Anti-vaccination campaigners: Misleading and Unsafe

When it comes to public advocacy this year, one of the most effective announcements came in December.

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning under s94A of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 with regard to the “misleading and unsafe practices by anti-vaccination campaigners”.

The HCCC had received numerous complaints about individuals and associations and is concerned about the risk they pose to public health and safety.

The anti-vaccination lobby pushes messages which;

have the potential to engender fear and alarm in the community, often targeting vulnerable members of the community through misinformation which may have a detrimental effect on the health care decisions of individuals.

 

PUBLIC WARNING UNDER S94A OF THE HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS ACT 1993:  MISLEADING AND UNSAFE PRACTICES BY ANTI-VACCINATION CAMPAIGNERS

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (“the Commission”) has received multiple complaints regarding misleading and unsafe practices by anti-vaccination (“anti-vax”) campaigners and the potential risks that such persons and associations pose to the public health and safety.

Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases before they come into contact with them. Immunisation protects individuals and the community by reducing the spread of preventable diseases.

Complaints have been received in relation to individuals (including registered and unregistered health practitioners as well as academics) and organisations engaged in the widespread promotion of dangerous anti-vax messages.

Why is this warning being issued?
Misleading and inaccurate information communicated by anti-vax campaigners has the potential to engender fear and alarm in the community and result in fewer people being vaccinated. This information commonly quotes scientific research and studies in support of anti-vax claims, but is often selective, including exaggerating the risks and minimising or discrediting the benefits of vaccines. The research presented does not align with the true evidence-base on which independent and government bodies worldwide make vaccination recommendations.

This is likely to have a detrimental effect on the health care decisions of individuals and may lead them to make decisions not to vaccinate which pose an avoidable risk to their own health and to the safety of the wider community.

It is unfortunate that anti-vax campaigners are also known to target particularly vulnerable members of the community, including impressionable young parents who are concerned about making the right health decisions for their infants.

The spread of misleading and false information by anti-vax campaigners presents an ongoing challenge for government agencies, particularly due to the rise in use of social media and the proliferation of information concerning vaccinations available via the internet.

Given the continuing efforts of anti-vax campaigners to mislead and misinform members of the public, the Commission considers it necessary to warn all health consumers of the danger of relying on information that is not from a reliable and trusted source. This can include websites that appear to be “professional” and groups that are well-organised in their approach. Some persons and associations will go as far as to distance themselves from “anti-vax” campaigners, while essentially promoting the same message.

What should consumers do to protect themselves?
The Commission strongly urges consumers to exercise caution in relying on information concerning the safety and efficacy of vaccinations which is promoted via social media and websites that are not government affiliated or endorsed. Further, consumers should be cautious of persons or groups spreading anti-vax messages via other means, including face-to-face information sessions and other public events.

In all cases the following factors should be considered by consumers when presented with any information or advice concerning the safety and efficacy of vaccines and immunisation programs in Australia.To ensure that you are receiving reliable information concerning the safety and efficacy of vaccinations and to assist you in making an informed decision concerning the benefits and risks of particular vaccines, it is recommended that you consult a registered medical practitioner (e.g. your family GP or paediatrician).

Health consumers should be particularly wary of persons claiming to be “experts” or to have conducted “research” into the safety and efficacy of vaccines or immunisation programs in circumstances where they do not hold relevant medical qualifications and are not a registered health practitioner.
Consumers should be wary of persons holding themselves out to hold qualifications that cannot be verified. If you wish to ensure that the person providing advice is a registered health practitioner you should check on the National Register of health practitioners – https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Registration/Registers-of-Practitioners.aspx

Health professionals play a role in health education and administration of vaccines, however it is not appropriate for health professionals to promote anti-vax messages via their personal social media pages or other online forums.  Consumers should avoid placing any reliance on “comments” made via social media that are not from a reliable and trusted source.

When researching online, it is recommended that you visit trusted government websites including the NSW Health and Commonwealth Department of Health websites and also the National Centre for Immunisation Surveillance and Research (NCIRS) website, which provide reliable information concerning immunisation and Immunisation Programs:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/immunisation/Pages/default.aspx

https://beta.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation

http://www.ncirs.edu.au/

 

The Health Care Complaints Commission (“the Commission”) has issued a public warning under s94A of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 regarding Misleading and Unsafe Practices by Anti-Vaccination Campaigners.

The Commission is concerned about a number of complaints it continues to receive regarding misleading and unsafe practices by anti-vaccination (“anti-vax”) campaigners and the potential risks that such persons and associations pose to the public health and safety.

Anti-vax messages have the potential to engender fear and alarm in the community, often targeting vulnerable members of the community through misinformation which may have a detrimental effect on the health care decisions of individuals. Anti-vax campaigners will often selectively quote scientific research and studies in support of anti-vax claims, including exaggerating the risks and minimising or discrediting the benefits of vaccines. The research presented does not align with the evidence-base on which independent and government bodies worldwide make recommendations.

Given the continuing efforts of anti-vax campaigners to mislead and misinform members of the public, the Commission considers it necessary to warn all health consumers of the danger of relying
on information that is not from a reliable and trusted source. This can include websites that appear to be “professional” and groups that are well-organised in their approach that often use popular mechanisms like social media to promote their messages.

What should consumers do to protect themselves?

The Commission strongly urges consumers to:

  • Exercise caution when relying on vaccination efficacy information which is promoted via social media and websites that are not government affiliated or endorsed;
  • Be cautious of persons or groups spreading anti-vax messages via other means, including face-to-face information sessions and other public events;
  • Be wary of persons claiming to be “experts” or to have conducted “research” into the safety and efficacy of vaccination programs;
  • Be wary of persons holding themselves out to hold qualifications that cannot be verified. If you wish to ensure that the person providing advice is a registered health practitioner you should check on the National Register of health practitioners – https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Registration/Registers-of-Practitioners.aspx;
  • Consult a registered medical practitioner concerning the benefits and risks of vaccines;
  • Visit trusted government websites when researching online, including the NSW Health and Commonwealth Department of Health websites and the National Centre for Immunisation Surveillance and Research (NCIRS) website.

 

Further Information

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444 or send an email to media@hccc.nsw.gov.au.

 

Vaccines and autism: A thorough review of the evidence

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

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

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

I trust you find the article a valuable resource.

Hierarchy of Scientific Evidence

© thelogicofscience.com

The Logic of Science

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

View original post 17,466 more words

Andrew Wakefield and the MMR fraud: Science Betrayed

From the BBC’s Science Betrayed, March 16th 2011. Dr Adam Rutherford does a splendid job of investigating the scandal and ethical breaches that led to the greatest medical and public health related disaster in the post penicillin era.

Recently there’s been a push by anti-vaccination lobbyists and those horrid folk from Age of Autism to argue that the BMJ committed fraud. They have a particular angle on Brian Deer and the entire campaign smacks of revenge borne of a total lack of evidence. Mike Adams is another source of woe begotten opportunism peddling this nonsense. Meryl Dorey is piping their tune in Australia despite originally screaming Wakefield’s disclaimer in his defence: “No association proved with MMR” – something Wakefield sticks to when questioned.

“We never said there is a link to autism”, Meryl Dorey of The Australian Vaccination Network lied as Wakefield’s obliteration became complete. “Just to bowel disorders”. Of course, they quickly changed their tune to line up with the rest of the conspiracy cranks worldwide.

I feel like saying they make me sick. But that’s nonsense. In truth, they make sick children even sicker. What I find truly bizarre is that “anti-vaccination hero” Andrew Wakefield, filed patent for monovalent vaccines nine months before publishing his paper. Just as unethical is monovalent vaccine administrator Dr. Richard Halvorsen, author of The truth about vaccines. He is paid hundreds of dollars per shot. If anybody schemed to push vaccines it is these men.

In The Lancet article, Wakefield et al. wrote, “we did not prove an association between measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described”. Yet he wrote a letter with Richard Barr one of the lawyers paying Wakefield, and representing anti-vaccination litigants, before beginning the study. Written on June 6th, 1996 it described a vaccine induced autistic and intestinal disorder. This was over two weeks before selecting the first child to be “studied” as part of The Lancet sample. It included;

Children with enteritis and disintegrative disorder, form part of a new syndrome. The evidence is undeniably in favour of a specific vaccine induced pathology.

Hired by lawyers with a predetermined agenda, inventing a vaccine induced syndrome at the behest of anti-vaccine activists, selecting a sample picked by the lawyers and lobbyists, filing for monovalent vaccine patents well before publishing his work, denying any link in print, suggesting this very same link in a press conference, making plans for a “treatment” centre for his pretend syndrome that he would run…

All to be abandoned by most co-author’s, struck off the medical register as callous and unethical and for his fraudulent “research” to be retracted. There can be no doubt. Andrew Wakefield is a fraud and those seeking to exhume the corpse of this despicable scam have embarked on yet another course of unique child, parent and indeed social abuse.

Although there’s a plethora of articles debunking this awful business, here’s some you may like to read.

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c7452.full

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258.full?sid=4d2cb324-6535-4766-8f06-6d398fc84c42

http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126964.000-mmr-vaccine-not-linked-to-autism-says-us-court.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3315651/MMR-is-not-linked-to-autism-say-Japanese.html

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7076-autism-rises-despite-mmr-ban-in-japan.html