Fake news, post truth, anti-vaccine

In 2016 use of the terms fake news and post truth became commonplace. Yet for those who address attacks on science, scientific consensus and the use of evidence in designing legislation, both concepts already had a long history.

Evidence based public health policy is attacked through the intentional disinformation of fake news and mocked via the subjective, emotional selective trickery of post truth. Alternatives to medicine rely upon bogus testimonials, false claims of scientific backing and pseudscience.

The anti-vaccine lobby want to be seen to be presenting a range of specific arguments against vaccination. Yet their main aim is to convince the unwary that vaccines cause harm and also kill on a huge scale. This in turn demands a feverish use of fake news and post truth. When their lack of fake evidence fails, post truth themes seeking to enrage an audience because governments “take away their right to choose” what’s best for their children’s health may quite sadly find their mark.

Presently we can see application of these concepts respectively with the promotion of the fraudumentary, Vaxxed and claims that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife profit from their investment in childhood vaccines.

Meryl Dorey

In March last year Meryl Dorey wrote (bold mine);

Australia has a long history of holding its elected representatives accountable when there is even a hint of corruption or profiteering – yet the current PM’s wife is Chairman of the Board of a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits whose value has increased dramatically due – at least on the surface in my own opinion – to policies which her husband has helped push through Parliament. Did Mr Turnbull excuse himself during the debate on No Jab No Pay? Did he tell Parliament that he had a conflict of interest and excuse himself from the vote on this legislation? These are genuine questions – I don’t know the answer and my investigations so far have not been fruitful. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition.

Ah yes. “Not a word has been raised about this in the media or by the opposition”. Not so. Particularly with the number of media reports on the Turnbull’s investments.

Firstly had Dorey done her research well (or is that not employed the post truth tactic of cherry picking?), she’d know that six months earlier Lucy Turnbull was questioned about potential conflicts of interest for an article that was published in the media. Most importantly, quoting Mrs. Turnbull;

“I am currently in the process of assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest,” she says.

“We are seeking advice from various sources, and we hope to be in a position to decide in the next fortnight, whether I can keep doing what I am doing,” she says.

Just over a fortnight later the same paper wrote up Labor’s attacks on the Turnbull’s wealth. The byline was;

Labor’s attacks look like a shabby smear, but the bar is set very high for prime ministers and their partners.

Now in fairness to Meryl I should address why Bill Shorten didn’t challenge the PM for not excusing himself from the vote on No Jab No Pay, based on that conflict of interest. Firstly, Dorey did contend that “on the surface in my own opinion”, the value of Prima BioMed “increased dramatically due to policies which [Turnbull] helped push through Parliament”.

Okay, so it was a feelpinion. Worthless. But we can do better.

Two paragraphs earlier Dorey was ranting at Malcolm Turnbull, including;

Are you afraid that your wife’s profits at Prima BioMed (profits that jumped to AUD $5.5 million mere weeks after No Jab No Pay legislation was announced) might be affected if enough people start to question vaccination?

Above Dorey has linked to a May 21st, 2015 Financial Review piece headed, Patience Pays Off for Prima Chairwoman Lucy Turnbull. A small three paragraph piece, it finishes;

After a $15 million equity injection from US firm Ridgeback Capital last week at 1.73¢ a share, the stock has climbed from 2.2¢ to 16¢ after the bell on Thursday – jumping 190 per cent yesterday alone. And Turnbull’s stake? Now worth a tidy $5.5 million.

Clearly Dorey has fabricated the notion that the value of Prima BioMed increased due to the passing of No Jab No Pay.

Dorey can claim any rubbish she likes to try to sell the line Turnbull is shaping legislation to boost the share value of Prima BioMed. But the $15 million from Ridgeback Capital didn’t go to a company that manufacturers childhood vaccines. Yes Lucy Turnbull is Chair of the board of Prima BioMed, a biotechnology company working on cancer immunotherapy. Dorey really stretches the facts to contend it is accurately described as, a company involved in vaccination and other pharmaceutical pursuits. The company presently focuses on three main products targetting autoimmune disease and cancer which you may read about here.

The most notable link to vaccination is the development of CVac, the commercialisation of which was one reason for the formation of Prima BioMed in 2001. CVac, targetting ovarian cancer, ultimately trialled unsuccessfully. A potential trial for pancreatic cancer was cancelled in Febuary 2015. Read up on CVac here and Lucy Turnbull’s personal financial loss here.

More on the Turnbull’s investments here. Remember it’s now 18 months since Lucy Turnbull told Fairfax she was, “assessing my role on company boards to ensure there are no conflicts of interest”. Her full history of board, Foundation and senior committee positions indicates a person devoted to the success of not for profit, charity and with a love of science and medical innovation.

There is simply no substance to the claim by Dorey and others of a conflict of interest based on profits from childhood vaccines.

Belgin Sila Colak/Arslan

Last October when Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy was targetted by antivaccinationists the public got a glimpse of the name behind the Facebook group Anti-Vaccination Australia. Belgin Colak, aka Belgin Sila Colak, aka Belgin Sila Arslan.

Earlier this Month (March 6th) she posted this on her public timeline.

A “Yale study” eh, I thought. I followed the link and ended up at a “trueactivist” Feb. 17 piece. Under that deceptive headline the authors ran through a number of bogus, disproved claims about vaccines based at best on temporal correlation. A number of comments were scathing as to the misleading intent of the article. Now have a good read of Belgin’s claims above. “Multiple studies and other countries” report vaccine induced disorders. And these “very brave and unabashed scientists [who] have been able to show a correlation of what many have known for quite some time”? Where are they?

Had Belgin read the comments she’d have picked up on the objections to the alternative facts the authors had used. The worst was;

As with most research studies, the researchers stop short of claiming the vaccinations cause the all too common brain disorders.

In other words there really was no study from Yale suggesting autism and multiple brain disorders were linked to vaccines. Belgin’s love of fake news was on display here, for there was in fact an accessible link to the actual study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. The title was Temporal Association of Certain Neuropsychiatric Disorders Following Vaccination of Children and Adolescents: A Pilot Case–Control Study. The institutes involved were, 1) Department of Public Health Sciences, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA and 2) Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

What conclusion did these “very brave and unabashed scientists” offer? Bold mine;

Conclusion: This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuropsychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals. These findings warrant further investigation, but do not prove a causal role of antecedent infections or vaccinations in the pathoetiology of these conditions. Given the modest magnitude of these findings in contrast to the clear public health benefits of the timely administration of vaccines in preventing mortality and morbidity in childhood infectious diseases, we encourage families to maintain vaccination schedules according to CDC guidelines.

This is so clear we should thank Belgin. This study offers what antivaccinationists often demand. It’s saying there may be correlation in a small group but not causation. Vaccines work. Keep on vaccinating. The end.

A week ago I noticed Belgin post what can only be described as simply reprehensible exploitation of Saba Button.

The health department knew this vaccine had been reported several times, yet they still administered this vaccine on (sic) children regardless of numerous ER reports. You’re told a fever, seizures and crying is normal. Some never wake up, some end up with autism, and some are permanently disabled. Every vaccine causes damage! They’re still out there murdering babies, destroying lives, pushing more vaccines on children and now on expectant mothers. Every parent should be aware of this and have a choice!

Alternative facts and post truth galore. I addressed this case back in November 2011, because of similar exploitation at that time by Meryl Dorey. There are no excuses or denials to be made. Fluvax was not suitable for under 5 year olds. There were problems with both CSL, who incorrectly advised the TGA and the W.A. Health Department. Meryl Dorey was variously, fallaciously claiming hundreds of cases and hundreds of admissions. The ABC reported “hundreds of reactions” on April 18th, 2010 with 47 taken to hospital reported on April 23. The West Australian on the same day reported 23 admissions. This led to the suspension nationwide by Commonwealth chief health officer Professor Jim Bishop.

Why was it even used? During a 2006 Fluvax trial with a sample of 272, 1 child had a febrile convulsion. The TGA argue that one adverse event in a clinical trial is “not usually regarded as an adequate signal of a major safety problem”. In 2010 the febrile seizure rate caused by Fluvax was 3.3 per 1,000. This is remarkably similar to the rate in the 2006 trial. Yet TGA national manager, Dr Rohan Hammett told a Senate estimates committee hearing that the 2006 data showed “no sign of a febrile convulsion signal”. More so CSL may have advised the TGA of fever (not seizure) rates from 2005 – far less than 2006 fever rates. It is a convoluted, detailed issue. Do read this post. Fortunately Saba was compensated.

Belgin Sila Arslan claims there were or are fatalities and cases of autism. False. Every vaccine causes damage! False. Babies are being “murdered”. Repulsive. A visit to The Saba Rose Button Foundation presents a very different view.

The SABA ROSE BUTTON FOUNDATION is a not-for-profit charity focussed on raising funds to help children who have special needs and their families. The funds raised will pay for these special children to participate in ‘intensive blocks’ of physiotherapy, for specialised equipment that is needed, for parental respite and for care in the home.

Vaccine Injuries

I stated above that antivaccinationists ultimately seek to convince the unwary that vaccines harm and kill on a significant scale. Both references here to Belgin confirm this. Dorey also insists vaccines injure and kill – but never has the subjects or the evidence to confirm this. On her blog she lies smoothly, as here;

Many of you know of children who were injured or killed by vaccines. I personally know the families of at least 10 children who died as a result of vaccination and dozens (this is within my family and my close friends) who are permanently injured.

Other material above shows Dorey beating the conspiracy drum: profit from evil vaccines. Fortunately for me she raised the passing of No Jab No Pay legislation. Professor Julie Leask is not a fan of No Jab No Pay. This may well delight the anti-vaccination lobby. During the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab No Pay) Bill hearing in Brisbane on November 2nd, 2015, Professor Leask answered questions on vaccine injury. Her submission to the inquiry was firmly against No Jab No Pay. Thus with some hope one may view her information on vaccine injuries as something antivaccinationists might entertain.

Put simply there are between zero and less than five injuries that would require compensation each year, according to Leask citing a vaccinologist.

The audio and text below is from page 41 of the hearing.

If you listened to the audio you heard the anti-vaxxers in attendance groan in denial at the “zero to less than five” serious vaccine injuries per year figure. But this didn’t stop Meryl Dorey publishing Julie Leask’s anti-No Jab No Pay submission to the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill on her blog. Splendid post truth cherry picking right there.

To conclude we can expect to see anti-science groups gradually develop skills in the use of fake news/evidence and post truth. Recent stories in Australia involving measles cases in the unvaccinated and a case of tetanus are concerning. Cases of vaccine preventable disease are likely to become more and more common. As the unvaccinated spread their wings management of imported disease will demand more resources and frustrate health authorities.

Politically, science has lost a certain respect and may be under threat as rabid post truth movements such as Trumpism take root. Yet the harm such thinking and ideologies cause, and the cost inflicted financially and socially is easily seen and eagerly discussed. Exploitation has its limits.

And that is always a positive.

UPDATE: What does a health minister and an anti-vaxxer have in common?

Pod On The Hill podcast (by Victorian Labor). Episode 6, March 30th 2017.    

  • Outtake of discussion of anti-vaxxers – 3min 27sec – Download mp3
  • Or listen to outtake below:

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Full episode on Soundcloud. Forward to 23 minute mark for beginning of anti-vaxxer discussion.

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Del Bigtree misleads his audience over vaccine safety testing

In a second episode dealing with the Lies of Vaxxed published by More Truth © an old standard of the anti-vaccine lobby is subject to facts.

The lie Del Bigtree smothers his uncritical audience with is that, “there is not a safe vaccine out there” presumably because as he continues to lie, “there is not a decent safety study on any of the vaccines”.

Lies of Vaxxed: Episode 2 “Vaccine Safety Testing”

What we learn from the video above is that there are six main stages of vaccine development is the US. Including;

  • Exploratory
  • Pre-clinical
  • Clinical development
  • Regulatory review and approval
  • Manufacturing
  • Quality control

During the exploratory stage scientists focus on identifying an antigen that can prevent a specific disease. Without success during this process development goes nowhere. It cannot continue. Nonetheless, the exploratory stage takes years of diligent laboratory research.

When the exploratory stage yields viable results production continues into the pre-clinical stage. Here progress with tissue or cell-culture preparation involves animal testing. This aspect of the pre-clinical stage will assess the safety, or lack thereof, of any potential vaccine. Another aspect of the pre-clinical stage is assessing the ability of the potential vaccine to stimulate an immune response.

Despite the cost and time invested by this point, the majority of potential vaccines do not satisfy the rigour of the pre-clinical stage. In these cases again development cannot continue.

The diligence of the clinical stage can be seen as a three part process.

  • In the quest to ascertain safety, trial vaccines are tested on a small sample of healthy adults.
  • Vaccines are tested on a sample of several hundred adults.
  • Finally the clinical stage involves testing the vaccine on tens of thousands.

With vaccines being developed for children the clinical stage process continues. The age of test subjects is lowered incrementally until the target age is safely reached.

The final stages of clinical development include randomised and double blind trials. The potential vaccine is tested against a placebo. It takes from six to ten years to complete these safety tests. Whilst medications in the USA are subject to the same intense testing it’s worth noting that sample populations are three times smaller than for vaccine studies.

There are six more stages overseen by the FDA for regulatory review and approval of vaccines. This involves safety inspection of manufacturing facilities by the FDA and even more testing.

Safety monitoring, including phase IV trials, continues indefinitely once a vaccine has been approved. In the USA there is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink – a nationwide set of linked databases.

I certainly recommend watching this video because it is clear that safety is the primary element in vaccine manufacture. Claims to the contrary by Del Bigtree and the Vaxxed cronies are demonstrable lies. Under present manufacturing guidelines and restrictions most potential vaccines do not reach clinical development. As is clear in this video the reason is safety.

Professional anti-vaccinationists like Bigtree, or any who promote Vaxxed in order to consciously profit from their manufactured controversy, are a malignant force in public health. As such they deserve our derision.

 

♣ Despite this reality, in Australia the self appointed “vaccine experts” from the anti-vaccine lobby such as Meryl Dorey, Judy Wilyman and Tasha David insist no randomised double blind trials or testing against placebo has ever been carried out.

♥ Australians may likely remember from 2010, a significant number of AEFI. Febrile seizures in children aged 6-59 months following administration of CSL’s Trivalent Influenza Vaccine. One chid was ultimately compensated. This event resulted in the FDA inspecting CSL laboratories and outlining five “objectionable conditions”. Australia’s TGA reported at length on the event, the FDA inspection and the process of TGA inspection of CSL manufacturing facilities.

Whilst this was an unwanted, unfortunate event, it is also an example of safety and quality control procedures being firmly implemented.

 

Alternatives to medicine continue to sail a wave of misinformation

Every week up to a thousand Australians are dying in the public hospital system alone from adverse reactions to properly prescribed medication and hospital borne infections and medical error. This is the elephant in the room. If the government and medical community are really concerned about the health of Australians, why aren’t they doing something about this obvious, um, huge cause of death in Australia instead of worrying about measles?

Meryl Dorey, anti-medical science lobbyist – October 19th, 2013

The arguably spectacular misinformation Meryl Dorey pushes as an antivaccinationist, comes often as what can most kindly be called an utterly ridiculous mantra designed to promote fear of scientific based medicine.

double standards

This was in response to eight infant fatalities associated temporally with Hepatitis B vaccination in China. Regrettably China’s growing success with mass hepatitis B vaccination has now met a challenge. Fortunately in China the medical community is working effectively with the evidence and training they have. Despite the unambiguous harm HBV has caused China and the success of HBV vaccine programmes worldwide, Dorey commented on Facebook as seen above.

I won’t overly review Dorey’s claims on medical error and hospital borne infection. Although (updated in December 2011) a 2009 report from the Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance cited Commun Dis Intell 2011;35(3):237–243, and notes in the Abstract (bold mine):

Given hospital outbreaks of CA-MRSA are thought to be extremely rare it is most likely that patients colonised at admission with CA-MRSA have become infected with the colonising strain during their hospital stay.

We can place the general figure on medication in context by looking at adverse reactions. The TGA reporting system kicked off in the late 1960’s becomming computerised in 1972. As 2011 came to a close there were 247,000 suspected adverse events in the TGA database. It’s also worth adding that a primary aspect of “medical error” is indeed that of Adverse Drug Reaction, making Dorey’s claim somewhat meaningless.

Adverse reactions_TGA_drop shadow

Origin of Adverse Events 2006 – 2011 (TGA)

In 2011 the TGA received approximately 14,400 reports with 52% from pharmaceutical companies, 12% from hospitals, 7% from General Practitioners (GPs), 18% from State and Territory Health Departments and 3% from consumers. The sources for other reports (8%) include community pharmacists and specialists.

Placing the scale of insult inherent in Ms. Dorey’s deceit even more in context we should note that the TGA received an average of 1,200 reports each month. This includes all events – not just those involving mortality. More so the TGA receive data from six sources with the category of “hospital” enveloping public and private. The Department of Health and Ageing regards hospital outbreaks of community-associated MRSA as “extremely rare”.

Thus, Meryl Dorey’s 1,000 fatalities per week in Australian public hospitals appears to be beyond tenuous.

However there are a number of problems facing those taken in by the growing trend of “natural” or “alternative” choices to medicine. Not only is there growing evidence of harm, the absence of any efficacy at all is frequently documented.

Seventeen year old Christopher Herrera is one of a growing number who face organ damage, organ failure or death thanks to herbal supplements each year. In his case a “fat burning” dietary supplement resulted in liver damage. Initially placed on a transplant list, Chris was able to keep his liver but his lifestyle is now markedly compromised.

The New York Times report that such supplements account for 20% of drug related liver damage. This is a three-fold increase from a decade ago and comes from a review of the most severe cases in the USA. Evaluators believe the actual figure is higher. As is the case in Australia a lack of strict regulation standards for these products result in over-inflated claims, not backed by evidence, and the potential for adulteration of the product itself.

This December 17th, The Annals of Internal Medicine published three conclusive articles on both the harm and inefficacy linked to alternatives to medicine. An editorial Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money On Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, summarised the research.

After reviewing 3 trials of multivitamin supplements and 24 trials of single or paired vitamins that randomly assigned more than 400 000 participants, the authors concluded that there was no clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplements on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.

In another instance the efficacy of daily multivitamin usage to prevent cognitive decline in just under 6,000 men aged 65 or older was evaluated.

After 12 years of follow-up, there were no differences between the multivitamin and placebo groups in overall cognitive performance or verbal memory. […] … compatible with a recent review of 12 fair- to good-quality trials that evaluated dietary supplements, including multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamins E and C, and omega-3 fatty acids, in persons with mild cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia. None of the supplements improved cognitive function.

Another study looked at supplement with high-dose, 28-component multivitamins involving 1708 males and females who had previously suffered a myocardial infarction.

After a median follow-up of 4.6 years, there was no significant difference in recurrent cardiovascular events with multivitamins compared with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.75 to 1.07]). The trial was limited by high rates of nonadherence and dropouts.

The authors note that research into vitamins and minerals in the prevention of chronic disease “have consistently found null results or possible harms”. Data from tens of thousands of people in randomly assigned trials show “β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements increase mortality”.

Yes – increase mortality.

Later they stress most supplements do nothing when it comes to preventing chronic disease or death and with no justification for use, should be avoided.

An audio summary of these editorial points can be accessed here.

An audio summary of the editorial is below, or an MP3 may be downloaded here. (Firefox Users. If you’re using the Bluhell Firewall add-on click “allow” as the file is quite safe).

Thus whilst the anti-vaccine and anti-medical science lobby continually manage to distort discussions on the value of conventional medicine, the evidence is time and again not in their favour. We are either hearing of the dangers of modern medicine itself or the wonders of natural concoctions.

Both trends are dangerous and fallacious.

Medical Observer Interview: Dr. Ken Harvey

Former editor of the Medical Journal of Australia and GP Dr Annette Katelaris interviews Dr. Ken Harvey.

Dr. Harvey originally graduated from the University of Melbourne. Initially specialising in infectious disease and medical microbiology Ken’s interest in antibiotic resistance led to a study of the forces that drive prescription. Ken moved to the School of Public Health at La Trobe University to continue his work on medicinal drug policy.

He now holds the position of Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at La Trobe.

INTERVIEW – CAMs regulation and pharmaceutical industry influence – Assoc Prof Ken Harvey – Obserations

Noted public health advocate Associate Professor Ken Harvey on what’s lacking in regulating complementary medicines, and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on ‘the hand that writes the script’.

Ken talks about his extensive role in prodding Australia’s regulator of complementary medicines and shortfalls in the present system for regulating these “listed” therapeutic products. He is also asked about the personal impact of holding shonky products, advertising and ultimately – dishonest, unforgiving individuals – to account. Ken’s interest in information technology makes him a welcome source of advice to overhaul the TGA’s Electronic Listing Facility.

For a self confessed “stubborn bastard” in chasing blatant advertising breaches, it’s clear that Australian consumers are in Ken’s debt. Ken holds life membership of the Australian Consumers Association, Choice, and is also a member of their Policy Advisory Group. Dr. Harvey is Chair of Health Action International, Asia Pacific (HAIAP). He was a member of the WHO expert group that drafted their Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion. [22 page PDF]

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INTERVIEW AUDIO

Or direct download MP3 here. 21 min 13 sec. 21.4 MB
Listen or download file at chirbit.
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Interview Source – © Medical Observer, Sound Cloud. Published August 26th, 2013.

 

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Natasha Bita: Award winner to crisis spinner?

The TGA is concerned by assertions that a number of deaths resulted from influenza vaccinations. In fact there have been no recorded deaths from influenza vaccine in Australia.

– Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration respond to Natasha Bita’s article “linking” vaccination to fatality –

Natasha Bita published Virus in the system on May 28th, 2011.

The article presents an extended account of the heart wrenching story of Saba Button who suffered permanent brain damage due to the CSL Fluvax influenza vaccine, in April 2010. A combination of H1N1 and seasonal influenza strains Fluvax is tolerated very well by adults. However for children under five a febrile convulsion rate of 0.33% was later clearly established in the only state to involve this age group: Western Australia.

At the time the ABC reported hundreds of reactions. Of the 47 children taken to hospital, The West Australian reported 23 admissions. Saba Button was one such admission. Bita doesn’t provide these details, though to her credit does report that in 2009 fifteen kids under the age of 15 died after contracting swine flu. Each year between three and nine children die from influenza in Australia.

The situation in W. A. following the use of Fluvax on small children reflects a 2006 study in which 1 febrile convulsion was recorded in a sample of 272. What emerged as deeply concerning is that 2006 fever (not convulsion) trial data rates were 39.5%. Yet Fluvax manufacturer CSL informed the TGA of their 2005 trial data on fever. A much lower 22.5%. Public confidence in regulation, safety, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and ultimately use is vital. I’ve previously looked at the importance of holding CSL to account.

A primary reason is that such stories are fodder for anti-vaccination lobbyists. Public confidence in immunisation was at stake, and proper context was much needed. One glaring absence from Bita’s article was reinforcement of the importance of vaccination in preventing influenza. With the internet awash with dangerous anti-vaccination propaganda readers need to know that all vaccination schedules are of paramount importance.

The day Bita’s story was published anti-vaccination guru Meryl Dorey falsely claimed that “the skeptics” and Stop The AVN were “organising forces” to complain.

Meryl Dorey’s Yahoo! Twitter and Facebook libellous claims

I emailed Natasha that day seeking confirmation. After no reply I tried again on June 1st and CC’d The Australian online address. 16 days later I repeated this. Natasha eventually replied that no, she had received no complaints. Not one. However she had been away, she qualified. Strange, I thought. Was Bita suggesting that her absence equated to an inability to access emails, either later or indeed at any time?

I began to feel somewhat uneasy about Bita’s impartiality. Clearly she knew who Meryl Dorey was. She was the woman who had just hijacked her published account to falsely claim, “babies were being used as guinea pigs in a trial that was paid for by the drug companies involved.” Dorey was also harassing the Buttons by phone and had appointed herself the family’s unofficial conspiracy consultant.

Shortly after I’d finally received a reply from Natasha Bita she published an article on the very rare past occurrence of transverse myelitis following oral polio immunisation. Bita did little to quell the fear and uncertainty to follow in the wake of Virus in the system. The purpose of her piece was to report on the MJA article, A no-fault compensation scheme for serious adverse events attributed to vaccination published by Kelly, Looker and Isaccs. I was familiar with the article having referred to it myself almost three weeks earlier.

It’s inexcusable that Australia lacks such a scheme when we note Germany began theirs in 1961 and across the Tasman no-fault compensation has been a reality since 1978. Seventeen other nations have a scheme that relies upon WHO criteria for Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI). It is of even greater relevance in Australia because arguments for its implementation rely upon factors anti-vaccination lobbyists deny. Firstly that vaccination provides immunity and secondly the principle of herd immunity.

The authors write:

Any person who is injured while helping to protect the community — for instance, by contributing to herd immunity, such that there are sufficiently many people immunised to prevent widespread disease transmission within the community — should not bear the consequences of injury alone. In essence, the community owes a debt of gratitude to that person.

Natasha Bita, whether consciously or not, fed the anti-vaccination machine. The piece firmed her position as a journalist lacking in scientific literacy or having a grasp of risk-benefit ratios. She belittles the term “adverse reaction” and leaves the most crucial fact that Australia’s current inactivated polio virus vaccine carries no such risk, until the last few words. In a poorly written piece she completely misses the reality that Australia’s vaccine injury chic groupies will not back this scheme, have never mentioned it and deny the merit raised by Kelly, Looker and Isaacs.

When Virus in the system won Natasha Bita a Walkley for Sustained Coverage Of An Issue Or Event, she was embraced totally by the Dark Side. Her appearance on conspiracy and vaccine denialist site The Refusers perhaps underscored just how important a few lines reminding parents that vaccines save lives can be.

On August 3rd, as Queensland mum Katrina Day lay fighting for her life against influenza, Natasha Bita published a fraudulent article falsely “linking” 10 deaths to influenza vaccines. Bita ignored the TGA warning on interpretation of data. The article highlights how dangerous it is to allow sensation-seeking journalists to consult such information. Her headline outs her as unconscionable and callous as she proceeds to ignore any difference between correlation and causation.

Bita writes misleadingly:

TEN deaths have been linked to the nation’s flu immunisation program since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, including elderly patients and unborn babies.

The CSL flu vaccine, Panvax – which taxpayers spent $131 million stockpiling for the 2009 swine flu outbreak – triggered 1716 adverse-event reports, including seven deaths.

Whilst it is well understood that seasonal influenza vaccines will not include all circulating strains (meaning one may still catch influenza) she offers:

The Therapeutic Goods Administration database of adverse events, made public this week, lists the death of a grandmother who caught the flu after vaccination last year.

This is exactly the problem faced by VAERS in the USA, which is set to be superseded. Events are reported so that trends will be picked up and viable research launched in response to perceived problems. Nonethelesss all events remain on the database. Here we have an apparent award winning journalist reporting 10 deaths “linked” to ‘flu vaccines, whilst the total is actually zero. Visitors to TGA’s Database of Adverse Event Notifications are met with:

Her article drew the following response on the same day from the TGA:

TGA is concerned by a media story that may mislead consumers and could potentially discourage them from receiving influenza vaccinations.

Vaccinations play an important role in the prevention of diseases such as influenza, which can be life threatening in some patient groups. […]

The first line of text on the Database of Adverse Event Notifications states that: An Adverse Event does not mean that the medicine is the cause of the adverse event.

The TGA is concerned by assertions that a number of deaths resulted from influenza vaccinations. In fact there have been no recorded deaths from influenza vaccine in Australia. […]

To my knowledge Natasha Bita is yet to publish a retraction, explanation or apology. On August 27th it was reported that Katrina Day had passed away after falling into a coma. The 38 year old leaves behind four children and a husband.

Yesterday new directions for the CDC were reported in Flu Creates High Risk Of Death In Children With Neurological Problems:

A disproportionately high number of children with neurologic disorders died from influenza-related complications during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to a study by scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report in the journal Pediatrics underscores the importance of influenza vaccination to protect children with neurologic disorders. CDC is joining with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Families Fighting Flu and Family Voices to spread the message about the importance of influenza vaccination and treatment in these children.

Influenza kills and vaccination saves lives. For certain groups this is a very real decision arising every year. In very, very rare cases adverse reactions occur. To date in Australia no fatalities have been conclusively linked to influenza vaccines, including during the CSL debacle.

It’s a shame that so-called “consumer editor” Natasha Bita has to mislead her readers to suit her own agenda.