These days social media is seething with COVID related disinformation and misinformation. The last week however brought out the best of the worst in those intent on denying reality.
Without a doubt last weekend’s protests in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane left some as excited as a lonely school kid might get after their first school dance in long pants. That does not explain the nonsense that followed however. That comes down to the antivaxxer, COVID conspiracy theorist trait of seizing a splinter of fact and presenting it in a way to support a broader deceit. The week’s carry on was unique for a couple of reasons. Firstly only a meagre understanding of the subject matter was needed to grasp the reality. Also corrections and clarifications were available in almost real time.
NSW, COVID-19 and Vaccination
When it comes to grasping the situation with Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, things are simple: it’s well behind schedule. More to the point, the delay in shipping Pfizer vaccine has been a constant hum in our news cycle for months. This has been amplified by confusion around advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which has seen changes in the recommended age groups for receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In six weeks over June-July it changed from 50 years and above to 60 and above. ATAGI advice held firm when Scott Morrison suggested all Australians should consult their GP to consider getting it, then ultimately the age was lowered to 18 years and above in view of the raging Delta variant in Sydney.
There was the backlash over an 11 July COVID-19 advertisement which carried the text, “Covid-19 can affect anyone… Book your vaccination”. The woman featured in the ad’ was in the age group for which Pfizer vaccine was recommended. But supply wasn’t there. Last Friday NSW health minister Brad Hazard made a plea to other states for Pfizer vaccines. He was left disappointed. The point to this brief and tedious history lesson is that a meagre (that word again) attention span is enough to grasp that NSW is in serious need of COVID-19 vaccines. Until last Saturday that had to be Pfizer for under 60s. Additionally, the impact of COVID-19 vaccination in keeping people out of intensive care has been making news across the developed world. When NSW Health gave updates on COVID-19 hospitalisations during press conferences we quickly learnt the same success is evident here.
When Dr. Jeremy McAnulty misspoke
As we moved into last weekend a trend of sorts emerged as senior NSW Health physician Dr. Jeremy McAnulty presented his reports. On 22 July the seriousness of the Delta variant was underscored by the fact that of 118 in hospital, 28 were in ICU of whom 14 were ventilated. He reported that forty two were under 55 years of age and fifteen were under 35. On 24 July Dr. McAnulty reported that 139 people were in hospital. There were fifty five patients under 55 years of age and twenty eight who were under 35. He noted that of 37 patients in ICU, 17 required ventilation, 36 were unvaccinated and one patient had received one dose of AstraZeneca. It was a disturbing trend. Young Australians were being hit hard by the Delta variant and hospitalised in increasing numbers. In the intensive care unit nobody was fully vaccinated. One person was partially vaccinated.
This was what we had feared may come of a slow vaccine rollout. Without the protection of vaccination COVID-19 was making adults of all ages very ill indeed. On 25 July Dr. McAnulty had the awful task of announcing two COVID related deaths. A woman in her late thirties, and another in her seventys had died. One could see the softly spoken public health expert struggle over the words. He moved on to report 141 people were in hospital of whom 43 were in ICU, with 18 requiring ventilation. Continuing with the same data sets of previous press conferences he reported that sixty of those hospitalised are under 55 and twenty eight are under 35. He noted that of the 43 in intensive care one was in their teens, seven were in their 20s, three in their 30s, fourteen were in the 50s, twelve were in their 60s and six were in their 70s.
At this point viewers keeping track of the new disturbing trend knew what was coming. Dr. McAnulty will report on the vaccinated status of those in ICU. Which he did. However he misspoke and said, “All but one are vaccinated, one has received just one dose of vaccine”. It was however clear what was meant: all but one are unvaccinated. The ICU patient numbers had increased by six and there had been two deaths. Even for viewers not catching sequential daily updates (I know I wasn’t), it was clear this was a slip of the tongue. As outlined above, Australia has had a sluggish vaccine rollout. On that day only 15.8% of NSW residents were fully vaccinated. Being vaccinated was not the norm and certainly not for Aussies under 60. Yet it wasn’t until journalists were asking questions around half an hour later, that Dr. McAnulty was able to correct himself.
Here’s the two relevant clips run together.
By then no doubt anti-vaccine activists had edited out the few seconds they needed and gleefully hit social media. Taylor Winterstein who makes a living from bad influencing on Instagram posted this the next day.
You might have noticed how she struggles with numbers. Dr. McAnulty was referring to forty three people in intensive care when he misspoke. Not 141. This same mistake is repeated elsewhere in the antivax rabbit hole. As is the response that his correction was false. Either bogus or doctored or whatever they can grab to avoid the facts. No surprise there. Although there was one surprise. Del Bigtree was swift to tweet the video with a message to see the point where Jeremy McAnulty misspoke, proclaiming that, “all were vaccinated but one”. The reality was pointed out to him. An hour later his first tweet was deleted and he tweeted a correction acknowledging his mistake. “Since he made a correction I must too”, Bigtree offered.
This is reasonably significant in light of the fact Del Bigtree is responsible for a copious amount of disinformation and misinformation regarding both vaccines and COVID-19. He is firmly convinced COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective or worse. Credit where it’s due however. After all, Dr. Dan Wilson of Debunk the Funk is a former conspiracy theorist. The same credit can’t be given to Del’s Twitter followers. Most reacted like the proverbial End of World cult faced with a world that didn’t end. Their justifications covered all bases including denial and even transforming a correction into a retraction! Then there was that darn antivaxxer problem with the number 141.
This scene was played out in social media rabbit holes everywhere. Replies to Taylor Winterstein were equally stupid. Which is an achievement as Winterstein controls who can comment on her Instagram account. Fact checking followed. AAP published a review of the fake claim, an analysis and supporting evidence of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness. CoronaCheck included it in their weekly update and AFP Fact Check published a comprehensive slap-down of numerous misleading sources. Nonetheless such calculated disinformation has the potential to harm Australian public health and even cost lives.
When it comes to pumping up disinformation like this, it’s always hard to pass by Meryl Dorey, founder of the Australian Vaccination-risks Network. She too had trouble with the 141 number and even re-employed Dr. McAnulty as a “politician”. Dorey also claims COVID hospitalisations and deaths globally and specifically Israel, the USA and Europe are fully vaccinated. That’s another version of the carefully crafted mistake seen courtesy of Alan Jones and Craig Kelly who failed to grasp a statistical reality, and were splendidly refuted by Paul Barry on Media Watch. It is an example of base rate bias or base rate fallacy. This video explains it very well.
A look back at this week isn’t complete without highlighting the COVID PCR kerfuffle. On 21 July the CDC alerted laboratories that they would retire-with-a-gold-watch the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel. What most of us know as the COVID-19 PCR test. Polymerase Chain Reaction testing is highly accurate. The process identifies the genetic material of a specific virus. It does this in a way that is similar to providing a yes or no answer to the presence of X virus. It cannot give a this or that answer to the presence of X, Y or Z viruses.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the anti-science conspiracy lobby has pushed two absurd claims about the detection of COVID-19. The first is that it has never been isolated. False. The second is that the PCR test is so fantastically unreliable that it produces only false positives. False. What’s interesting about these claims is that if one believes the first, then the second is true no matter what test is used. This however didn’t stop COVID-19 deniers from trying to discredit the technology of the test as a means to more or less blame it for positive results they didn’t like hearing about.
Because of the closed nature of the PCR test, further resources and expense are needed to test for other viruses. This is ultimately why the CDC want to discontinue the PCR test at the end of 2021. This is done by removing its request for emergency use authorisation for the test from the FDA. The CDC still support the accuracy of the test. However by encouraging the use of multiplex tests single samples can be tested for a variety of viruses. For example influenza A, B and COVID-19.
Echoes from social media rabbit holes erupted. The claim was that the CDC withdrew support for the COVID-19 PCR test because it couldn’t distinguish between influenza and COVID-19. This then, and not closed international borders was why influenza cases had dropped dramatically. Links to the CDC alert were published with pride. Concepts of vindication were liberally mixed in with this sudden inability to read. G&B Lawyers’ conspiracy theorist Nathan Andrew Buckley made the news. Ali Haydar, Will Connolly (aka ‘Eggboy’) and Reignite Democracy Australia featured amongst many to spread falsehood. AAP published another great takedown and analysis. FactCheck have a particularly comprehensive SciCheck article on this. CoronaCheck included a debunking in the same piece that debunked the abuse of Jeremy McAnulty’s slip.
“There’s a little bit of misinformation going around”
I’m perhaps pressing my luck with the Fixated Persons Unit, but I’d like to share some vintage Meryl Dorey Gish Galloping about the CDC’s recent PCR alert. Delightfully she kicks off by warning that, “There’s a little bit of misinformation going around”. Well I hadn’t noticed, so I’ll be on the lookout. At one point Dorey fancies herself as a lab technician telling her audience, “Because we are using a cycle rate of forty to forty five, every single positive is a false positive”.
There’s an mp3 here for your collection, or you can use the player below.
The COVID conspiracy, anti-vaccination activist movement that thrives on social media continues to deceive. The last week saw two fresh examples of disinformation. One of which callously exploited an obvious error, corrected shortly thereafter, during a NSW Health press conference.
When the police were in Ballina and they were telling us we had to move… I called Aneeta who’s the president of the AVN and I explained to her what the situation was… and she said ‘this is the hill we die on’. And that’s what I think too. We can’t be pushed any further, we just can’t. [..] I did not move here to live in a dictatorship… I will live in a free country or I will die.
From “How much further will we be pushed before we push back?” by AVN founder Meryl Dorey, October 20th 2020
In a recent video address to her members an angry, emotional Meryl Dorey blamed the police, politicians and media for interfering with the AVN. Dorey contends they are telling people of their rights and giving them a voice. They are doing work with the vaccine injured that the government should be doing. She has “a huge issue with the intimidation and the bullying that I’m feeling from the government that I pay the salary for”. Nor is the government supporting those “who want to get more information about vaccination”. There “may be millions around the world every year who are being killed and injured by vaccine”.
“These are people who took a bullet… the government wants to pretend you don’t exist”. Dorey wants to know how long before people start pushing back. Angrily she announces, “I’m sick of it, I’ve had a gut full, I really have”. Pushing the false notion that Australians have had basic rights to consent removed and people with children injured by vaccines are being “thrown in the garbage” she urges, “You need to stand up for yourselves, stop being bullied, being afraid, being suppressed. How much further are you going to take this before you start pushing back, before you stand up and say I do not consent and I never will consent? I will not take this COVID vaccine, I will not be forced to take any vaccine… any government that tells me that I have to do this is illegitimate and does not deserve my support my tax dollars my anything”.
Australia is seen, “as a laughing stock, as a dictatorship around the world”. Meryl Dorey tells us she did not move here to live in a dictatorship and she will not. She will die. She has drawn the line. Her voice breaking Dorey continues, “I will not consent to this bullshit. And that’s what it is… we have to take whatever actions are required to protect ourselves”. She also has a direct message for the police. Dorey tells them that they have become tools of a dictatorship (using the word freely now). She advises Australia’s police, “You have no obligation to obey an order that goes against the constitution of Australia… You are here to protect us not to bully us, not to suppress us, not to take away our rights and you need to stop being tools of these fascist dictators”.
Police are told that under the Australian constitution the police don’t work for “dictator Dan or any other idiot in parliament”. Dorey goes on to argue the government does not deserve our respect, obedience or consent. This government is harming us and is thus illegitimate. We do not need to obey what it is the government says, which is wrong and evil. Dictator Dan, Scott Morrison, Annastacia Palaszczuk and [OLD Chief Health Officer] Jeannette Young are feeding us “pure evil”. They are “power hungry idiots… we need to stop obeying idiots… we really and truly need to get rid of them and start over…”.
Dorey also contends that if listeners don’t stand up for their rights they may wish they weren’t here. The Vaxxed II bus has gone dark as it were. Only those who register will know its location. The full speech was over 23 minutes. The comments above have been taken from a 7.5 minute highlights outtake. I wish to stress this is an edit in chronological sequence. Care was taken to not present false impressions by running phrases together. This resulted in two re-edits. Please feel free to consult the full audio file or visit the AVN Facebook video permalink. Concerns and criticisms are welcome as a comment.
Highlights: How much further will we be pushed before we push back?
We need to consider what Meryl Dorey hopes to achieve with such anti-authoritarian rhetoric. If she is genuinely upset by councils opposing the presence of the Vaxxed II bus it is not for the reasons stated. Dorey wants the public to believe she is only motivated by the opportunity to give the vaccine injured a voice. Yet the real purpose of the Vaxxed II bus tour is far more predictable. Profit and status from the realisation of a larger plan is what Dorey sees being interfered with. I’ll be expanding on that in the next post. Nonetheless we should examine her historic use of this rhetoric, opposition to the tour and how the AVN have reacted to it.
Her skill at evoking anger and frustration in members by convincing them their rights are being eroded has been honed over 25 years. Dorey has been presenting the spectre of imminent mandatory vaccination for decades. In the audio above she urges listeners to stand up and refuse to take the COVID vaccine and not be “forced” to take any vaccine. But no vaccine available to the general public in Australia is mandatory. Scott Morrison has retracted his rash claim of a mandatory COVID vaccine. Yet in an AVN video Aneeta Hafemeister warns“we always knew this was coming”.
This is a standard AVN line. In July 2009 during the “swine flu” pandemic Meryl Dorey claimed “It is happening just as we said it would”. In an “Action Alert” email she contended that a global pandemic would allow the government to use emergency powers to enforce compulsory H1N1 vaccination that was “just around the corner”. The following paragraph from over 11 years ago is indistinguishable in tone, terminology and intent from her presentation just 11 days ago.
…there is no time to sit back and wait to see what happens. We need to take action now to let our elected representatives and the media know what we feel about any form of forced medication.
Influenza vaccination is a requirement of healthcare workers engaged in certain roles. In March 2008 at a forum in Inverell Dorey used this to mislead her audience into believing mandatory vaccination was imminent. On presentation slides she asks “Who will be next?”, then answers: “You and your family!”. The title of her talk was Compulsory Vaccination – it’s Here! These tactics work well at motivating individuals to support the AVN cause. The claim of impending mandatory vaccination is often accompanied by requests for donations. This was the case in April 2012 when Dorey tweeted that donations to the AVN “help support freedom of vaccination choice and oppose compulsory vaccination in Australia!” (See slides below).
Of course, there is still no compulsory vaccination of the public in Australia. Following COVID-19, influenza vaccination has become mandatory for aged care workers. Australian states and territories have specific requirements for vaccination of healthcare workers and visitors to aged care facilities (see below). If a person so chooses they may, albeit unwisely, refuse vaccination for themselves and their children. They may choose to vaccinate selectively or to accept their child’s vaccine schedule at a slower pace. Legislation introduced in 2015 linked childcare rebates and supplements to immunisation as a financial incentive to improve immunisation rates. This does not constitute mandatory vaccination.
Consider the wording of the second slide. Once nurses are vaccinated to protect patients, the patients are vaccinated to protect nurses. Then teachers will be vaccinated to “protect vulnerable vaccinated students”. Then students are vaccinated (again and superfluously) to protect teachers. Firstly, in the intervening years teachers have not been requested to vaccinate. But the contention at play here is that vaccines do not work and actually make the vaccinated more vulnerable to infection with the disease they were vaccinated against. These baseless claims are supposedly steps toward a “logical conclusion”.
I could continue with more examples but there is little point. March 2008, July 2009, April 2012 and today. The message is the same. Your rights are being eroded by a misguided government. You will be forced to have dangerous vaccines. The appalling manufactured case of “death from compulsory vaccination” is typical of the AVN. The details may defy a genuine diagnosis but the heading will stay with audience members as is no doubt the intention.
In a recent paper Distrust, danger and confidence: A content analysis of the Australian Vaccination-risks Network Blog, Thomas Aechtner identifies the “persuasion attributes” of the techniques noted above. We can add our examples in parentheses. Aechtner has identified the Scarcity Principle (reduced vaccination choice, removal of democratic/health rights), Arousal of Fear (harm associated with forced vaccination, “pure evil” in government), Asking Questions (rhetorical: how much more will you take?), Source Cues (claimed scientific credibility of vaccine injury & death, account of a nurses suffering), the Contrast Principle (contrasting the selflessness of the AVN with attempts by corrupt forces to suppress them) and Negativity Effect (the negativity in Dorey’s rhetoric effectively creates attitudes). The paper goes into depth examining these and other persuasion attributes on the AVN blog. Suffice it to say these techniques are recognised in academia and can be applied to understand how the AVN manipulates an unwary audience.
The backbone of this Vaxxed II bus tour is not just vaccine injury and death but as we heard in the audio the AVN stepping in to do the work of the government in giving the victims a voice. The “evil fascist dictatorship” government is corrupted by pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies the AVN falsely claim never conduct research into the safety and efficacy of vaccines. We can compare the AVN to these companies in reporting Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) over the period 2000 – 2002.
Looking at the text under Table 1 in this Department of Health Surveillance of AEFI entry there’s a footnote on unreported or unclear jurisdiction. It goes on to explain that in this sub-category pharmaceutical companies reported 143 AEFI’s and the AVN reported 11. Put another way this entry captures a snapshot in time in which the AVN managed to report 7.7% of the vaccine injuries that pharmaceutical companies did. Although unlikely it may indeed mean that the AVN are just more diligent in reporting AEFI jurisdiction. The important point however is that this refutes their claim that pharmaceutical companies suppress information of adverse reactions to vaccines.
Part 2: Objection to the presence of the Vaxxed II bus
Both Vaxxed films are pseudoscientific constructs. The first directed by Andrew Wakefield casts him as the victim of an elaborate conspiracy hiding the truth about vaccines and autism. This is supposedly backed by a thoroughly debunked claim that the CDC have suppressed data, suddenly revealed by a whistleblower. Vaxxed II is a collection of vaccine injury stories of which Wakefield is presented as an authority.
Before the Vaxxed II tour began it was criticised by health authorities and the media. Former President of the Australian Medical Association Dr. Tony Bartone spoke on radio 2GB in April this year reminding listeners of Australia’s excellent record in vaccination safety. He observed;
Vaccination has saved lives, it’s safe, it’s effective and anyone that tried to create any other discussion against it is really trying to harm the Australian public.
Doctors and medical experts agree there are no links between immunisations and permanent disabilities and say vaccines are a safe and effective way of protecting the wider community from harmful and communicable diseases. […]
Dr Kean-Seng Lim, a former president of the Australian Medical Association said the tour was ‘concerning’ and ‘irresponsible’. ‘A lot of the anti-vax movement is based on rumours and untruths… any process which increases the misinformation out there is harmful to our society.’
Australian Skeptics published a comprehensive Call To Action for medical professionals, the media and local councils as the bus got under way. Given the widespread criticism and the fact that Australian anti-vaxxers may be vocal but very small in number it was perhaps ambitious to to think the tour would not face criticism. Public opinion of the AVN was not helped by their eager uptake of COVID-19 conspiracies.
The tour also began with a lot of pent up anger on the part of the AVN. Those who know of their antics and the conduct of Meryl Dorey were not surprised to see aggressively toned emails from the AVN to its members. In a July email headed Aussie Parents Vs. The Media Machine Aneeta Hafemeister taunted;
The AVN also wishes to extend an invitation to the Australian media to join us in performing acts of journalism at any time, if and when the Australian media locate their journalistic integrity
On July 31st the next email brought news of the first council action against the Vaxxed II bus. Relevant paragraphs include;
The Blue Mountains Council in NSW has passed a motion apparently regarding the AVN, although the AVN was not named. […]
We are most concerned that the Blue Mountains Council is unable to research even the most basic facts. I have spoken to Mayor Mark Greenhill and his answers to my questions were quite unsatisfactory. We will pursue this matter further.
Blue Mountains Council had met on July 28th and, as a matter of urgency unanimously passed a motion moved by Councillors Christie and Fell prohibiting bookings by the Vaxxed II bus on council land. The motion reinforces a NSW Health order barring mass gatherings due to COVID-19 risk. The minute can be read below along with Councillor Brendan Christie’s Facebook post highlighting AVN recklessness and his personal interest in sound public health decisions.
By August 3rd Councillor Brendan Christie delighted sensible Australians with comments in the Blue Mountains Gazette, which reported;
Liberal Cr Brendan Christie told council that a nation-wide bus ‘listening’ tour of an anti-vaccination group called VAXXED may visit the region and he wanted them officially boycotted by council, as he said they also did not believe in the dangers of coronavirus. […]
He moved an urgency motion to deny the group any booking on council property to “spread their anti vaccination propaganda” through the Mountains vulnerable, elderly community which violated the current public health order.
This is madness. During a global pandemic bus loads of anti-vaxxers want to come in droves to areas whose hospitals can’t cope if COVID-19 breaks out? Vaccinations have saved millions of lives globally and these people want to visit our regions?
Cr Christie went on to make a number of similarly themed comments. However one comment he made above reinforced how well Meryl Dorey has fooled the public with the purpose of the tour. He described it as a “listening” tour. The Vaxxed II bus tour is indeed masquerading as such. Dorey wants the public to believe her aim is to provide for the vaccine injured. But her aim is actually to provide for herself to realise a longer term plan.
On August 14th an AVN email arrived headed Propaganda. The subject was Gutter Journalism: MSM Strikes Again. By now, the AVN had already executed their first hit job on one Angus Booker, the CEO of the BIG4 Caloundra Holiday Park and on the business itself. Back on July 23rd he asked them to leave the park because they were running their business on his property. By now also, anyone who had checked Facebook could see the AVN shirked advice on social distancing, cramming people into their van. This was at odds with the conduct the CEO expected from his own staff.
Dorey urged her members to respond. This resulted in the type of attack on innocent Aussies we have come to expect from the AVN as members filled the Big4 Facebook page with abuse. Their conduct came to the attention of A Current Affair who presented a segment on August 11th. This post covers the initial event and the ACA coverage. To be sure after first sending flying monkeys against Angus Booker and the Big4 Holiday Park the AVN sent them after ACA via the Australian Press Council. At no time did AVN administrators object to the abuse of Angus Booker or advise members to raise concerns politely.
On September 9th members received an email that opened withThe New Fascist Normal. There was plenty of material opposing Victoria’s lockdown and the promotion of Freedom Day. It included an image of Dan Andrews dressed in a black Mao revolutionary uniform. Referring to the arrest of a pregnant anti-lockdown protest organiser in Ballarat readers were told;
This has been an incredible and horrific week in Australia. It is now apparent that Victoria is basically descending into fascism.
The next challenge to the Vaxxed II bus tour was on October 14th from Nuatali Nelmes, Lord Mayor of Newcastle. She was advised by public health professionals about the bogus claims pushed by the AVN. On her Facebook page she posted her intention to ban any anti-vaccination event from being hosted on public land.
The AVN responded the next day with a video from president Aneeta Hafemeister. Rather than cite the reasons presented by the Lord Mayor or even saying diplomatically that she had been misled by health professionals (she hadn’t of course) Hafemeister chose to get personal. Using the same accusation levelled at the CEO of Big4 Holiday Park she said that Nuatali Nelmes was, “not very happy about people with vaccine injury having a voice”. The same type of persecution rhetoric Dorey uses on October 20th.
On the same day members received a “media release” via email. The account of the Lord Mayor’s statement is different to her actual statement;
The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Nuatali Nelmes, has issued a statement calling for the censorship, suppression and exclusion of families who, in some cases, have already paid the ultimate price for vaccinating their children.
Claiming that the Lord Mayor should be ashamed of herself the media release offered;
Like all petty dictators, she may make the lives of those in her area difficult, but she will not control them.
The angst was for nothing as when the time came the bus was able to park on private residential land in Newcastle owned by a sympathetic AVN supporter. The event went ahead on October 25th.
A week before at Ballina however things did not go so smoothly. The thing to remember about this bus is that when it sets up it is holding an event and requires a permit for doing so. Permits which the AVN has no intention of securing. The AVN has not been overly keen to allow too much focus on their money making marquee canopy stall which is set up everyday at each spot as filming proceeds. Anti-vaccination material is sold and flyers are distributed. Meryl insists “this bus makes no money” because the AVN is a volunteer organisation. This is untrue. The entire purpose of that bus is to make money.
At Ballina the bus devotees were first visited by James. A charming lad representing the council Events Manager he asked the AVN to leave as they had no permit. Turning on her charm Dorey asked what would happen if they refused. Told they would incur an infringement notice and possibly a fine in the thousands she decided she would take the notice. It’s only donor’s money after all one might suppose. He stressed they should remove the power connection as this would incur another infringement. Meryl laughed because, after all, as rate payers “we pay for that power”. James left.
Later the police arrived. Of course the power was still on apparently just charging Meryl’s phone. The police were more firm. The marquee canopy stall had to be removed and they should leave. Meryl debated the meaning of the term “event”. Asked if the canopy stall was open to members of the public Meryl answered dishonestly contending, “It’s open to members of our organisation who have contacted us and come here”. The senior police officer went above and beyond the call of duty as Dorey challenged each item mentioned. Selling goods. Handing out flyers. What James had said. Told she could not hand out flyers Meryl became argumentative;
I would have thought that political free speech which is guaranteed under the High Court of Australia…
The police were not going to argue. They had to pack up. At some time as we’re told in the audio Dorey supposedly rang Hafemeister who told her;
This is the hill we die on.
Thankfully nobody died that day and the accuracy of that dramatic claim Dorey made on October 20th is one I have doubts about.
On October 26th Councillor Linda Scott made a statement posted on Facebook. She had proposed that the City of Sydney approach the State and Federal Government to prevent the Vaxxed II bus from stopping within the city of Sydney Local Government area.
Item 13.16, moved by Councillor Scott and seconded by Councillor Phelps was passed unanimously on October 26th. You can read the Notices of motion here: Anti-Vaccination-Risks Network Bus Tour Ban. Access the full council meeting agenda and minutes for October 26th via this link. Whilst the impromptu name change is much more suitable, the AVN was not happy.
Excellent insight into the importance of protecting public health can be gleaned from audio of the Sydney City Council meeting. You can listen to the audio of this motion being passed below. Councillor Scott moved a procedural motion to have the matter debated earlier than tabled. Lord Mayor Clover Moore put it to council the item should be considered as a matter of urgency. This procedural motion was also passed unanimously. The council meeting’s original full webcast may be streamed here. The procedural motion begins at 1.23.10.
City of Sydney Council meeting. Item 13.16, 26th Oct. 2020
The AVN pounced. An Urgent Action Alert email sent to members on the same day warned that Sydney City Council wanted to ban the bus in NSW and nationally. It described the motion as a comedy of errors because it did not get the AVN name right. Anyone reading the email was urged to write to council members by 9PM that night. That was 3 1/2 hours from when the email arrived. The details of ten councillors were provided for the flying monkeys behind a keyboard.
Amusingly the email asked, “Does the council have a clue about what it is opposing?” Members were asked to send the council a link to the AVN blog to allow councillors to;
…view some of the hundreds of heartbreaking interviews we have already conducted with the families of those who have been killed or injured by vaccines.
We also need to ask them to allow the AVN to participate in this meeting which is discussing the rights of the AVN, our members and the people of NSW and Australia who want to protect their own and their children’s basic human rights to bodily integrity.
No doubt a few members did write to council as is their right. However what seemed to take quite a lot of their focus were abusive tweets sent to Councillor Linda Scott. This is what the AVN flying monkeys do best. Attack individuals exercising their rights. Linda was interviewed the next day on 2GB by Deborah Knight about the motion and the abusive tweets. You can tune in here to 2GB or listen below.
We should remember of course that four years ago the then Victorian health minister Jill Hennessy was subject to the same abuse. Which may be why that again there was no word from Meryl Dorey or Aneeta Hafemeister about the inappropriate conduct of members. Nor any attempt to prevent this from happening in future. Linda herself reads out some of the tweets in a video here on Facebook.
Or just hit the audio button to listen to the 2 min MP3 of the video.
On October 29th the AVN sent an open letter to Sydney councillors. It is highly predictable in painting the evidence vacuum of vaccine injury and the apparently selfless role of the AVN. It also drips with criticism such that the reader wonders why it was sent at all;
The most recent objection to the presence of the Vaxxed II bus happened just yesterday, October 30th, at Centennial Park. The AVN were cutting it fine and no doubt hoped to enjoy a geographical smirk at the City of Sydney. That’s because Centennial Park is in itself a suburb split between the local council areas of the City of Sydney and the City of Randwick. Linda Scott’s motion banned the bus from the local council areas of the City of Sydney. Still, without a permit to hold an activity in Randwick the AVN had to move on. Dorey pointed out that the bus makes no money and the AVN is registered as a not for profit organisation. Thus as others were there so should they be.
Initially rangers arrived and chose to be curt with Dorey. This has caused her much distress. Despite the rebellious tone of Dorey’s audio at the beginning of this post, the AVN sought legal advice. They were advised to move on and chose to do so if asked. The police (who she advised in that audio were working under fascist dictators) arrived. Meryl Dorey did not make her stand or remind them they had no obligation to obey these orders that supposedly go against the Australian constitution. They were after all, more than pleasant. They didn’t appear to be bullying, suppressing, or taking away their rights. The sun was out and it was lovely in the shade. Perhaps it just wasn’t a day for overthrowing fascist dictatorships that don’t deserve Meryl’s consent. Dorey urges others to recklessly rebel while she herself consents without even raising her voice.
In conclusion we can see Meryl Dorey’s highly emotive rhetoric as merely the latest manifestation of an old AVN standard. Rather than having reached a point where she is about to choose “to live free or die” her aim is to evoke and nurture attitudes of heightened emotion and recklessness in AVN members. This is also seen in constantly biased and misleading feedback in emails often penned by Aneeta Hafemeister who has brought a new level of anger and alienation to the role of president. The AVN has comfortably embraced COVID-19 conspiracies and this has added an extra dimension to anti-authoritarian rhetoric.
Despite constant messages on the importance of democratic rights the AVN’s refusal to consider the role of public health policy is reflected in the intellectually vicious responses and personal attacks launched against anyone who dares think differently or exercise their democratic rights. Both Dorey and Hafemeister show no regret for the abuse inflicted upon innocent parties. In attributing bizarre and callous mindsets to those who oppose anti-vaccination disinformation they can depersonalise individuals and revel in their distress.
The Vaxxed II bus tour is a scam successfully projecting the mirage that the AVN is a caring entity focused upon the unjustly abandoned vaccine injured and their families. The real aim of this tour is not to provide a voice or a platform for those who have been “thrown in the garbage”. The real aim is to motivate as many people as possible to believe they are victims of a widespread global vaccine injury epidemic. To then “stand up for yourselves, stop being bullied, being afraid, being suppressed”.
The genuine aim is to encourage large numbers to declare their vaccine injury, death and unvaccinated stories on film. In doing so they allow Dorey and Hafemeister to realise the completion of the first stage of a longer plan.
We’ll discuss that plan and the likely form it will take in the next post.
Nov. 1st 2020: Updated to include reference to ‘No Jab No Pay’ legislation, and mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers para 11, and references below.
References: Policies and recommendations for mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers:
A Current Affair recently reported on the Australian Vaccination-risks Network after they used the cover of late night to sneak their Vaxxed bus into the BIG4 Caloundra Holiday Park.
This bus is used to film anti-vaccine testimonials, sow fear about any possible COVID-19 vaccine and promote COVID-19 disinformation and COVID conspiracies. The CEO of the park Angus Booker quite rightly asked the group to leave. His reason was that he has a policy of not allowing anyone to “conduct their business in our park, especially without our consent”. He explained that this would apply to a political party, to activists or a radio station.
However Meryl Dorey states;
They really don’t care whether your children are killed or injured by vaccines.
This is an unverified claim in an attempt to imply callousness. As there have been no fatalities attributed to vaccines in Australia this is dangerously misleading and highly offensive. The facts help explain why the group, despite advertising for fans to give on-camera accounts of “vaccine deaths” for weeks, still haven’t produced an evidenced backed testimonial. The harm done by this group is seen in the video as a young man contends that his father recently passed away “as a result of a flu vaccination”.
Yet there are no recorded cases of anyone dying as a result of a flu vaccination. It is a bizarre alternative reality they inhabit. One in which according to Meryl Dorey, Italian COVID-19 fatalities were apparently all people who “were going to die anyway” and vaccines, not illness or disease, kill.
In actual reality modern medicine employs a vast arsenal of medication and procedures when managing disease and keeping very ill patients alive. The influenza vaccine is one such tool. It may be given to a patient who is very ill and who later dies from an existing condition or a condition of comorbidity. The vaccine may be given to someone who at a later time passes away from a chronic or acute condition. In both cases however, the flu vaccine has not caused a death. That the AVN revel in this tragic deception, promote it and profit from it is very telling indeed.
Asked to leave the park, Meryl, who raves day and night about the erosion of her rights, reacted in her standard fashion to someone else exercising their rights. She urged Facebook followers to leave “reviews” on the park’s Facebook page. The flying monkeys complied and dutifully threw dirt on both Angus Booker and the BIG4 Holiday park in question. This included the defacing of Angus’ profile picture and reposting it back onto the Big4 business Facebook page. AVN Facebook comments show that others called the caravan park to complain. One loyal devotee to Dorey’s cult urged members to repost the attacks that were removed.
Again, this is tragic. A number of these angry members wrongly believe they have a vaccine-injured child after digesting disinformation peddled for profit by this group. Or believe vaccines can only harm and actively reject life saving interventions for their children and themselves.
So how would the AVN profit from this? Knowing full well that the CEO is within his rights Dorey and AVN president Aneeta Hafemeister still teased that they had “spoken with a lawyer… and are considering taking action… about the discrimination”. Below are just a couple of eager responses.
Fortunately I haven’t seen an active attempt to raise funds for legal costs but the tone of these comments is concerning. In the past there have been donation campaigns for similar costs in which no action eventuates.
In any case asking Facebook flying monkeys to now focus on the press council with complaints about A Current Affair was a predictable response from the AVN.
Presently the Vaxxed bus is in hiatus with the AVN assuring they will be back on the road in due course.
Thanks to a tweet by a highly effective critic of the AVN my attention was drawn to a post Meryl made on her Facebook page during a live video broadcast on April 11th this year. What I found compelling was that suddenly – and I do mean suddenly as Dorey had never made this claim before – she announced that her “personal opinion is that viruses can only be transmitted by injection”. As we’ll see this causes problems for one particular anti-vaccine position Meryl has promoted.
The comment below was posted in the context of discussing viral testing and the strange notion of buying “a private test”, presumably to avoid the COVID conspiracy pitfalls. The last sentence contains Meryl’s view about viral transmission by injection. This pattern of adopting stand out themes of conspiracy theories is one Meryl Dorey has followed for years.
The compelling aspect to Dorey’s sudden revelation is that this claim had already been made 12 days earlier by anti-vaxxer and erstwhile Involuntary Medication Objectors Party candidate, Tom Barnett. The video in which he made his claims was removed from Facebook and YouTube.
You can’t catch a virus; it’s impossible. The only way you can catch a virus is by having it injected into your bloodstream.
I say. Meryl apparently decided this sounded pretty good to however she is planning to profit from the COVID-19 crisis. Feel free to search her online material prior to Tom Barnett’s comments for a statement suggesting Meryl Dorey believes viruses can only be transmitted by injection. I for one am having trouble finding such a reference.
Claiming to hold such a position enables one to reject the need for immunisation and to argue that vaccination against viral disease may in fact be the cause of the disease.
Meryl is clearly spinning more plates than is wise with this latest addition of evidence denial. To be specific, her claim that viruses can only be transmitted by injection is a form of germ theory denial |Wikipedia|. Denial of germ theory |Wikipedia| is as old as germ theory itself. Thanks to germ theory significant advances in personal hygiene and public sanitation have brought about improvements in health and reduction in the spread of disease.
Which brings us to a real problem for Meryl Dorey. She claims that vaccinations have done almost nothing, if not absolutely nothing, to prevent disease. She has fallaciously argued before that the documented fall in vaccine-preventable disease is in fact due to better hygiene, diet and sanitation and occurred before the introduction of vaccines. This is very common misinformation pushed by anti-vaxxers usually with heavily doctored graphs that chart disease mortality as opposed to morbidity and are falsely attributed to official sources.
Meryl Dorey: A lot of the credit that’s been given to vaccines for the decline in deaths and infectious diseases has nothing to do with vaccines. Because it all happened before the shots were even introduced.
Helen Lobato: Mmmm… and it was more the diet and the sanitation?
Meryl Dorey: That’s right. Engineers did more to improve the health of Australians than doctors ever have.
You might like to listen to Meryl on the audio player below;
Looking back at Dorey’s frequent promotion of this misinformation on the AVN website, social media and other media it is impossible to find any clarification specific to viral infection being only possible by injection. Nor is there any delineation between bacterial infection and viral infection being controlled by sanitation.
Thus in one foul swoop Dorey has removed the logic behind her claim that sanitation, not vaccination, brought about the control of specific viral infections. If viruses can only be transmitted by injection then improved sanitation must only be responsible for reducing infectious diseases caused by bacteria.
This also removes her concerns over “vaccine shedding” ,  with respect to vaccines designed to prevent viral infection. This is highly significant concerning Dorey’s new claim as material presented to defend the notion of unbridled “vaccine shedding” refers exclusively to viral shedding in stools or in the case of LAIV nasal spray, in nostrils.
As Meryl Dorey and the AVN have challenged health ministers and authorities to accept being injected with a body weight adjusted equivalent of the entire childhood vaccine schedule, I do hope there is no intent to demonstrate strength of conviction by ingesting or inhaling any viral material associated with disease.
Therefore as it now stands I would be fascinated to know how Meryl Dorey intends to justify believing that sanitation, not vaccination, reduced the spread of viral disease given her claim that viruses can only be transmitted by injection.
In 2015 Bill Gates gave a TED Talk on the importance of preparedness for a global pandemic caused by “a highly infectious virus”.
An Ebola epidemic that began in December 2013, and continued until 2016, had by that time killed around 10,000 people in West Africa. Gates cites three reasons as to why there weren’t more deaths. 1.) The selfless work by front line health workers including locating infected persons and preventing further spread (see Contact Tracing below). 2.) Ebola is not an airborne virus and by the time those who are infected become contagious, most are so ill as to be bedridden. 3.) The virus did not reach many urban areas and this directly kept the number of cases lower than had Ebola spread throughout urban communities.
Yet he also refers to what he calls “a global failure”. Noting the slowness of response. The failure to study treatment approaches, diagnostics and the application of epidemiological and medical tools.
In what has been shown to be an uncomfortably prescient statement Gates notes;
So next time, we might not be so lucky. You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market.
Gates uses the Spanish Flu of 1918 to demonstrate how quickly an airborne virus can spread. He observes that the World Bank have estimated that a global flu epidemic will cause a drop in global wealth of “over three trillion dollars” and there would be “millions and millions of deaths”.
It’s important to note that the present reality with COVID-19 is not absolutely reflected in Gates’ TED Talk. Trends of global financial impact have not yet played out. Total fatalities will be disturbing and many may lose friends and loved ones, yet the prediction of “millions and millions” of deaths is not a current reality.
Nonetheless the reason that the capacity to reduce morbidity and mortality – to flatten the curve – is in our hands is indeed touched on by Gates. Just after the five minute mark he speaks of our ability to use certain tools to create an effective response system. Science and technology. The use of cell phones to inform the public. Satellite maps to inform on the movement of people. Advances in biology and research that will support rapid turnaround of drugs and vaccines to fit the pathogen responsible for the pandemic.
As I touched on above another factor discussed but not labelled as such by Gates, that is presently more robustly employed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is Contact Tracing. Gates talks about locating infected persons and preventing further spread. In May 2017 African Health Sciences published a review of contact tracing in containing the 2014 Ebola outbreak. However with an airborne coronavirus this has proven, as expected, to be enormously more complicated.
…recording [of] close proximity between people using Bluetooth, WiFi, or GPS data, [which] could help efficiently notify people that they have earlier been in contact with someone now diagnosed with coronavirus and should self-isolate
The department will begin using the cloud-based platform from Thursday to regularly interact with those that have come into close contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19.
The platform, which will automate interactions between the department and select individuals, will also be used to enforce self-isolation for Victorians who have confirmed cases of the virus.
Gates was more than reasonably accurate in predicting our response. Presented without exact figures from the epidemiology and pathology of the infectious agent Gates’ description of how we could and would respond deserves high marks.
Presently we are witnessing the application of the tools at our disposal to flatten the curve of morbidity and mortality. We know that only an effective vaccine can break the back of the pandemic as it now exists. Drugs that target specific symptoms and slow or prevent the impact on COVID-19 comorbidity are greatly needed. The use of cell phone apps to both inform and trace the public is well underway.
Most importantly we have accepted that staying at home, social distancing and increasingly reducing the number of people together in public, together with effective hand washing and smothering of coughs or sneezes are vitally effective measures. Some of these measures should be employed every flu season and it’s hoped we will continue to do just that.
One imagines we will be better prepared in future for the emergence of another pandemic. Gates was right in that we needed to prepare. We see that clearly now in the need for hospital beds, ventilators and other medical equipment. He also noted the necessity of strong health systems in poor countries and presently the need for increased funding in developing nations is a reality. [AlJazeera news video]
To finish off perhaps we should focus on what Gates observed at the end of his talk;
So I think this should absolutely be a priority. There’s no need to panic. We don’t have to hoard cans of spaghetti or go down into the basement. But we need to get going, because time is not on our side.
In fact, if there’s one positive thing that can come out of the Ebola epidemic, it’s that it can serve as an early warning, a wake-up call, to get ready. If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic.
Of course we were not utterly unprepared for a pandemic. Far from it. There are global and national agencies throughout the world that focus on both the risk of a viral pandemic and how we can best prepare. Developing nations are closely monitored by organisations such as the WHO and the UN. Still the lack of any treatment or vaccine to prevent COVID-19 has proven to be an enormous hurdle.
An interesting dynamic in the USA at present is whilst President Trump has criticised the CDC for its response to coronavirus, he had from 2018 cut their budget for global disease management and closed government units dedicated to preventing pandemics.
Trump’s administration has also cut similar funding for the National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS). Other cuts to CDC funding used to manage chronic disease are scheduled for 2021 and as yet have not been approved by Congress. Perhaps justifiably Trump has come under scorn for his approach to the coronavirus outbreak.
Funding for the prevention of pandemics is an essential part of a solid public health budget. Without a doubt these budgets should be designed with input from scientists. By shirking reason and evidence in their pursuit of “alternative facts” and a post truth world, the Trump administration had maneuvered itself into an increasingly perilous position.
One hopes that as we move toward the future and find ourselves past the COVID-19 pandemic that we aim to listen to the evidence, learn from the past and prepare for pandemics we cannot yet predict.
When I was a kid, the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war. That’s why we had a barrel like this down in our basement, filled with cans of food and water. When the nuclear attack came, we were supposed to go downstairs, hunker down, and eat out of that barrel.
Today the greatest risk of global catastrophe doesn’t look like this. Instead, it looks like this. If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that we’ve invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.
Let’s look at Ebola. I’m sure all of you read about it in the newspaper, lots of tough challenges. I followed it carefully through the case analysis tools we use to track polio eradication. And as you look at what went on, the problem wasn’t that there was a system that didn’t work well enough, the problem was that we didn’t have a system at all. In fact, there’s some pretty obvious key missing pieces.
We didn’t have a group of epidemiologists ready to go, who would have gone, seen what the disease was, seen how far it had spread. The case reports came in on paper. It was very delayed before they were put online and they were extremely inaccurate. We didn’t have a medical team ready to go. We didn’t have a way of preparing people. Now, Médecins Sans Frontières did a great job orchestrating volunteers. But even so, we were far slower than we should have been getting the thousands of workers into these countries. And a large epidemic would require us to have hundreds of thousands of workers. There was no one there to look at treatment approaches. No one to look at the diagnostics. No one to figure out what tools should be used. As an example, we could have taken the blood of survivors, processed it, and put that plasma back in people to protect them. But that was never tried.
So there was a lot that was missing. And these things are really a global failure. The WHO is funded to monitor epidemics, but not to do these things I talked about. Now, in the movies it’s quite different. There’s a group of handsome epidemiologists ready to go, they move in, they save the day, but that’s just pure Hollywood.
The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola. Let’s look at the progression of Ebola over this year. About 10,000 people died, and nearly all were in the three West African countries. There’s three reasons why it didn’t spread more. The first is that there was a lot of heroic work by the health workers. They found the people and they prevented more infections. The second is the nature of the virus. Ebola does not spread through the air. And by the time you’re contagious, most people are so sick that they’re bedridden. Third, it didn’t get into many urban areas. And that was just luck. If it had gotten into a lot more urban areas, the case numbers would have been much larger.
So next time, we might not be so lucky. You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market. The source of the virus could be a natural epidemic like Ebola, or it could be bioterrorism. So there are things that would literally make things a thousand times worse.
In fact, let’s look at a model of a virus spread through the air, like the Spanish Flu back in 1918. So here’s what would happen: It would spread throughout the world very, very quickly. And you can see over 30 million people died from that epidemic. So this is a serious problem. We should be concerned.
But in fact, we can build a really good response system. We have the benefits of all the science and technology that we talk about here. We’ve got cell phones to get information from the public and get information out to them. We have satellite maps where we can see where people are and where they’re moving. We have advances in biology that should dramatically change the turnaround time to look at a pathogen and be able to make drugs and vaccines that fit for that pathogen. So we can have tools, but those tools need to be put into an overall global health system. And we need preparedness.
The best lessons, I think, on how to get prepared are again, what we do for war. For soldiers, we have full-time, waiting to go. We have reserves that can scale us up to large numbers. NATO has a mobile unit that can deploy very rapidly. NATO does a lot of war games to check, are people well trained? Do they understand about fuel and logistics and the same radio frequencies? So they are absolutely ready to go. So those are the kinds of things we need to deal with an epidemic.
What are the key pieces? First, we need strong health systems in poor countries. That’s where mothers can give birth safely, kids can get all their vaccines. But, also where we’ll see the outbreak very early on. We need a medical reserve corps: lots of people who’ve got the training and background who are ready to go, with the expertise. And then we need to pair those medical people with the military. Taking advantage of the military’s ability to move fast, do logistics and secure areas. We need to do simulations, germ games, not war games, so that we see where the holes are. The last time a germ game was done in the United States was back in 2001, and it didn’t go so well. So far the score is germs: 1, people: 0. Finally, we need lots of advanced R&D in areas of vaccines and diagnostics. There are some big breakthroughs, like the Adeno-associated virus, that could work very, very quickly.
Now I don’t have an exact budget for what this would cost, but I’m quite sure it’s very modest compared to the potential harm. The World Bank estimates that if we have a worldwide flu epidemic, global wealth will go down by over three trillion dollars and we’d have millions and millions of deaths. These investments offer significant benefits beyond just being ready for the epidemic. The primary healthcare, the R&D, those things would reduce global health equity and make the world more just as well as more safe.
So I think this should absolutely be a priority. There’s no need to panic. We don’t have to hoard cans of spaghetti or go down into the basement. But we need to get going, because time is not on our side.
In fact, if there’s one positive thing that can come out of the Ebola epidemic, it’s that it can serve as an early warning, a wake-up call, to get ready. If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic.