in synthetic chemicals and that the role of pharmaceutical companies is to “restore” those deficiencies in humans by convincing them to swallow patented pills…..

Mike claims to have lifted all this from skeptic sites. However, “I’m not going to list those websites here because they don’t deserve the search engine rankings”. Given that not raising the rankings of sites one links to is quite basic, we may conclude Mike invented this silliness.

Okay, so that’s a patently nonsensical article. It’s false and clearly so. Indeed, round two imploded on Meryl Dorey and set the tone for the above comment. As usual most critical comments have been deleted and the members banned. Only “skeptic trolls” would disagree with Mike. The single remaining critical comment has the most “Likes”. I can’t be sure but it may have remained due to the reply below it. The respondent authored the original comment above.

It’s quite unambiguous. Despite attesting to not fancying polarisation it is clear this individual is only there to skepgoat. Now a certain Facebook page is deemed populated by skeptics. It isn’t. Yet evidence based critiques of health scams have become hate speech. Anyway, I think the point is made. This is a decided effort to divert attention from evidence and attack the results of scientific inquiry.

So what then is scientific skepticism? Why attack it so often and so ridiculously? Definitions of scientific skepticism including Wikipedia are worth reading. For our purposes in understanding skepgoating it’s not just skeptical appreciation of evidence and inquiry. Identification of belief and the ease of accepting doubt attracts criticism. Where there is doubt there is… doubt. Pseudoscience is frequently about replacing doubt with fiction or logical fallacies.

In terms of belief consider alternatives to medicine, superstitions, vaccine injury chic, paranormal scams, new age diagnostics and healing, vitamin therapy, wonder foods, etc. The list is practically endless. Appreciating evidence, scientific inquiry and understanding how easily humans are fooled is not what those profitting from cancer cures or removing “vaccine poisons” want widely known.

Mike Adams is a prime example. By attacking modern medicine and modern living he attracts a global demographic that may likely purchase from his multi-million dollar empire selling garbage that purports to repair the damage sustained from modern living. Damage he simply invents. Like Meryl Dorey it’s difficult to be sure where the crafty money making begins and the delusion leaves off.

Then there’s the plain whacky skepgoating characters like Martin Walker. Skeptics are “the global corporate science lobby group”. His Health Fascism in Australia is priceless:

To quote Orac. “‘Health Fascism’ in Australia? The anti-vaccine loons think so”. Walker is one bizarre piece of work. His rambling attack on sinister fascist skeptics includes:

The sinister Skeptics group, agents of what used to be CSICOP now the  Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) organised from the US and linked to the major corporate lobby groups, American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) and American Council Against Health Fraud (ACAHF), which is in turn linked to the Australian CAHF) are making ground in Australia.

Supported by authoritarian ideological influences in government and Big Pharma, the Skeptics are running constant attacks on homeopathy, natural cancer treatments, those who question vaccination and those who support any form of alternative medicine.

With the present world fiscal crisis, all those linked to Big Pharma and Science are fighting a bitter battle to preserve drug company competitiveness. But where fascist influences in government and health with most force come together is in attacking anyone who speaks out about freedom of choice and expression in relation to vaccination.

Over the last year the international corporate lobby Skeptics, have been behind a campaign against the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN). […]

Yes. The “campaign” one retired bloke sent off in a complaint. Nice work it was, but “campaign” by an international corporate lobby? NURSE!

Dorey tried this approach herself blaming skeptics for Friends of Science in Medicine:

There is an organisation in Australia which hates every natural therapy. They hate the healthcare practitioners and they hate the healthcare consumers who ‘turn their backs’ on Western medicine in favour of a range of other modalities which put no money in their pockets and take away their prestige. Worst of all, they hate anyone who chooses not to use vaccines! That is the ultimate heresy, as far as they are concerned.

But it’s OK – because they have a plan and they have the money and media backing, they think, to bring this plan to fruition.

This group, the Australian Skeptics, has been instrumental in setting up the organisation, Stop the AVN.

Now, they are working on a new initiative – and this one is more ambitious then just stopping a small, parent-run community support group. Now, their goal is to stop anyone in Australia (today Australia – tomorrow the world as far as this bunch of ratbags is concerned) from learning about or using natural therapies. Their mad campaign is getting plenty of publicity too!

They have just set up a new front group called Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) which is behind the new effort to outlaw the teaching of any natural medicine course in University. […]

It’s widely known SAVN is a Facebook page set up by a non-skeptic. It’s a Facebook page, not an organisation. FSM was quite capable of launching themselves. Yet Dorey’s skepgoating is clear. Whilst Australian Skeptics employ a total of one person to ensure a decent magazine appears each quarter the above paints them almost as powerful as a small country.

My little definition of skepgoating up top includes “other individuals” because, well even skeptics can’t do everything. Just make it seem that way.

I explained how crucial it is for Dorey particularly to tar all critics with one brush. Not with the AVN? Then must be a skeptic actively working against the AVN. This next example speaks for itself.

An article today in The Telegraph notes vaccine conscientious objectors (perhaps having grown under her guidance) continue to secure government immunisation incentives. It also ran in other online publications.

They ran a poll asking “Should anti-vaccine parents get paid?”. The results are quite in line with national vaccine rates. In fact they err toward more fully vaccinated Aussies supporting the payment for vaccine objectors.

Nonetheless this is Meryl Dorey’s response:

[Note – see update at end]

Despite most skeptics in Australia not bothering with such unscientific nonsense as a dodgy self reporting poll, Dorey still plays that card. It gets sillier when one notes she has asked her own members to visit the poll and vote. Nonetheless it’s a great example of skepgoating and raises my promise to elaborate on those inverted commas within the initial comment.

You see scientific skeptics aren’t skeptics but pseudo-skeptics according to Meryl. No doubt this is intended to provoke the odd skeptic but it’s bizarre given the definition of pseudoskepticism. Marcello Truzini coined the term. He wrote in On Pseudo-Skepticism in 1987:

In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new “fact.” Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of “conventional science” as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis—saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact—he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof.

I’ve dealt with Dorey’s obsession with laying claim to skepticism before, including that appallingly offensive blog abusing the name of Australian Skeptics. She seems to have muddled Hume’s true skepticism (philosophy) with evidence denial. This prompts her to argue that belief is actual skepticism. As in be so skeptical deny reality as well.

Where this fails utterly is that in promoting belief, she unwittingly concludes that is a final contention. You may know this position as “science can’t explain everything”. Dorey, and pseudoscience take it further. “If science is limited this way then anything is possible – especially what I allege”. It’s here where the agnostic (if you like) or acceptance of doubt in science that skeptics are at home with kicks in. Belief does not change. Scientific skepticism accepts that change is always likely but what may eventuate is a matter for inquiry. Certainly not conjecture or at worst, rank conjuring.

Of course science doesn’t “know” everything. But assuming it thus truthfully knows nothing, is a recipe for intellectual disaster. This gives us vaccine denial, AIDS denial, conspiracies, UFO assertion and other false contentions that lead to attacks on modern medicine and the growth of sham industries.

SCEPCOP do exactly the same. Claiming to be the Scientific Committee to Evaluate Pseudo Skeptical Criticism Of the Paranormal, they also lay claim to being actual skeptics. It’s pretty cringe-worthy. Dorey’s use and abuse of both “skepticism” and “pseudoskepticism” is identical to SCEPCOP. There’s also Skeptical Investigations and plenty of others like them. These groups spawn individuals who associate covertly with skeptic groups only to compile negative evaluations about skeptic interests.

Child Health Safety is another antivax site with a long record of attacking skeptics, and presupposing the intent of discourse based on identity. From Dorey’s blog.

Wow. Um is there a point you wanted to make? As you can see dear reader, skepgoating frequently involves attacks with no substance, no context and actually no relevance. All we see over and again is the need to devalue genuine agents of evidence.

Rational Wiki describe pseudoskepticism as if describing these groups and the AVN. By projecting their own pseudoskepticism they seek to devalue critics and label evidence based criticism unfounded. The important point is that it has two common usages at present. 1.) To further devalue scientific skepticism by laying claim to the title (but not process) of skepticism. This is abuse of the term and includes Meryl Dorey’s use.

2.) As a substitute for “denial” it may be used to describe those who pimp and preen as skeptics, make a few convincing noises but hold to a predetermined agenda. They will ignore any evidence that challenges them. Despite holding a PhD in physics and strutting as an academic, our radical sociologist antivaxxer Dr. Brian Martin is a genuine pseudoskeptic. A fraud. I can be no kinder.

I should stress that skeptics themselves must be aware of slipping into pseudoskepticism. Fortunately skeptics are rather good at keeping each other honest. This may sound strange but I’m yet to find a better defender of Dorey than skeptics. Not because they accept her piffle for a moment. But because tolerating generalisations or making assumptions about the AVN without evidence is intolerable.

As I mentioned earlier communication influences present day skepticism. In this way skeptics and those with good critical thinking abilities have made genuine long lasting inroads into debunking scams. People are getting ripped off, made ill and at times dying. Often, they are ripped off while dying and being made more ill by some shonky scam. Skeptic movements have a particular distaste for such “health freedom choices”. They are only too happy to inform governments how poorly existing legislation is. So, if skepticism has changed what can we identify?

Skepticism might be viewed as existing at the centre of four inroads. Evidence, human rights, consumer rights and moral or legal obligation. Each inroad is not exclusive. They may accommodate portions of each other or highlight qualities we value as a society. Such as education, free speech, rationalism, reason, truth, democratic freedom, progressive policy design, equality and so on.

I’ve left out specifying paranormal investigation, enduring themes (like perpetual energy and religious experience) exhaustively examined and respectfully considered by skeptics. I couldn’t possibly do justification to legendary visionaries like Nigerian skeptic Leo Igwe and his struggle to fight superstition and brutal irrationalism with reason and education. No doubt this article could be pages long and include almost every division of pseudoscience and superstition.

One thing I should stress is that skeptics do identify those who have been misled as opposed to those who mislead. The result is an even stronger conviction to prevent charlatans from scheming and scamming the vulnerable. From sabotaging education and indoctrinating with dogma. In turn those who measure profit by victim count, don’t cope terribly well with a skeptic critique.

Presently it’s practically standing room only for the enemies of reason. From creationism to cancer cures they are easy to find. So too is a critical response to these impossible claims. Depending upon ones background, education, experience and social circle individuals pick up fairly quickly on the patterns that resonate with them.

Skepticism is tearing down the walls of illusion and that is why pseudoscience is so keen to attack skeptics and skepticism. Arguments, much less legal or legislative challenges, cannot be won by scam artists on merit. To them it’s imperative that those who seek to hold them to account be devalued, falsely maligned, abused, accused and worse.

If there is one thing this article lacks it is a full representation of the outrageous, scurrilous, blame filled and nauseating attacks on skeptics. Skepgoating.

Ultimately the more skepgoating there is, the better the job skeptics seem to be doing.

July 16th – Update on newspaper poll. Another copy to run a similar piece was the Courier Mail. Providing a shorter piece, they worded their poll differently. “Are vaccinations worth the risk”? I know, I know. Given one is more likely to become a billionaire than experience anaphylactic shock it’s a stupid and loaded question. Still here’s the poll results as of early afternoon the following day.

So with a general vaccination rate of 95% plus, over 20% of us don’t reckon it’s worth the risk! Pseudo-skeptic vote bot, Pseudo-skeptic vote bot. Where for art thou Pseudo-skeptic vote bot? Pathetic effort.

However, gracious in defeat I doff me cap to the anti-vax flying monkeys.

Busting Greg Beattie or Two heads are sillier than one

On July 2nd Greg Beattie and Meryl Dorey released a rambling attack on the pneumococcal vaccine.

Bizarrely it was headed “Media Release” and despite listing the contact details of both Greg and Meryl, the Aussie media know anti-health warriors when they see them. It sank without a trace almost immediately.

Still, a look at the context and contents reveal much about the tactics used by both Beattie and Dorey. It proclaimed;

A media release being issued by a self-proclaimed group of ‘experts’, including many with financial links to vaccine manufacturers, is calling for increased use of vaccines against pneumococcal bacteria as a way of preventing pneumonia.

Without letting on, it was actually in reference to this Australian Lung Fiundation media release. They were falsely suggesting a campaign targetting “young Australians” for pneumococcal vaccination was under way. In fact, it is Pneumonia Awareness Week and little wonder they did not link to the many facts related to pneumococcal disease.

On July 3rd, Sky News quoted Professor Booy from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance. He had elaborated on implications from a survey completed by GP patients. The survey reached a sample of 2,500 and looked closely at risk factors. Sky News reported:

A survey of 2,500 GP patients found about a quarter of those aged 15 to 64 had at least one risk factor for contracting pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis.

About two in three of those had not been vaccinated, according to research by the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre. But most patients – nearly 80 per cent – aged 65 and over had a pneumococcal vaccination.

Risk factors included smoking, diabetes and chronic lung disease.

Okay. So, first off we have our most damning variable to be obfuscated by… (let’s call them Gregyl in the Hollywood fashion). What Gregyl had done was to report on these dynamics as if concerns related to low pnemococcal vaccination rates applied only to the mainstream population. In fact it was specifically related to risk factors which also include diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and impaired immunity. Infants and the elderly are also deemed at higher risk.

The populations are referred to as “at-risk”. Reflecting this, the Sky News article was headed Vaccine rates low for at-risk pneumonia. To mock this Gregyl headed theirs Australians “at risk” from vaccination campaign (inverted comma’s theirs). In classic foot bullet style this indicates they knew very well there was no campaign targetting Aussies.

Having set the scene Gregyl can control the attack on the vaccine. They ask:

Will increased use of pneumococcal vaccines lead to declines in either the notification or mortality (death rates) from pneumococcal pneumonia?

This is certainly Beattie’s work as he favours irrelevant sources. He includes a 2008 letter from the WHO Bulletin, to answer his own question in the negative. Except he fails.

The letter is not looking at infection from pneumococcal bacteria or death rates from pneumococcal pneumonia following pneumococcal vaccination. It is arguing that the incidence of “clinical pneumonia” is not reduced by this vaccine. Pneumonia can arise from at least 8 strains of bacteria, 7 viruses and various fungi. 

Worse, the letter deals with dynamics in developing nations. It is utterly and irrevocably deceptive to cite the dynamics of infectious disease in low income nations and apply them to a developed nation such as Australia. 50% of all cases of bacterial pneumonia globally, test positive for Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is the leading cause of CAP – Community-acquired pneumonia – in Australia.

To answer the question above – Yes most certainly.

As shameful as that was, Gregyl continue with:

Are those aged between 15 and 64 truly at greater risk of contracting or dying from pneumonia caused by pneumococcus as these ‘experts’ have stated?

The question is misleading as the issue at hand is at-risk, chronically ill patients. Beattie supplies an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare graph of pneumonia mortality per 100,000 citing age groups 0 – 14, 14 to 64 and 65 plus.

His aim is again to answer the question in the negative.

Predictably it shows a drop in pneumonia for the lower age groups from 1907 to 2006. It also shows a rise and fall for 65 plus from 1907 to 1967. It then tapers off reflecting the increased life expectancy and better health of older Aussies.

Of course, I should dismiss this graph out of hand as it covers all pneumonia cases. Yet it’s worth noting that a common misconception about pneumonia is that it’s a “really bad” cold or flu. In truth pneumonia strikes after infection with influenza or another disease that leaves one chronically ill or at-risk.

As more and more vaccines have been introduced, particularly pertussis, influenza, pneumovax, hepatitis B and follow up with boosters became common place, the health of Aussies has increased markedly. Thus the causes of pneumonia of all types have been less likely to exploit weakened immunity or chronic disease problems.

So in effect, Beattie’s graph actually reinforces the essential need for pneumococcal vaccination because it shows the power of vaccines in protecting at-risk Aussies from pneumonia.

Thanks to Beattie’s graph we have an answer backed by The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Yes, most certainly.

Next is:

What percentage of all cases of pneumonia are caused by pneumococcal bacteria?

Now it’s time to leave Kansas entirely Dorothy. Beattie links to the American Lung Association Pneumonia Fact Sheet, claiming that 14% of all cases of pneumonia are attributed by the ALA to pneumococcal bacteria. What Beattie has done is taken the male discharges (589,000) and female (643,000) from 2006. This total = 1,232,000 pneumonia discharges for 2006.

He then gets an August 2009 annual estimation of 175,000 cases to get his 14%. It goes without saying that his claim, “according to the ALA, blah, blah…” is a lie. There’s nothing wrong with making rough conclusions from different sources but Beattie had no reason to a.) falsely attest to an annual figure and b.) falsely attribute it to the American Lung Foundation.

Let’s check that paragraph:

Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia acquired outside of hospitals. The bacteria can multiply and cause serious damage to healthy individual lungs, bloodstream (bacteremia), brain (meningitis) and other parts of the body, especially when the body’s defenses are weakened. It is estimated that 175,000 cases of pneumococcal pneumonia occur each year, with a fatality rate of 5-7%, or even much higher among the elderly

Now it’s time to address Gregyl’s focus on pneumonia. Remember, Gregyl is attacking pneumococcal vaccination. The trick so far has been has been to focus on pneumonia and ignore meningitis and septicaemia. This enabled Beattie to invent or ask the wrong questions.

The notion of streptoccocus pneumonia cases being minor compared to other types is nonsensical. As noted way above, of all bacterial pneumonia cases, Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium is isolated 50% of the time. It is the leading cause of pneumonia acquired in the community. So for Joe Bloggs, it may as well be 100% of cases. We can see by the graph above that the greatest variable is age – not type.

So to answer this question – It makes no difference.

Beattie is almost cornered by his lies. Next up is:

Will use of the pneumococcal vaccine reduce the incidence of illness?

Astonishingly he then blurts out, with no references:

  • Most adults and children carry the bacteria without symptoms
  • The vaccine won’t stop us coming into contact with the bacteria
  • Levels of meningitis, septacaemia and pneumonia have not gone down
  • Death rates are increasing in the elderly since introduction

The disease is spread by droplets from person to person. The Department of Health and Ageing note:

Pneumococci can be isolated from the upper respiratory tract in children and, less frequently, adults, and can spread directly from the nasopharynx to the respiratory tract which may cause otitis media, sinusitis or pneumonia. Pneumococci are also able to enter the bloodstream to cause invasive disease which may manifest as meningitis, pneumonia, septicaemia…

What then about notifications and hospitalisations from pneumococcal disease? Are they rising?

Pneumococcal disease notifications and hospitalisations, Australia, 1998 to 2007

Absolutely not. No idea where these guys get data from but it certainly won’t back what they claim.

How are the most vulnerable, the young and old faring? What of Gregyl’s increased disease and death in the elderly?

Pneumococcal disease notification rates, Australia, 2002 to 2007, by age group and year of diagnosis

No. Not here. Even remembering that the elderly show reduced immune responses to vaccination.

So the answer is – Yes, it will control the illness.

Next we get:

Will vaccinating against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria provide true protection against pneumococcal pneumonia?

After telling us it lives in the upper respiratory tract Gregyl now admits there are 91 different strains, and the vaccine targets 23. This is a genuine query and results suggest the vaccine will protect against the strains, compared to notification.

Notification rates of IPD cases with serotypes contained in the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (7vPCV), versus notification rates for other non-7-valent serotypes, Australia, 2006–2007 compared with 2002–2004, by age group

The Immunization Action Coalition offer:

What causes pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterium. There are more than 90 subtypes. Most subtypes can cause disease, but only a few produce the majority of invasive pneumococcal infections. The 10 most common subtypes cause 62% of invasive disease worldwide.

In a concerted effort to mislead, Gregyl claims that, “studies in multiple locations around the world” have shown bacterial vaccines to lead to serogroup replacement. They fail to cite one study. Then again use the WHO Bulletin letter on developing nations to argue the point. Finally they claim this has happened with pertussis leading to “potentially more dangerous strains of bacteria”.

As has been explained here countless times no “more dangerous” strain of pertussis has evolved. In fact the opposite is supported by data. Fatalities are less than 1997 and 2000, whilst hospitalisations are about the same. This is parallel to far more notifications. More so, Tom Sidwell has demolished the notion of pertussis bacteria evolving around the vaccine.

Lastly we get:

Is there any evidence at all that use of this vaccine has led to a decline in either incidence of or deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease?

It’s followed by the use of NNDSS total notification figures of invasive pneumococcal disease in Australia to argue that there has been no change. Whilst the graphs above show a definite change USA research also backs significant reduction in infant infection and a reduction in mortality for all other age groups.

Yet most offensive is that NNDSS notifications tell us nothing about vaccination status. Every notification might be unvaccinated or every one may be vaccinated. Yet you’re tricked as if 100% of Aussies actually have been vaccinated. Nothing suggests infection even originated in Australia? This is one of Dorey’s old tricks. The fact is that it is an unrelated data set dealing only with notifications.

So our final answer? Yes, there is an abundance of evidence.

All up this was an appalling and scurrilous attempt to both scare the public into believing a vaccination “campaign” was under way and use this to fallaciously attack a very successful vaccine. Along with rotavirus, pneumococccal vaccination is on rapid roll out in developing nations. A major reason for this is it’s outstanding success here.

Dorey and Beattie, or Gregyl if you prefer, have been caught out at every single turn in this so-called “media release”. Not only does other evidence refute these absurd claims, even the evidence they provided upholds the importance of this vaccine’s success.

To be fair there was another question about making an informed choice. Which is code for will parents be provided with more codswallop of this type. As it had all just vanished in a puff of smoke I could see no point in answering.

In conclusion, to Gregyl and particularly Greg Beattie I am grateful for the chance to answer Yes to all those questions.

No matter how distorted they were.