Vaxxed III: the aim of the Vaxxed II bus tour

During the Vaxxed II bus tour in Australia the AVN has been extremely vocal about the tour’s aim to realise the rights of individuals and families “killed or injured by vaccines”. To give them a platform on which to exercise free speech. In the last post we heard Meryl Dorey accusing Australia’s “fascist dictatorship” of suppressing the voices of the vaccine injured. In the midst of Dorey’s vocal insistence of selfless goals we must remind ourselves of other goals. An email to members on 8th July 2020 described the noble aims of the Vaxxed II bus and included;

Parents will be filmed for an up-coming Australian documentary as well as having their stories livestreamed to hundreds of thousands around the world.

Aneeta Hafemeister told viewers of a May 31st Facebook video

We are the media now… We have to get the best footage we can, make the best job of this and make our own documentary. This will be the Australian version of Vaxxed II I assume.

As we will see below involvement with Vaxxed films can prove quite lucrative. However the claims of a vaccine injury epidemic (or VIE) are not backed by evidence. The science supporting public health policies demonstrates a different reality. Protection of public health must, in an age of social media, also address the abuse of free speech. It causes demonstrable, long lasting harm of significant individual, social and financial cost. Such harms were addressed when the Vaxxed II bus was banned from local council land by Sydney City Council in a unanimous decision on October 26th. You can access Facebook entries, read related council material, hear audio of the motion being passed and the AVN reaction via this link.

Four days after the council took action the bus was again told to move on. As noted in the last post the Vaxxed II bus had chosen to set up in Centennial Park NSW on October 30th. The park is itself a suburb split between the local government area of the City of Sydney and the City of Randwick. One presumes that being banned from Sydney, the bus team has chosen a park area of the Randwick local government. Nonetheless they were asked to move on. After receiving legal advice Meryl Dorey came to a very amicable agreement with police and left.

Shortly before this however park rangers had raised Meryl’s ire, leading to a video request for help and the promise that she would be arrested before conceding to “these petty dictators”. The full audio of that video is here [4.9MB]. A shorter version of highlights can be listened to below.

  • “We are here to ensure their voice is never silenced” – Meryl Dorey [2min 16]

 

It is interesting that Dorey wants Polly Tommey to be notified. As we’ll see Tommey is a senior identity in the Vaxxed movement having turned the role into full time employment. Regarding the Vaxxed II bus one conclusion is certain. A large database of Australian anti-vaccination and unverified vaccine injury testimonial is being created. Every time the Vaxxed II bus is banned or asked to move on the database is threatened. Under the Vaxxed brand such material has already proven to be both lucrative and an ideal vehicle for the promotion of individual anti-vaccination identities. The rewards from co-producing a Vaxxed III film would be significant. As the AVN is using the Vaxxed brand there are likely contractural obligations, increasing the need to inform Tommey of interference.

The first Vaxxed film led to a Vaxxed bus travelling the USA, promoting the film and recording identical unsubstantiated testimonials of vaccine injury and vaccine fatality. The most compelling of these accounts formed the basis of Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth. Now a year after the release of Vaxxed II the AVN is four months into the Vaxxed II bus tour. Meryl Dorey and AVN president Aneeta Hafemeister have already established a narrative of struggle against tyrannical state and federal governments actively suppressing accounts of vaccine injury and death. This is happening during the COVID “scamdemic” and vocal AVN opposition to a mandatory or dangerous COVID-19 vaccine. Footage of these unsubstantiated accounts would be used in the production of an Australian version of Vaxxed. Dorey has a long established history of presenting photos of children purportedly injured or killed by vaccines. Stories are hosted on the AVN website. A closer look at the Vaxxed timeline allows greater insight into long term aims.

The making of Vaxxed

We should revisit the history of the pseudoscientific films under the title Vaxxed to understand how such film making and busses are related. First was the 2016 film Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe directed by Andrew Wakefield whose elaborate fraud launched the global scare over the MMR vaccine and autism. It was produced by the Informed Consent Action Network of which Del Bigtree is CEO. Bigtree’s background in filmography included a small stint with Dr. Phil and the production of 30 episodes of an entertainment advice show The Doctors. The latter carried an FDA disclaimer. Vaxxed was co-produced by Polly Tommey who is a director of the Autism Media Channel (previously also run by Wakefield) and presently hosts We Are Vaxxed (Vaxxed TV).

A full time vaccine-autism conspiracy theorist and frenetic anti-vaxxer, Tommey is presented by Hachette Australia as a film producer and journalist, and also, “[F]ounder and Editor-in-Chief of The Autism File magazine and founder of The Autism Trust”Vaxxed’s entire narrative is built from the audio of phone calls between CDC employee William Thompson and anti-vaccination theorist Brian Hooker. Part of the audio was even spliced together. You can read in detail, and listen, about how the audio was manipulated here. There are a host of references debunking the film here

Thompson was unaware that the calls were being recorded or that his name and voice would be used. He had referred to a correlation between African-American boys with autism and the MMR vaccine that was omitted from a 2004 CDC paper. Brian Hooker published a reanalysis of the data in 2014 which purportedly found that the sample of boys were at significantly higher risk of autism after MMR. The paper was later retracted due to “serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions” [2]. In 2015 the CDC concluded on further examination that the correlation did not exist. William Thompson unwittingly became the CDC whistleblower. Despite hours of recorded phone calls none of that audio supports the film’s central claim of “cover up”. Nor does Thompson appear in the film.

At no time did Thompson argue that data had been suppressed or destroyed or that it demonstrated a link between MMR and autism. Yet the narrative of data destruction, nefarious suppression of a causal link between MMR and autism and the contention Wakefield is the victim of a conspiracy is the central message of the film. In reality the data remain on the CDC website for researchers to analyse. Thompson had released a statement through his lawyers in August 2014 in which he stressed his support for immunisation and his belief that “vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives”. All of this, and the retraction of Hooker’s paper was omitted from the film.

In an October 9, 2016 Vaxxed TV video Del Bigtree stood in front of the Vaxxed bus and claimed;

The story that Vaxxed is about which is the CDC whistleblower, top scientist from the Center for Disease Control, has come forward and said that vaccines are causing autism.

Memorably, Vaxxed was dumped from the New York based Tribeca film festival which Robert De Niro co-founded. Award winning documentary director Penny Lane had written an open letter to the festival about Vaxxed. It is devastating to the credibility of Vaxxed. It included;

While it is true that we documentary filmmakers constantly debate vexing questions about the perceived and real differences between our work and the work of traditional journalism, I assure you that we are not debating whether it is okay to knowingly spread dangerous lies.

Issues around truth and ethics in documentary can get thorny. But this one is easy. This film is not some sort of disinterested investigation into the ‘vaccines cause autism’ hoax; this film is directed by the person who perpetuated the hoax.

On July 10 this year AVN founder Meryl Dorey interviewed Wakefield for an episode of Under The Wire (UTW). They discussed his latest film 1986 The Act, Vaxxed, the COVID pandemic and Wakefield’s research fraud. His contention is that he was deregistered in an attempt to silence revelation of MMR causing autism. “[I]t was all made up. I’ve never committed research fraud in my life”, he told Dorey. Wakefield mentions that Australian paediatric gastroenterologist John Walker-Smith was part of his research team. In fact Walker-Smith had told Wakefield about possible compromise of the research a year before publication because parents of research subjects were engaged in litigation against pharmaceutical companies. 

As the world now knows Wakefield was well aware of the litigation, as he was secretly funded by the plaintiff’s lawyers to conduct the research. His research paper was eventually retracted from The Lancet. He was ultimately found guilty of more than 30 charges. Articles here tagged “Wakefield” are under this link. The full audio of Dorey’s UTW interview with Wakefield is available here [28 MB]. Interestingly he tells Dorey that the key to 1986 The Act was is not the “dense” content, but in making it entertaining by having a couple act to a script (10.20). Wakefield’s response to Dorey’s question is available below.

  • “How can I help?”: Andrew Wakefield’s account of his deregistration and research fraud [3min 59].

 

Vaxxed history in Australia

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

When members of the USA Vaxxed team visited Australia and toured with the AVN from July to August 2017 to screen the film and collect vaccine injury stories, early criticism and problems eventuated. Most notably that on leaving Australia, co-producer Polly Tommey was banned from entering the country for three years over visa breaches. Fairfax reported she had told her Australian audience that “doctors were murderers”.

The involvement of Tommey continued. In October 2017 Tommey announced the Australian Vaxxed team on the We Are Vaxxed Facebook page. It would include Taylor Winterstein, her sister Stevie Nupier and Deveraux David, daughter of (then) AVN president Tasha David. The three had travelled about on the Vaxxed bus in the USA with Tommey, learning how to conduct vaccine injury interviews. For further insight please see the comprehensive coverage at Diluted Thinking in Australian Vaxxed Team Announced

Tommey’s supporters and the AVN insisted she was banned for her views on vaccination. Tommy appealed against the suspension and on July 15th 2019 the AVN reported in a “media release” that Judge Barnes of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia overturned the ban, reinstated the visa and awarded costs to Tommey. The following day the Informed Medical Options Party (IMOP) reported the same information on their Facebook page. It must be noted that no other media reports of the overturned ban exist. Neither group provided a link to, screenshot or image of relevant documentation despite publishing quotes from Judge Barnes’ finding. Under the heading A victory for truth and justice in Australia each publication included;

The AVN assisted Ms Tommey in fighting against this unconscionable ban. The Minister for Immigration tried to claim that Ms Tommey, a mother of 3 children, one of whom has been seriously injured by vaccination, was somehow a terrorist and needed to be kept out of Australia. 

The importance of this can’t be underestimated in light of the language used by the AVN. The overturning of Tommey’s ban is a mark of a fair democracy in action. The suppression of rights in a so-called “fascist dictatorship” is then far from accurate.

It was reported at the time that another member of the 2017 visiting AVN Vaxxed team Dr. Suzanne Humphries was also banned from entry for three years. SBS updated an article to this effect in August last year. In late August 2017 anti-vaxxer Kent Heckenlively was denied entry into Australia because of his “dangerous” views. He was planning a tour to urge parents to stop vaccinating their children. The ban was not surprising. Just over two weeks earlier the Australian Government had launched a $5.5 million immunisation education campaign in response to the anti-vaccination message and falling vaccination rates. Nonetheless, Tommey and Heckenlively hosted Q&A sessions at AVN Vaxxed events via Skype.

The AVN Australian promotion of Vaxxed was further criticised. Prior to the Bundaberg QLD visit the Fraser Coast Chronicle published a piece in which (then) QLD Health Minister Cameron Dick called on the public to boycott the film. On October 22nd The Chronicle published a piece in which doctors warned of the film’s risk to children’s lives. The chair of AMA QLD was concerned parents could be “duped” into believing the anti-vaccination message. There was further criticism and coverage. An in-depth overview of the tour events is available at Diluted Thinking.

The use of Vaxxed busses

After the film’s release the 2016 Vaxxed Nation Bus Tour in the USA rolled out to promote and screen the film to paying audiences. Dorey and then president of the AVN, Tasha David, attended a CDC rally as part of an elaborate trip to the USA presumably at expense to AVN donors. During the tour unsubstantiated claims of vaccine injury and death were recorded on film forming the purpose of the We Are Vaxxed movement. Over the weekend of October 15-16th 2016, Tasha David appeared as an interviewee for We Are Vaxxed. Her fallacious contribution included claims there is no freedom of speech in Australia, the public can be “force vaccinated” for something as minor as a cold under the Australian biosecurity act, No Jab No Pay has left women living in cars and forced to have abortions and the AVN cannot choose their own name. This article published at the time looks more closely at these claims which can be heard below. 

  • Past AVN president Tasha David interviewed in the USA Vaxxed bus [1min 50].

 

The bus continued its tour of the USA collecting unfounded stories of vaccine injury, death or apparent abuse and bullying at the hands of medical professionals. Popular targets were vaccination against HPV, hepatitis B, pertussis (DTaP), influenza, varicella, Hib, rotavirus, or any childhood vaccine. SIDS was blamed as a vaccine induced death often post DTaP. Horrific stories about the effect of autism brought on by MMR or other childhood vaccines were common. The bus is covered with the signatures of individuals who contributed a story.

This material provided the basis for Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth which was released in November 2019. It was produced by Robert F Kennedy Jr and co-produced by Polly Tommey. The Guardian previewed the film and reported that it;

[I]s slickly produced and carries considerable dramatic punch – making its message all the more potent.

Newsweek reported in October 2019;

Footage includes a gallery of photographs of dead babies, without evidence to back suggestions their deaths were linked to vaccines.

The Australian Vaxxed II Bus

So now we turn our attention to the Vaxxed II bus tour of Australia. An identical bus wrapped in an identical Vaxxed logo, serving an identical purpose. The bus is a 34 foot 2005 Coachmen Miranda registered in NSW as VAXXD2. Market availability suggests a quality 2005 model may sell for between $100,000 – $135,000 and similar models have varying prices. The interior of the AVN Vaxxed II Miranda is well appointed. The new paint finish with an AVN logo, personalised plates and even a logo’d spare wheel cover has delivered a quality, eye catching vehicle for the Australian tour. It too is being signed by everyone who contributes to a story. It has been registered, insured, made road worthy and prepared in the manner a Coachmen Miranda must be. It was certainly not a cheap venture and according to the AVN “a massive undertaking”. 

Donation requests for the bus began on 16th February 2020 – the same day sales of Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth DVD’s were announced via email. Shortly after, the AVN shop provided a formal bus donation page. The set request was $50 and the range was from $5 to $500. 82 days after provision on the AVN site for donations to the Australian Vaxxed II Bus the announcement of bus ownership was made. If we accept a conservative total cost of $150,000 donations must equal $1,830 per day. Once rolling there are costs for accomodation and meals for volunteers along with the necessary $400 plus to fill the tank. Donations had been generous indeed.

It’s important to note the AVN have a history of accumulating member donations for many purposes and not investing them. Misappropriating a minimum of $136,270 for the sale of a magazine that was not supplied and simple theft. More than once. In 2010 the NSW OLGR confirmed multiple breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 [2]. In December 2016 the AVN announced that their planned High Court challenge to the No Jab No Pay legislation was unsuccessful. Of $152,203.73 raised $72,526.37 was spent on legal advice, leaving just over $79,677. The AVN offered to refund 52 cents for each dollar donated (email) and then 66 cents (website). The money was kept for other campaigns. No follow up announcements were made. Of interest is that in September of that year members were advised over $160,000 had been raised for the High Court challenge but over twice that was needed. So please keep donating.

Regular income is from donations, memberships, AVN shop sales and sales at seminar events. Fair trading documents show annual income is declared as “less than $250,000”. The point being made is that the AVN may have a substantial balance of which financial supporters know nothing. The AVN may have financed the bus themselves. Anti-vaccination media coverage increased 900% over March – May this year. This equates to increased profit for the AVN and may assist in keeping the bus on the road.

An 8th May 2020 AVN member email claimed;

The AVN team is very excited to announce that WE HAVE PURCHASED A BUS!
Things have been very busy behind the scenes to make this vision a reality and we can’t wait for the next steps in this process. We can’t wait to bring you more updates as things progress.
The AVN is extremely thankful to all the AVN members who have contributed to this project and made it a reality.

A media release on 8th June 2020 was equally noncommittal with respect to the entire funding of the purchase;

Thanks to the help and support of members of the Australian Vaccination-risks Network Inc. (AVN), Australia has become the first country outside of the United States to have its own Vaxxed Bus. […]

The AVN owes a huge debt of gratitude to our members, without whose help, love, encouragement and financial support, this dream never would have been realised. We also want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Polly and Jon Tommey, Dr Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree and the entire US Vaxxed team whose dedication and energy has birthed a worldwide movement of informed vaccination choice for all.

That final statement of gratitude leaves one wondering just how much of the new bus venture members of the AVN were truly supporting. Perhaps it is cynical to link the bus to a long term goal of financial profit and self promotion for Meryl Dorey. After all, according to the first AVN email to announce the need for a bus readers were told, “Our members have demanded it, so it’s going to happen”. A lot of time and money would be involved, yes. “But due to the current climate of censorship on the issue of vaccine injury we feel the time is now!”. 

Since the bus appeared urgent requests for donation campaigns have stopped. It is not unreasonable to conclude that this present incarnation of the Vaxxed brand has included some funding from outside the AVN. Nor does the AVN own the Vaxxed brand. Thus, all profit from a third film will not go to the AVN.

Financial backing of the Vaxxed movement

Thoughts of money bring us back to the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) who we met above as the producers of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Also we can better understand why involvement with Vaxxed films is lucrative. The Washington Post published an in-depth investigative article in June 2019. Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement examined hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife Lisa, who is president of ICAN. Amongst other anti-vax groups, the Selz’s donated handsomely to ICAN through the Selz Foundation.

When Vaxxed was released in 2016 Bigtree founded ICAN. US tax records show that in its first year the Selz’s donated 83% of ICAN’s income, or $100,000. As Bigtree’s status grew so did Selz Foundation donations. Records show ICAN spent $600,000 on legal fees in 2017. The following year, according to The Washington Post, the charity launched FOI Act lawsuits against the FDA, NIH and the US DHHS. The aim was, “to compel the release of data and documents related to vaccine safety”. If ICAN had any success accessing documents, their silence on the matter speaks volumes.

In 2017 the Selz couple donated $1 million of ICAN’s $1.4 million income. CEO Del Bigtree earned a salary of $146,000. Bigtree travels the country speaking at rallies against bills designed to increase childhood immunisation, lobbying legislators against passing such bills or attending wellness conferences. ICAN spent $148,000 on travel in 2017.

The Selz’s began supporting the anti-vaccination movement in 2012 with a $200,000 donation to the Dr. Wakefield Justice Fund. After Wakefield moved to Texas this fund was set up by supporters with the aim of “responding” to apparent false claims made against Wakefield. This would “protect his work from both profit- and politically-motivated censorship and retribution”. Despite the semantics it’s now documented that as many as four lawsuits brought against Brian Deer and media organisations were fruitless. Anti-SLAPP legislation demanded Wakefield provide evidence for his libel claim which was impossible as the case against him was demonstrably true. 

Wakefield launched two nonprofit organisations in 2014. Over years the Selz’s donated $1.6 million. One group, the AMC Foundation, “was registered as a charity to fund documentaries about public health issues”. The money was used to help produce Vaxxed. The Vaxxed website states that the film was funded by a small group of philanthropists and “brave parents”.

In 2018 Wakefield dissolved the nonprofit organisations. Whilst active the AMC Foundation had directed grants to Wakefield and Tommey’s Autism Media Channel which claims on YouTube to “make informative and educational videos” for individuals with autism. In the article The Washington Post report;

Attorney Marc Owens, a former head of the IRS division responsible for monitoring tax-exempt organizations, said the arrangement is “a very suspicious transaction.”

“They transferred all of their income, it appears — with the exception of a small amount — to, basically, themselves,” Owens said. “It is extremely unusual to see this sort of expenditure from a public charity.”

Bigtree meanwhile continues his weekly online production of The Highwire, which was recently banned from YouTube. It has attracted supporters with deep pockets. New York City real estate executive Stephen Benjamin and his wife, Elizabeth donated $20,000 in 2017. They feel that the vaccine issue is not well managed by industry or political leaders and that opinion and discussion is being censored. Bigtree has landed on his feet and like Wakefield, has found the shift to anti-vaccination conspiracies a shortcut to a type of fame and fortune. 

Without ranging through every avenue of profit that anti-vaxxers pursue one may conclude the very public attention that follows a Vaxxed bus creates an avenue of profit itself. Becomming a Vaxxed identity, particularly now, is as good for the bank balance as it is the ego. The initial Vaxxed film only generated a worldwide box office income of $1,215,647 with the vast majority being USA sales, according to The Numbers website. The DVD sells for around $25 AU, $15 US. Sales are impossible to calculate but Vaxxed TV has almost 88 thousand subscribers, the Autism Media Channel 7.3 thousand. The income from other sources, donations and control of charities appears significant. Polly Tommey’s Autism Media Channel features in Snap Charity‘s business directory.

Possible script items for Vaxxed III

The involvement of the Vaxxed team and movie in Australia in 2017 has already produced published footage of vaccine injury and death accounts. The AVN YouTube channel now mimics Vaxxed TV and the Autism Media Channel in content and appearance. So without a doubt the promised “documentary” will feature identical accounts of vaccine injury and death recorded on the Vaxxed II bus and may well include the footage from 2017. As noted above there are accounts of vaccine injury on the AVN site. It is unlikely this fits with the Vaxxed brand however.

The most common themes will be the most familiar. SIDS caused by DTaP. Injury and death following influenza vaccination. A raft of neurological problems and death following HPV vaccination. Infant injury after hepatitis B immunisation. Autism following MMR and other vaccines. Images similar to those used in this attack on Sydney City Council, which were requested on Facebook by an AVN member will be used. People are bullied into vaccination whilst doctors who share these views are fearful of speaking out and deregistered if they do. Other topics may be included to shape an Australian identity to the film.

The threat of mandatory vaccination in Australia may fill part of any vaccine injury film Meryl Dorey and Aneeta Hafemeister are involved with. To understand some of the primary tactics Dorey has used for years follow this link. The requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated in some instances leads to injury, unemployment, ruin and death contend the AVN. No Jab No Pay legislation is often referred to as a means to mandatory vaccination or results in homelessness and poverty.

Protection of the Vaxxed brand should dictate not referencing Dorey’s claim of mandatory vaccination lobbyists. Not because the idea is poor. Rather because her approach is bogus, bitter and brutal. It includes attacking parents who have lost a child to vaccine preventable disease. On its Get The Facts page the Department of Health publishes these personal stories in which grieving parents contribute to public awareness of vaccine necessity. Together with Judy Wilyman the AVN wrongly insist these accounts are merely anecdotal, therefore unreliable. A criticism selectively omitted from assessing vaccine injury accounts.

A constant narrative of a cruel and tyrannical government at state and federal levels suppressing accounts of vaccine injury is a feature of the Vaxxed II tour. Council bans and orders to move on are likely to be covered with the approach that The People can’t be silenced. Another theme around mandatory vaccination is that the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory and dangerous. 

In July Dorey informed Andrew Wakefield that this, “man-made situation is not really a pandemic… we are in the middle of a government take-over of human rights in this country”. In fact Dorey presented aspects of vaccine legislation and the COVID-19 situation in Australia with such dishonesty it was impressive. Such misleading accounts may feature in the film. The audio below is from the same episode of Under The Wire as Wakefield’s claim to innocence above.

Doctors are being “Wakefielded” (a new verb Dorey contends) and deregistered for even asking questions about vaccines or reporting adverse events. As are physiotherapists, nurses… anyone who’s registered with AHPRA. The film mentioned is 1986 The Act. Daniel Andrews is power mad and if Australians watch the film, “there will be an uprising”. The audio is a sequence of out-takes. Please listen below.

  • Meryl Dorey informs Andrew Wakefield about suppression of rights in Australia [4min 45]

 

Other topics might include the need for “vaxxed vs unvaxxed” studies funded by the Australian government and the lack of vaccine safety trials. The AVN insist in using suspect studies to show that vaccinated children are less healthy that unvaccinated. Despite the fact that efficacy and safety testing in Phase III trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidates has been widely reported the AVN still deny it. In a recent post looking at how increased transparency of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial has exposed anti-vaccine conspiracies we saw that the AVN still have this dishonest claim on their site. See Proposition 4;

…there have never been double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective studies done on either the safety or efficacy of vaccines, not even when a new vaccine is introduced.

There may be input from Wakefield, who also denies proper safety studies are conducted. In the UTW interview with Dorey he chose to ignore the necessity for non-sterile placebos in trials. Without evidence he attacked the use of aluminium adjuvants as placebos. He is critical of COVID-19 candidate vaccine phase III trials because he can twist facts to fit his narrative. Some trials use a meningococcal vaccine as placebo so recipients will not know they have received a placebo. In essence, this is excellent methodology.

Conclusion

The two Vaxxed films produced to date are demonstrably false accounts of a vaccine link to autism and a vaccine injury epidemic (VIE). The involvement of disgraced ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield and his account of being the victim of conspiracy has ensured a level of interest and popularity for the Vaxxed brand. This has increased financial backing from his supporters who believe he is a victim with important work to do. Contributions from wealthy benefactors ensure donations to Wakefield are lucrative. Never the talented success his fans portray him as, wealth gained from anti-vaccine conspiracy promotion and his current lifestyle are well documented.

The key Vaxxed identities are Wakefield and producers Polly Tommey and Del Bigtree. The latter two are also fervent anti-vaccine campaigners. Bigtree is well paid with travel funded in his role as CEO of Informed Consent Action Network which produced the Vaxxed films. Tax documents confirm Wakefield and Tommey profited significantly from nonprofit tax-exempt organisations established to fund anti-vaccine media. The first Vaxxed bus significantly increased the profiles of Wakefield, Tommey and Bigtree. Media is continuously published on YouTube.  

AVN founder and supporter of Andrew Wakefield, Meryl Dorey has battled controversy to promote both Vaxxed films in Australia. Her support of a VIE has been vocal for over 25 years and she has overseen the raising of significant funds through unmet promises and deception. The AVN have launched an identical Vaxxed bus in Australia. The full source of funding is unclear. Its purpose is to promote the second Vaxxed film and collect footage of Australians who believe they or a loved one are victims of vaccine injury or death. Meryl Dorey and current AVN president Aneeta Hafemeister acknowledge they intend to make a third Vaxxed film.

The AVN have clearly met more resistance from health authorities and local councils than expected. Supporters are constantly told the intention is to give the vaccine injured a voice. However given the involvement of Vaxxed the AVN must have contractural obligations. Despite professing noble intentions the show, it would seem, must go on. Exactly what arrangement Meryl Dorey and the AVN have with the Vaxxed brand is unknown. By not investing supporter donations into promised campaigns the AVN have accumulated significant monies, the extent of which is kept secret. 

Income from film screenings and video sales is quite modest but not insignificant. Overall profit from the production of these films is helped by using volunteers. Here they staff the Vaxxed II bus, conduct filming, run the promotion and sales stall at events, collect, edit and post material on social media and address the multiple administrative details that senior AVN identities do not. Constant requests for donations via email and social media ensure income. Presenting a constant narrative that politicians and health authorities have a vested interest in silencing the vaccine injured encourages further support.

Despite justified opposition Meryl Dorey and the AVN will continue as they have. The aim is to mimic the USA Vaxxed bus and cover the nation. This will be costly. The more noise made and attention gained the more likely donations will increase. Australia may not have the wealthy benefactors of the anti-vaccination lobby in the USA but this doesn’t mean the AVN have not been well funded. Nor does it mean they have. The group has a history of accumulating significant finances for purposes unmet. Promised investment in campaigns never eventuates. The Vaxxed II bus has increased income. The sooner the Vaxxed III film can be produced the sooner the AVN will be taken seriously by potential benefactors.

Meryl Dorey has always craved success and legitimacy. She is presently in a good position to be co-producer of the Vaxxed III film. Her problem is that the AVN and Vaxxed are quite rightly regarded as a threat to public health in Australia. The COVID pandemic has increased exposure, support and donations for the AVN. Yet by embracing COVID conspiracies they have come under closer scrutiny from health and government authorities.

They will continue to meet resistance. They will respond dramatically. Dorey and Hafemeister will continue to rave about the suppression of rights and their fight to provide a voice for the vaccine injured. It will at least be entertaining. As Wakefield told Dorey, without entertainment you don’t have a film.

The prize for Meryl Dorey is to become Australia’s Vaxxed representative and if one conclusion is clear it’s that being a Vaxxed intimate is lucrative.


NB: The first and fourth audio files are made up of out-takes from the original file which is available. The out-takes are added in chronological order.

24 Nov. 2020: Updated details of misappropriated income from undelivered magazines and “member donations” spreadsheet at The Australian Vaxxed II bus.

Last update: 24 Nov. 2020

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How the Oxford trial pause challenges anti-vaccine conspiracies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AVN piece included this under “Proposition 4”;

…there have never been double-blind, placebo-controlled prospective studies done on either the safety or efficacy of vaccines, not even when a new vaccine is introduced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AVN Facebook post

Dubious message on AVN Facebook

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

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

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

Some AVN members were justifiably suspicious.

AVN FB members question source

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

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

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

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

AVN Facebook post

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

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


Further reading:

Oxford Vaccine Group

Oxford vaccine trial – University of Oxford

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

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

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

Vaccine testing and approval process – CDC

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Meryl Dorey suddenly believes viruses can only be transmitted by injection

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

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

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

Meryl Dorey: viruses only transmitted by injection

Source: Comment 32

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

Barnett claimed in the video;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Call to action on anti-vaccination bus tour

© Australian Skeptics Inc.

By Tim Mendham

July 19th 2020

Australian Skeptics has issued a warning and call to action to Australian media, medical professionals, and local councils regarding the current anti-vaccination ‘revival’ tour of rural and regional Australia:

VAXXED Bus
Delivers COVID-19 Conspiracies and Bad Advice

The so-called “VAXXED” bus is currently touring Australia, spreading misinformation about vaccination at local ‘revival-style’ meetings, often in regional venues owned or managed by local councils or schools. This big black bus carries the logo of the “Australian Vaccination-risks Network” (AVN), an organisation whose leaders have:
● Claimed COVID-19 is nothing more than a bad cold.(1)
● Encouraged people to take photos in hospitals to show COVID-19 is not serious.(2)
● Discouraged face masks for COVID-19 and stated temperature testing is crazy and stupid.(3)
● Likened vaccination to rape.(4)
● Claimed microchips could be injected into the population via vaccines.(5)
● Promoted the falsehood that contrails from aircraft – which they call “Chemtrails” – are used to poison the population.(6)
● Spread the discredited falsehood that vaccines lead to autism.(7)
● Propagated the myth that SIDS and the fatal injuries suffered by some babies who were shaken to death are really the results of vaccines.(8)

With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 in parts of the country, now is not the time to have anyone spread disinformation about the pandemic or vaccine preventable diseases. It is clear from their own statements that the organisers of this tour do not take the threat of COVID-19 seriously.

In 2014, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning against this organisation, stating in part:

Warning – The Commission has established that AVN does not provide reliable information in relation to certain vaccines and vaccination more generally. The Commission considers that AVN’s dissemination of misleading, misrepresented and incorrect information about vaccination engenders fear and alarm and is likely to detrimentally affect the clinical management or care of its readers.(9)

MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS: Should be aware that the VAXXED Bus may be visiting their area. This will mean that current and potential patients may be exposed to dangerous misinformation that can have deleterious if not fatal consequences. Anti-vaccine messages should be actively resisted, and we encourage local medical professionals to take a stand on this issue, either via local media, social media or whatever public avenues exist in their area.

MEDIA: We advise the media to take great care when covering the VAXXED Bus and the Australian Vaccination-risks Network. They use the tactic of “tell both sides of the story”, also known as “False Balance”, a misrepresentation that the ABC’s Media Watch has covered with regard to this organisation in 2012(10). The media are advised to focus on the more bizarre conspiracy theories propagated, but are under no obligation to give this group the oxygen they seek.

LOCAL COUNCILS: Should consider very carefully the possible consequences of hiring out venues to this organisation. With parts of regional Australia recording a worrying low level of vaccination in a time of a global pandemic, encouraging parents not to vaccinate their children is irresponsible.

“We have one of the safest outcomes when it comes to preventable diseases in the world, because of our strong immunisation program, and anti-vaxxers should just butt out. Vaccination has saved lives, it’s safe, it’s effective and anyone that tried to create any other discussion against it is really trying to harm the Australian public”
– Australian Medical Association President Dr Tony Bartone (Radio 2GB 20/04/2020)

“…there has been somewhat of an upsurge in paranoid and sort of unhinged behaviours.”
– AMA state president (SA) Dr Chris Moy (ABC NEWS 21/05/2020)

“It is concerning that the reports that I have received are that some people believe that coronavirus is a conspiracy or that it won’t impact on them.”
– Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos (7 News July 2020)

References

1. The Australian Vaccination-risks Network is one group which has moved to downplay the significance of coronavirus, with spokeswoman Meryl Dorey saying the virus “is just the common cold”. “The cold can kill anyone if they’re sick to begin with and coronavirus is no different,” she said on a Facebook video on Sunday. She said people have been “fooled” by a “fear campaign on the silly sheep media”.
https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/anti-vaxxers-downplay-common-cold-like-coronavirus-amid-fears-of-forced-vaccinations-c-725089

2. Dorey questioned the COVID-19 pandemic saying: “Are you being lied to?” Requesting that followers “take your phones and pop into the local hospital” and “Let us know how crowded it is — or is not. Is coronavirus really overwhelming our nation or is our nation overwhelming us with lies and killing our economy and us?”
Hansen, Jane (3 April 2020). “Anti-vaxxers deny COVID-19 pandemic, urge others to ignore isolation advice”. The Sunday Telegraph. Sydney NSW.

3. On Face Masks for COVID-19: “… a piece of cheese cloth… something with lots and lots of holes in it is the best to wear.”
On Temperature Testing for COVID-19: “…. temperature testing, that’s just crazy….” “It is so stupid. It just shows the extent of stupidity that our government, our medical community and our media are displaying.”
Meryl Dorey, Under the Wire – https://www.bitchute.com/video/K77QIp3HJQyP (49min 20sec mark)

4. A controversial anti-vaccination group has likened vaccines that prevent disease to rape, drawing condemnation even from some its own supporters.
https://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-vaccination-skeptics-network-compares-vaccines-to-rape-20150422-1mr0wk.html

5. “The next and most logical step is the use of microchips which will contain all of the same information contained on smart cards but which will be injected into us and read and updated from a distance.”
http://web.archive.org/web/20010406083421/avn.org.au/big.htm

6. “The number of chemtrails sprayed over the #CDCWhistleblower #VAXtruth rally was shocking! Many of the protesters were sickened. Stop it NOW!”
Twitter @nocompulsoryvac – 1:15am – 27 Oct 2016

7. Meryl Dorey: “All vaccinations in the medical literature have been linked with the possibility of causing autism, not just the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine.”
https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/false-balance-leads-to-confusion/9973912

8. Anti-vaxxers come up with their most abhorrent lie yet. – “So Shaken Baby Syndrome again, like SIDS, is a waste basket. It is a way of blaming the family for what may have been caused by the medical community.”
https://www.mamamia.com.au/avn

9. The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission – Public statement – warning about the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, Inc. (‘AVN’), formerly known as Australian Vaccination Network Inc.
https://tinyurl.com/p6o4yy8

10. False balance leads to confusion (Media Watch ABC October 2012) https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/false-balance-leads-to-confusion/9973912

For reliable information about COVID-19: https://www.health.gov.au
For reliable information about vaccination: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation


Once again please note this post is © Australian Skeptics and the original can be sourced here.

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Chris Kenny attacks Paul Barry, Media Watch and the ABC

Last month Chris Kenny used his programme The Kenny Report on Sky News to launch a knee jerk attack against Media Watch and particularly its host Paul Barry.

It would seem that the facts about hydroxychloroquine not supporting the constant praise Donald Trump gave it as a treatment or preventative for COVID-19 did not sit well with Mr. Kenny. He was having none of the notion that these facts and the manner in which the media did or did not report them could be accurately presented on Media Watch.

His frequently personal, highly opinionated attack on Paul Barry fails to present necessary evidence whilst liberally applying the very deception he accuses Barry of. Kenny’s numerous contentions have become somewhat more relevant in light of the WHO suspending its trial of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 due to safety concerns. [Update: The WHO has resumed the trial of hydroxychloroquine after the study leading to the suspension was retracted by the Lancet. Full update after post]. However first some background on Trump and a review of the Media Watch segment in question.

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a veritable cornucopia of weird and wonderful personalities making a range of deceptive, dangerous, conspiratorial or just plain wrong claims.

With respect to hydroxychloroquine as a treatment or prophylactic for COVID-19 the evidence and advice has, from the beginning, been clear. Trials were needed to establish if and how the drug should be taken. Within weeks treatment trials revealed serious problems and fatalities whilst warnings about its use as a prophylactic were unambiguous.

In the latter case warnings were more widespread after Donald Trump began to promote it. On March 19th in a White House press briefing Trump demonstrated a grave error of comprehension. Hydroxychloroquine has been used in the treatment and prevention of malaria for decades. Where suitable it is also prescribed in the management of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

In a textbook example of why scientific advisors must be consulted by politicians who comment on health matters, Trump’s error of reasoning was to assume this prior, specific use of hydroxychloroquine meant it was apparently safe for other uses. In a March 19 press briefing he said in part;

Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus.

Now, a drug called chloroquine — and some people would add to it “hydroxy-.”  Hydroxychloroquine.  So chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Now, this is a common malaria drug. It is also a drug used for strong arthritis. If somebody has pretty serious arthritis, also uses this in a somewhat different form. But it is known as a malaria drug, and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful.

But the nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it — if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.

Five days later after taking a form of chloroquine an Arizona man died from cardiac arrest and his wife was hospitalised. They had ingested chloroquine phosphate which is not a medicinal form of chloroquine.

Despite Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine Dr. Anthony Fauci had urged caution. The day after Trump’s briefing, during his own COVID-19 briefing, Fauci answered reporters who were querying the use of the drug as a treatment. He stated;

The answer is no, and the evidence that you’re talking about … is anecdotal evidence.

Nonetheless, Trump followed by tweeting the drug was a “game changer” and almost a month later on April 14th Trump was still confusing its prior use with presumed general safety [Media Watch – 16 sec mark];

What do you have to lose? They’ve been taking it for forty years for malaria.

That was quite a statement. Particularly given what we know now. Trump announced on May 18th he’d been taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic for a week and a half. On May 20th he announced he would stop his “regimen” in a day or two. However almost a month earlier on April 24th the FDA had warned of the serious side effects of hydroxychloroquine [2]. They cautioned it should not be used outside a hospital or clinical trial.

The need for more research into the potential of hydroxychloroquine was reinforced by authorities from the very early days of Trump’s glowing praise for the drug. On the same day as his “what do you have to lose?” comment, it was reported that a high dose trial in Brazil looking at treatment of COVID-19 was abandoned due to a trend toward lethality.

On April 14th Science Alert reported in part;

After 11 patients died across both dosage groups, the team halted the high-dose arm of the trial on day six, citing more heart rhythm problems in the high-dose group, and “a trend toward higher lethality”.

Which brings us to the Media Watch segment, Hydroxychloroquine disappoints, of Monday April 27th. You can watch the segment (6.42) and access the transcript here. Or you can listen to the audio below or grab the mp3 file here (© ABC).

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Paul Barry does exactly what one would expect from Media Watch. He reported on findings from VA hospitals in the USA of higher mortality in those given hydroxychloroquine and the drug’s lack of efficacy. He stressed that the study was not randomised and hadn’t been peer reviewed, but was being taken seriously. He also reported on the disappointing trial results from Brazil and presented the well known tweets from Trump and Giuliani. The latter claiming a 100% success rate of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 was taken down by Twitter. Viewers were also presented with the chorus of hydroxychloroquine support from Fox News and quotes from Trump.

Shining a light on Australian media Barry quite fairly reported on Sky News Australia. After Dr. Fauci and others had warned hydroxychloroquine hadn’t been adequately tested and may be dangerous Sky reporters cited “Trump Derangement Syndrome” as the cause for US media reporting on the problems with Trump’s claims and the facts about the drug.

Rather than present evidence to support Trump’s claims or efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, Sky News contended that it was hatred of Trump that led to reporting of its dangers. Chris Kenny argued that the “real world clinical assessment of this drug at the moment”, was that doctors and dentists were “putting it aside” for themselves or their family.

Kenny also demonstrated the same grave error of comprehension as did Trump. On April 2nd he was promoting the claims of Dr. Vladimir Zelenko who had published a YouTube video making unverified claims about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine given with zinc and antibiotics to treat COVID-19. The same method is known to cause cardiac problems.

Chris Kenny informed his viewers;

Now we know this drug is safe. People have been taking it for these other conditions for decades. So this does hold out great hope.

Yet Zelenko’s claims had already been exposed as unproven. Paul Barry noted it was reported on Snopes;

Zelenko’s claims, however, rest solely on taking him at his word: He has published no data, described no study design, and reported no analysis.

Zelenko’s video was rightly removed from YouTube. Kenny “wondered” if this censorship was due to Zelenko signing off his video with over the top praise for Trump. He professed his love, blessings and hope that God protects [President Trump]. It is now known Zelenko falsely claimed the trial he was enthusiastically promoting as successful had FDA approval. This has brought him to the attention of a US Federal prosecutor.

Paul Barry went on to note Alan Jones thought hydroxychloroquine should be “rushed into the front-line”. Again, as with Trump and Kenny we see the same lack of basic critical thought. Yes, Jones argued;

...given the drug has been around for more than 50 years, it’s approved, the data on it is well established it’s perplexing that we don’t instruct the use of the drug now with the monitoring of existing coronavirus cases to see the results.

Barry continued the segment by including a response to Jones from Professor Peter Collignon of ANU in which he warns of the drugs toxicity and stresses the need for more trials. He finished with playing the footage of Donald Trump’s comments about injecting disinfectant.

Chris Kenny seems to have taken great offence at the content of this Media Watch segment, despite what is the demonstrably factual content. On The Kenny Report of March 28th he launched an attack at Paul Barry, Media Watch its researchers and funding, and the ABC itself. He spent seven minutes of his time on air to do so claiming the ABC and Paul Barry had a “bizarre new enemy to attack”. Namely hydroxychloroquine.

You can watch The Kenny Report here and access a summary beneath it. Or you can listen to the audio below or grab the mp3 file here (© Sky News).

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In last months post on government cuts to ABC funding I touched on some points that are relevant to this post. Namely the terminology used by Sky News and Chris Kenny to convince viewers that the ABC has a leftist ideology. This is a bold claim and when attacking Media Watch the onus is on Chris Kenny to present not just peer reviewed evidence, but a scientific consensus based on the same to defend climate change denial and now the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19.

What is immediately apparent is Kenny’s frequent attacks on ABC funding. In the seven minutes he refers to taxpayer funding of the ABC and Media Watch five times. It’s difficult to imagine even his most devoted fans simply swallowing that. Each time he repeats a version of viewers being presented with “ideological deceit, deceptive tosh, rot, etc”. Kenny begins by telling his audience that Media Watch, “gets a lot wrong – deliberately wrong”. He continues;

One of the most over-resourced shows on television it uses taxpayers money for an ideological platform. It’s supposed to be a media watchdog standing up for truth, accuracy and the like, but what it does is distort the truth and promote inaccuracies in order to promote its own ideological agenda. This breaches the law of course, it breaches the ABC Charter.

This final claim about the ABC Charter is a calculated low blow designed to create significant problems for the ABC which is presently enduring a three year freeze of funding that began in June 2019. This will cost the ABC $83.7 million over the three years. 800 staff have lost their jobs. Yet most significantly as I wrote last month, the ABC has already stressed that the present cuts threaten delivery of the ABC Charter. Yet Kenny contends he is unveiling an “ideological agenda” of Media Watch. Speaking of which, he continues;

Barry and Media Watch preach global warming alarmism, promote leftist climate policies, defend the ABC and attack anyone right of centre. Especially if they work for News Corp – owners of this station. I’ve detailed their deceptions many times before, and I won’t stop.

He goes on to present a “recent example documented in detail by Andrew Bolt”. This is apparently how Media Watch acquitted the ABC over its “obsessive, biased, unfair, relentless and clearly wrong headed persecution of Cardinal George Pell over many years”. He presents an edited clip of Paul Barry speaking on Media Watch. Barry states;

And did the ABC get their judgements on Pell one hundred percent right? Probably not. Was it a witch hunt and a dark day for journalism? I for one do not think so.

Kenny returns with;

How about that for fairness and courage? What a whimp.

The deception employed here by Chris Kenny to create the bogus impression that Paul Barry is biased in favour of the ABC and against George Pell is highly significant. The out-take is from the lengthy Media Watch segment, Pell – The final verdict. When viewed in its entirety we see Barry is critical of ABC identities and programmes when warranted. We also learn that the story of an investigation into Pell was broken by Andrew Bolt’s own paper, the Herald Sun, in February 2016.

Paul Barry also argued against two respected ABC identities that claimed Pell was not “innocent”. Rather it was found there was insufficient evidence to convict. Barry responded to this as follows;

Technically that may be right.

But the principle of our legal system is you’re innocent until proven guilty. And after a unanimous seven-nil verdict from the High Court, you surely can’t argue that Pell is not innocent of the charges.

There are other examples of Barry criticising the ABC. Such as Louise Milligan and Four Corners for not canvassing Pell’s defence, but rather focusing on those who condemned Pell. Or of Barry citing the ABC’s fairness. ABC’s 7:30 did consider if Pell’s conviction was wrong, interviewing Frank Brennan. When Pell’s first appeal was dismissed The Drum had lawyer Richard Beasley appear and he raised concerns that reasonable doubt wasn’t found.

Over the Pell trial and appeals the ABC gave airtime to a large number of Pell supporters. Added to this must go the number of times his supporters turned down an invitation to appear on the ABC. There are many examples of the ABC’s fairness and bipartisanship with respect to Pell. What stands out is Paul Barry’s dedication to applying the same standards to the ABC as to anywhere else. More so in the spirit of Media Watch he has a right to examine if the Pell case was in the public interest and deserving of in depth coverage. Indeed it was, particularly in view of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This is what Pell told that Royal Commission;

My own position is that you never disbelieve a complaint. But then it has to be assessed as to see just whether it is valid and true and plausible.

– Revelation, ABC, 2 April, 2020

Thus Chris Kenny’s attack against Paul Barry with respect to Cardinal George Pell and purported ABC bias is without foundation. More so, Kenny has deceived his viewers by using a Media Watch clip out of context. The significance of this rests not least on the accusations of deception Kenny goes on to make against Paul Barry.

Kenny moves on to hydroxychloroquine, claiming the ABC and Paul Barry “don’t like the bloke who speaks positively about it”. Despite the evidence of hydroxychloroquine dangers outlined above, Kenny contends the ABC and Barry are, “actually lining up against drugs that are being trialled around the world. Why? Because the US President hopes they’ll work. I kid you not the left have become that nutty over Donald Trump”.

Kenny contended bias by omission because Paul Barry didn’t include two Australian trials, one of which is currently looking at the prophylactic application of hydroxychloroquine. Kenny made much of the fact he would be speaking to that trial’s lead investigator Professor Marc Pellegrini of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. Unfortunately for Chris Kenny it’s not at all clear why ongoing trials support his contention that hydroxychloroquine should be considered safe or that Barry is misleading viewers.

At the time it was known the subjects – all healthcare workers – would be well, fit and rigorously assessed prior to entering the prophylactic trial. To fast forward, recently after the WHO stopped the hydroxychloroquine research of the global Solidarity trial on COVID-19 patients SBS reported that Prof. Pellegrini stated;

The WHO Solidarity trial is worlds apart from what we are doing. Understand that it’s very, very different.

On May 20th Clinical Trials Arena reported;

Pellegrini said: “COVID SHIELD is gold standard in its design as a multi-centre, randomised, double-blind study.

“The trial is focused on our frontline and allied healthcare workers who are at an increased risk of infection due to repeated exposure caring for sick patients. Our aim is to help these people stay safe, well, and able to continue in their vital roles.”

The trial will recruit 2,250 participants who will receive hydroxychloroquine or a placebo tablet over four months.

The other QLD study was part of a national trial looking at both hydroxychloroquine, and lopinavir-ritonavir (a combination treatment used to treat HIV) in the treatment of COVID-19. There were no available results at the time and Paul Barry was not hiding the truth. The focus of his Media Watch segment was media. Not a discussion of various hydroxychloroquine trials.

Well before Kenny went to air the FDA warned of severe heart problems in patients given hydroxychloroquine. Still Kenny attacked Media Watch researchers and bemoaned their funding claiming Barry selectively omits items if they don’t fit “his thesis”.

Kenny worked hard to whip up anger over taxpayer funding of the ABC. He returned to his comment that the real world clinical assessment of hydroxychloroquine was that health professionals were “putting it aside”. This was because he knew that Paul Barry’s “large research team” had received this correspondence from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. In it the PSA president notes that there has been an unprecedented demand for hydroxychloroquine following some promising data on the treatment of COVID-19 and Trump’s support of the drug.

It goes on to mention reports from pharmacists that doctors are prescribing for doctors and their families, as are dentists. Non-medical prescribers are prescribing bulk amounts. There is no mention of conclusive data supporting treatment of COVID-19. Key parts of the correspondence include;

If this medication does indeed have the efficacy that we would desire against COVID-19 then it needs to be prescribed and used judiciously. […]

Our strong advice to pharmacists at this point in time, until further advice is available, is to refuse the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine if there is not a genuine need, and that need is for those indications for what it is approved for – inflammatory conditions or the suppression and treatment of malaria. […]

The only way this [treatment of patients who genuinely need the drug] is possible is for prescribers to not write prescriptions for this medicine as a ‘just in case’ measure and for pharmacists to refuse the supply outside of these indications at this point in time.

I’m quite baffled as to why Kenny thinks this letter supports the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine or why he thinks Paul Barry should have included it in his segment. Barry did not accuse Kenny of lying about GPs and dentists grabbing a supply of the drug. Rather, the issue is that Kenny believes such rash behaviour by some health professionals is a “real world clinical assessment of this drug at the moment”. The fact is such off-label prescribing is most certainly not a clinical assessment and to tell viewers this, may have serious, dangerous consequences. TGA amendments to hydroxychloroquine prescription give a clear picture now and did so at the time Kenny went to air.

Kenny was also concerned that Media Watch didn’t mention his interviews with the PSA, Peter Doherty and a number with Professor Peter Collignon of the ANU. This is unusual given what Collignon had said on Alan Jones’ breakfast show on April 9th as reported on the very Media Watch segment Kenny accuses of being selectively and deceptively biased. Collignon stated;

The reality is it’s hard to believe why this drug would work. Now, like all other drugs, I think we’ve got to have an open mind and study them. But there’s as many reports showing it doesn’t work as there are, and it’s not a drug that hasn’t got any toxicity. People have already died from heart conditions by taking this drug in inappropriate dose.

Professor Collignon later told Media Watch by email that larger and more definitive studies were needed and that;

I am even more sceptical as more data is coming in.

Yet Kenny omitted this instead telling his audience;

Paul Barry has deliberately hidden and distorted the truth in order to pretend that we have been misleading you. It’s that brazen, that unhinged and it’s done with your taxpayers money.

Kenny also decided to leave out any mention of Vladimir Zelenko despite him being previously mentioned to support Kenny’s claim of left wing bias against Trump, hence bias against hydroxychloroquine. Zelenko has recently labelled negative data on the drug as “garbage”. Nor did he mention Dr. Anthony Fauci or his position on the drug. He does mention Paul Barry’s reporting of Trump suggesting injection of disinfectant. Kenny then observes;

That’s the level at which Barry operates. Like a kid on Twitter he wants to pretend that the President recommends mainlining Dettol. It’s that inane.

Kenny goes on to disapprove of Barry’s salary which he’s paid, “to produce fifteen minutes of deceptive tosh a week”. He’s not happy that, “up to a dozen researchers” are paid either. Research, Kenny contends, that is, “left out if the facts get in the way of [Barry’s] thesis”. He finishes off with more of the same, this time including a taunt;

The ABC spends, what, two or three million dollars a year on this programme of ideological deceit. And then they scream for more funds – more of your taxes. Good luck with that Ita.

Kenny’s performance is really worth watching. The evidence shows that the one omitting relevant material to deceive his audience is Chris Kenny himself despite his proclamations about Paul Barry. He may have a predetermined, erroneous notion of what Media Watch should be and how it should run. Yet given the many deliberate and malicious references to ABC funding and the motivation of Paul Barry it’s a safe bet that Kenny’s intentions are nefarious. He’s lashing out at Paul Barry and Media Watch because the facts aren’t to his liking or his ideology.

The denial of evidence can always have serious consequences and regarding climate change already has. However at the present time with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic orchestrated deception like that presented by Kenny is not only outrageous, but immoral. The fact is that today so much of right wing rhetoric is anti-science and indeed post truth. That Kenny would cling to his anecdotal belief that the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine can be gleaned from it being snapped up by some health professionals is a failure of critical thinking. That he tried to defend this by tacking together various claims that Paul Barry had omitted material he felt supported his belief gives disturbing insight into the logical fallacies he entertains.

There is really no doubt. Hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be of genuine benefit in fighting COVID-19 as data stands. Hydroxychloroquine should not be used for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials. Donald Trump was wrong to promote it. Sky News journalists are politically motivated in defending Trump.

Chris Kenny is wrong. He failed to present the evidence. Paul Barry and Media Watch are right. The evidence in this case is what the ABC presented.


UPDATE 6/6/2020: