Risky Business

Recently the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network emailed members to announce their change of name to Australian Vaccination-risks Network.

The author of the email took the opportunity to falsely attack Australian Skeptics Inc., thoroughly misrepresent the global Skeptics movement and reinforce baseless fears about the risk benefit ratio of vaccines. The email also misrepresented the circumstances via which the Australian Vaccination Network came to have the word “skeptics” inserted into it’s name. As will become clear below the word “risks” could have been chosen by this anti-vaccine group four to five years ago.

The word “risks” was suggested along with “skeptics” by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal as a means by which the group could satisfy a request by the NSW Department of Fair Trading. NSW Fair Trading had written to the AVN referencing;

…an increasing number of requests to have NSW Fair Trading amend the name of the Australian Vaccination Network Inc., based on the contention that the name is misleading and deceptive, and therefore undesirable.

The full letter dated August 28th, 2012 is below.

 

There were ample histrionics from the AVN. Despite the clarity of the correspondence they claimed only the AMA had complained, “- an industry lobby group who obviously feels threatened by the idea that parents might choose not to vaccinate – costing them money”. This was “anti-competitive behaviour” on the part of NSW Department of Fair Trading. Democracy and truth were threatened. The matter was an “abuse of process”. Skeptic blogs began to report on the issue about one hour before media outlets did. Thus, Meryl Dorey conspiratorially queried;

Is there a direct line of communication between the Australian Skeptics, Stop the AVN (SAVN) and government departments?

Which brings us back to the groups’ most recent email, the very tiring attacks on skeptics and the even more tiring contention that Australian Skeptics Inc. is linked to Stop The AVN. It’s worth noting that because of confusion with the official sounding Australian Vaccination Network, the volunteer citizens group Stop The Australian Vaccination Network had prior to the time of NSW Department of Fair Trading involvement changed their name to Stop The Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network.

Now, above I mentioned attacks and misinformation on the part of the Australian Vaccination-risks Network. Let’s continue to call them the AVN. Below is a snap from their email;

It seems quite clear the connotation of the email is that NSW Fair Trading “forced” the AVN to adopt the noun skeptics as part of their name. Worse the noun skeptic is purposefully misrepresented in the context in which it is used, which leads to such ridiculous name calling as “anti-skeptics”.

Let’s examine the misrepresentation of a very basic definition of the word “skeptic” with the term as it is understood by the Skeptic movement first. Then by examining the evidence that Ms. Dorey discarded the option of “risks” to instead choose “skeptics” after losing an appeal against NSW Department of Fair Trading, we will appreciate the deceptive argument that is laid out.

The noun cited above is a very basic, indeed rather limited understanding of the term. In fact by citing this and then immediately referring to the global skeptic movement Ms. Dorey (whom I have little doubt wrote this unsigned email) confirms she is ignorant of the difference between a skeptic and the Skeptic movement. She has completely ignored the importance of evidence and scientific consensus to the Skeptic movement.

Her view of a skeptic as used to attack genuine scientific skeptics would seem to be someone who doubts reality. I have written about this childish abuse of science and philosophy in addressing her blog The Real Australian Sceptics. At that time – May 2012 – Dorey used the exact same definition of the noun “skeptic” as in the email above. The article examines why Dorey and the AVN are in fact pseudo-skeptics, despite her antagonistic habit of using that term to describe skeptics who request she prevent current, reproducible, peer reviewed evidence.

I imagine the inventive ‘those who do not question accepted opinions and attack those who do’, may well reflect the anti-SAVN work of Brian Martin who was initially contacted and misled about apparent attacks, by Ms. Dorey herself. He then published a number of extremely biased pieces, which laden with conspiracy theory, appear to repeat the same conclusion from various angles. Namely that the SAVN and skeptics have bullied and attacked Ms. Dorey. Yet there is absolutely no mention of Dorey producing convincing evidence.

The Skeptical Movement page hosted at Wikipedia has far more suitable definitions under Scientific Skepticism. Note the importance of evidence as opposed to opinion and ideology.

What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and, especially important, to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premises or starting point and whether that premise is true.

— Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World, 1995, p. 197

Science is […] a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.

A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.

“Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas—no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position.”

Back to the possible choice of “risks” to add to their name. Verily did the AVN appeal the NSW Department of Fair Trading request after proclaiming in the July 20th, 2012 email “The AVN Asks – What’s In A Name”;

The Australian Vaccination Network has no intention of changing its name and any group or government department that believes it has the right to try and force us to do so will find themselves strenuously opposed.

The AVN lost the appeal [ABC]. The full Administrative Decisions Tribunal finding can be found here.

I’d like to draw your attention to the Introduction of Reasons for Decision. A section of Part 3 has been emphasised;

1) The Australian Vaccination Network Inc (AVN) has been directed to change its name. The main reason the Director General of the Department of Finance and Services gave for making that direction was that the name is likely to mislead the public in relation to the nature, objects or functions of AVN. The Director General found that AVN’s message is anti-vaccination and that the name does not reflect that message. Two other reasons the Director General relied on were that the name is “undesirable” and that it suggests a connection with the Commonwealth government.

2) AVN applied to the Tribunal for a review of that decision. I have decided that the decision to direct AVN to adopt a new name is the correct and preferable decision. But my conclusion is not based on a finding that AVN’s message is exclusively anti-vaccination, that the name suggests a connection with the Commonwealth government or that the name itself is undesirable.

3) AVN’s main object is the dissemination of information and opinions that highlight the risks of vaccinations. AVN is sceptical about vaccinations. The existing name, Australian Vaccination Network Inc, suggests that the association is pro vaccination or, at least, is committed to providing comprehensive information and opinions about the pros and cons of vaccination. The name should be changed so that it is not likely to mislead the public in relation to its main object. Although I do not have to decide this issue, a name that includes the word “risk” or “sceptic” such as Vaccination Risk Awareness Association Inc or Vaccination Sceptics Network Inc would, in my opinion, be acceptable. The name could also include the word “Australia” or “Australian” without suggesting a link to government.

Still the choice made by Ms. Dorey and others was the word “skeptics”. They were not forced to use the term. Far from not wanting to be associated with the Skeptic movement it is more likely, given the online attacks by the AVN toward skeptics, that they enjoyed insisting that a true skeptic doubted everything. Their mistake of course is that members of the Skeptic movement are far more interested in seeking evidence and actively exposing charlatans, fraudsters and those who care little for discarding ideology in place of evidence.

Nonetheless there we have it. One simple email and once again members have been lied to. Unfortunately the group will continue to mislead the same members and readers about the risks of vaccines, which are very minor indeed.

  • Please speak to your GP about any safety concerns regarding immunisation
  • Department of Health – Immunisation
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“Sacrificial Virgins”: Misinforming viewers about the HPV vaccine

Recently the Australian Vaccination skeptics Network (AVN) announced via email that it intends to run a “Sacrificial Virgins tour” from QLD to Victoria. This, we are told, follows on “from the incredible success of last year’s tour of VaxXed; from coverup to catastrophe“.

Vaxxed has been comprehensively debunked, fraudulent tricks such as the manipulation of the so-called “whistleblowers” phone call audio exposed and the far reaching dishonesty of conspiracy theorists who promoted that venture is clear. It appears we can expect the same once again with another fraudumentary from the creative folk at SaneVax and UK Association of HPV Vaccine Injured DaughtersSacrificial Virgins: Not For The Greater Good.

Whilst this conclusion can be drawn from researching reputable source material and understanding the AVN’s misuse of the USA’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), Australians have a unique means by which to judge the AVN.

A public health warning about the AVN from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission was published in 2014 and includes;

The investigation found that AVN provides information on vaccination that is misleading to the average reader because it is either incorrect, inaccurately represented or because it has been taken out of context. Specifically:

  • AVN makes specific assertions about the efficacy of the Gardasil vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It states that:
    • the connection between HPV and cervical cancer is tenuous at best and incomprehensive at worst
    • the vaccine contains only four of the 100 strains of HPV and therefore its use is a “shot in the dark”
    • it is an experimental vaccine with no proven record of safety or effectiveness.
  • AVN does not qualify that:
    • Gardasil contains the four strains of HPV that have the greatest potential to cause cancer
    • the link between HPV and cervical cancer has been established beyond reasonable doubt
    • significant research went into assessing the probable safety and efficacy of Gardasil before it was ever used in humans
    • since its use, extensive worldwide data on its safety and efficacy has been collected supporting its safety.
    • […]
    • AVN uses data from the United States Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) on its website, without qualifying that no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. This is because VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination and it is specifically stated that any report of an adverse event to VAERS is not a causal link that a vaccine caused the event.

By running a “tour” the AVN also stand to make a profit. Rather than inform members and followers that they could watch the film for free on YouTube, the AVN will charge $25.00 per head and follow up with a Q&A session. Meryl Dorey is the founder, past president, spokesperson and ever-present driving force of the AVN. Her anti-vaccination fervor and singular ability to deny the scientific consensus that upholds evidence based medicine has persisted for decades. These qualities are matched only by her focus on making money from an unsuspecting public.

If one cannot attend any of the seven screenings of Sacrificial Virgins, “(or even if you can), you can also help with a sponsorship – no matter how small – to assist the AVN in providing these sorts of high-quality events into the future.” More to the point any gathering of similar minds encourages attendees to spend. In this case to purchase anti-vaccine material and possibly AVN membership. Although the AVN, and particularly Meryl, insist they/she are/is not anti-vaccine.

Then again, recently on Twitter (Meryl = @nocompulsoryvaccines)…

Could the video be anti-vaccine?

The email included;

IS THIS DOCUMENTARY ANTI-VACCINATION?

No. This documentary presents information from scientific experts about known risks of this medical procedure. It simply suggests that in order to make a vaccination choice, all available information should be made available to parents and those considering taking the HPV vaccine.

Which brings us back to the source of their information. The reason you haven’t heard of these “sacrifices”? In an AVN email yesterday promoting today’s “vaccination conference”, The Censorship of the Vaccination Debate in Australia Today unverified contentions in the form of questions were included.

Originally posed on the “conference” site they are;

Why can’t we talk about vaccines?

Why are the media, pharmaceutical companies and industry lobby groups dictating government vaccination policies?

More importantly can mandatory vaccination policies actually protect our health?

This is utterly ridiculous, offensively misleading and completely inline with the earning of a public health warning. It therefore says much about Australia’s larger anti-vaccine lobby and particularly those who spoke today. They were;

  1. Australian INDEPENDENT vaccine policy expert, Judy Wilyman PhD. (I kid you not)
  2. Brian Martin, Emeritus Professor, University of Wollongong.
  3. Elizabeth Hart.
    Author of the website ‘OVER-VACCINATION. Challenging Big Pharma’s lucrative over-vaccination of people and animals.’
  4. Jamie Mcintyre
    Author of ‘The Great Vaccine Con.’
  5. Meryl Dorey AVN
    Founder of ‘The Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network,’ 1994.
  6. Helen Lobato
    Author of ‘Gardasil: Fast-Tracked and Flawed.’

So back to our question. Why haven’t you heard of these “sacrifices” at the end of an HPV vaccine needle? As the second question above ludicrously suggests, the media in part “dictate” Australian vaccine policy. Apparently we can’t talk about vaccines but do have, so-called “documentary” screenings attacking vaccines and vaccine schedules. Also this sentence in the email promoting Sacrificial Virgins. Bold mine;

2019 will be the year of the seminar so your help today will ensure that we are able to bring this message to as many locations in our huge country as we possibly can.

It seems it’s more a case of not being able to talk about vaccines in the way the AVN would like. Which includes spinning the conspiracy that the media and lobby groups “censor” this imaginary “vaccine debate”. Back to the email promoting Sacrificial Virgins;

Unintended adverse reactions have blighted and even ended the lives of girls, young women, men and boys around the world. Despite this fact, pharmaceutical manufacturers and many health authorities have refused to acknowledge there is a problem and the medical community continues to aggressively market this vaccine.

We must ask, where do these agents of deception get off rocking the stones to so casually pin together this many lies about one of the world’s safest vaccines? Many will parrot the nonsense spread by identities such as the six above who erroneously believe vaccine policy discussion is censored. Yet consider the example below, which in various forms, has for so many years fed the notion that VAERS provides the truth that mass vaccination is “a problem”.

This “problem” is created in part from the abuse of self reported adverse reactions to VAERS and non-established side effects. More so, serious conditions, including death, that have not been established as side effects are misrepresented in a quantifiable sense. For example the unverified claim that Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is triggered by the HPV vaccine, may be followed by a verified claim that side effects occur in “four out of five HPV vaccinations”. Without proper explanation a casual reader may conclude that 80% of HPV recipients go on to develop a serious, disabling, chronically painful neurological condition. Similarly unverified claims may be made for Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), and/or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).

So what has the anti-vaccine devotee done to mislead readers? As we see in Question 8 of this NCIRS FAQ sheet;

Overall, there is no strong scientific or epidemiological evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccines can induce POF, POTS or CRPS. These diseases of unclear aetiology, unfortunately, do occur in adolescents and young people, whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated, and there is no evidence that they occur more frequently in HPV vaccinated populations.15,21,32-35

Whilst evidence doesn’t support the HPV vaccine as a cause or trigger or likely toxin for these conditions it is true that four out of five HPV vaccines produce a side effect. What are these side effects? Bold mine;

All medicines, including vaccines, can have side effects. The reactions people have had after the HPV vaccine have been similar to reactions after other vaccines.

The most common side effects of vaccination are pain, redness and/or swelling at the site of injection. These symptoms occur after around 4 in 5 vaccinations but are temporary and show that the immune system is responding to the vaccination. These symptoms can be treated with a cold pack or paracetamol if needed.

Side effects such as anaphylactic reaction are very rare occurring at around three per one million vaccinations.

Antivaccinationists really have no excuse to continue to abuse VAERS to form their constantly shifting narrative against vaccination. If you are baffled by the power those against vaccines have imbued to vaccine package inserts, you’re not alone. In Understanding VAERS the FDA include;

VAERS scientists look for unusually high numbers of reports of an adverse event after a particular vaccine or a new pattern of adverse events. If scientists see either of these situations, focused studies in other systems are done to determine if the adverse event is or is not a side effect of the vaccine. Information from VAERS and vaccine safety studies is shared with the public. Throughout the process of monitoring VAERS, conducting studies, and sharing findings, appropriate actions are taken to protect the public’s health.

For example, if VAERS identifies a mild adverse event that is verified as a side effect in a focused study, this information is reviewed by CDC, FDA, and vaccine policy makers. In this situation, the vaccine may continue to be recommended if the disease-prevention benefits from vaccination outweigh the risks of a newly found side effect.

Information about newly found side effects is added to the vaccine’s package insert that lists safety information. Newly found side effects also are added to the Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for that vaccine. If serious side effects are found, and if the risks of the vaccine side effect outweigh the benefits, the recommendation to use the vaccine is withdrawn.

Also included is a succinct explanation of how an adverse event becomes a side effect. What is crucial, and constantly ignored by the anti-vaccine lobby, is that adverse events may or may not be caused by a vaccine. Significant follow up, research and investigation is needed before the event can be coupled to a vaccine in the form of a side effect.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has a thorough explanation for visitors to the Database of Adverse Event Notifications.

So, returning to the video. What about the name – Sacrificial Virgins? In his September 2017 piece, Another antivaccine film disguised as a documentary, this time lying about HPV vaccines, Orac correctly notes;

Anyone who’s followed the antivaccine movement can guess immediately which vaccine this is about, namely the HPV vaccine, which is administered to preadolescent girls. That age is chosen because it is before the vast majority of girls become sexually active, and HPV is primarily a sexually transmitted disease. So the best time to achieve immunity is before girls (and, according to the latest recommendations, boys too) become sexually active. The term “virgin” is clearly designed to play on this timing. If a woman is immune to the proper serotypes of HPV before she becomes sexually active, then the cervical cancer caused by those serotypes can be prevented. That’s how HPV vaccines work, and they are very effective.

I recommend reading the entire article. There is an excellent example of abusing VAERS to push fear of Gardasil. HIV/AIDS denialist and board member of Rethinking AIDS, Christian Fiala, offers;

Officials report that there have been 17,500 or more “adverse” incident reports that have been made over the last few years because of the use of the vaccination.

Actually anyone can report adverse incidents and whilst VAERS is the official reporting system, until extensive trends and further research establishes a side effect linked to a HPV vaccine, Fiala’s claim is simply meaningless.

One target of antivaccinationists is summed up in this sentence from the AVN email;

Originally released as a method for preventing cervical cancer in women, its use has since been expanded to include young men and boys despite the fact that its effectiveness as a cancer preventative is medically unproven.

Others have noted this pointless argument as disingenuous, and I’d agree. Not enough time has passed for those initially vaccinated with the HPV vaccines for valuable data to be gathered on changes in cervical cancer epidemiology. Still, it makes a nice straw man if your goal is to convince others that the real aim is to make money and the only demonstrable action is many thousands of adverse reactions.

I’d also recommend reading Gardasil facts – debunking myths about HPV vaccine safety and efficacy, by Skeptical Raptor for further insight into the vaccine’s efficacy.

Earlier this year the HPV vaccine was improved to cover more strains of HPV. Readers may remember Judy Wilyman for criticising the vaccine because it targeted an insufficient number of HPV strains. No doubt she will soon acknowledge this change. In September 2017 the ABC wrote;

Doctors are hailing the development of a new vaccine as an important victory in the fight to protect women against cervical cancer. The vaccine is an improved version of Gardasil, which already protects women against some strains of HPV, the virus that can cause the cancer. The new formula of the jab has been shown to prevent 93 per cent of HPV strains.

“It’s a real bonus, whereas we previously had protection for cancer-causing types, which were 16 and 18, which made up 70 per cent.”

Professor Garland said the other benefit of the new vaccine is that it only requires two, instead of three doses.

From the NCIRS HPV FAQ document;

  • Why has the HPV vaccine been replaced in Australia? What is different about the new vaccine? (Page 2)

There are many HPV virus types, some of which are considered to be ‘high-risk’ because infection with these types is associated with the development of cancer (HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 68),1 and some of which are ‘low-risk’ because they result in less serious disease like genital warts (HPV types 6 and 11).2 The high-risk HPV types can cause a variety of cancers in both males and females, including cancers of the vagina, cervix, anus, penis and head and neck.3 In unvaccinated people in Australia, HPV types 16 and 18 account for about 77% of HPV-positive cervical cancers, and HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 for another 15%.4 […]

The new 9vHPV vaccine, available in Australia since early 2018, protects against all the 4vHPV types plus an additional five high-risk HPV types, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.

It is well worth reading through the NCIRS FAQ document. It covers a large amount of relevant information and already covers many of the deceptive themes that are found in Sacrificial Virgins.

  • How do we know HPV vaccines are safe?

Overall, the HPV vaccines have an excellent safety profile, similar to that for other vaccines routinely used in the National Immunisation Program. Monitoring done around the world in millions of people across many countries has found no credible evidence that there is any illness that occurs more frequently among people who have had HPV vaccine compared to those who have not.15,16 […]

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), to date over 270 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed worldwide, with many countries monitoring vaccine safety post-licensure (i.e. after the vaccine is in use).17

Clinical trials have shown that the 9vHPV vaccine is safe and there are no significant concerns regarding its safety in Australia. Studies have showed that the 9vHPV vaccine has a similar safety profile to that of the 4vHPV vaccine and that it is generally well tolerated in adolescent girls and boys as well as women and men.

The document goes on to address whether the vaccine causes autoimmune disease (No), cancer (No), fainting, CRPS (No), POTS (No), POF (No) or infertility (No). It is not a genetically modified vaccine. Questions include whether Gardasil addresses enough strains of HPV, or as cervical cancer is rare, whether it is necessary at all. Data specific to the importance of HPV vaccination in Australia is very promising. Can we trust vaccine trials sponsored by manufacturers? Why is their information claiming the vaccine is dangerous, if it isn’t? And so on.

No doubt Sacrificial Virgins will prove somewhat interesting. The difficulty for antivaccinationists is that the evidence refuting their claims is available in abundance. More so it continues to grow pushing the chorus against the HPV vaccine further into the realm of conspiracy theory.

Further reading:

Seven Ways to Identify Pseudoscience

Original seven ways – © Relatively Interesting

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

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

Sagan proffered;

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

  • A substantial reliance on anecdotal evidence;

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

  • Extraordinary claims in the absence of extraordinary evidence;

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

  • Claims which cannot be proven false;

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

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

  • Claims that counter established scientific fact;

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

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

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

  • Absence of adequate peer review;

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

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

  • Claims that are repeated despite being refuted;

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

You can listen to the audio below;


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

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

 

Click transcript below to embiggen

Click transcript below to embiggen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lies and Deceit from Australia’s “Vaxxed” promoters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh my.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

  • Listen to the audio below;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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