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The hammer keepeth comming down on AVNeth

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 4, 2010

The AVN’s troubles don’t seem to end, all deserved of course.  If you remember, the AVN (Australian Vaccination Network which should really be Australian Anti-vaccination Network) recently got slapped hard by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission, which issued a Public Warning about the Australian Vaccine Network (AVN), hammering them among other things for distributing information which is “solely anti-vaccination” and “incorrect and misleading”.

The HCCC advised the AVN to place a public disclaimer on their website, saying that its “purpose is to provide information against vaccination” and that the  “information provided by the AVN should not be read as medical advice”, which the AVN promptly ignored, thus leading to the HCCC publishing its public warning.

Now, though the AVN faces new troubles.  According to this article by the Sydney Morning Herald, it risks loosing its charity status:

THE Australian Vaccination Network has three weeks to show why its charity licence should not be revoked after an audit revealed it was soliciting donations without permission.

………………………………………………………………………….

A spokeswoman from the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing said the audit had detected a number of breaches of the charity fund-raising law. They included: fund-raising without an authority; unauthorised expenditure; and failure to keep proper records of income and expenditure.

She said other possible breaches of the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 had been referred to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

Hm, so not only does the AVN provide information that has been deemed to be incorrect and misleading, but they have bene raising funds without a proper license. And not only that, but there are allegations that funds raised for specific purposes were never used for the purpose for which they were raised.

‘And in 2009 the AVN solicited donations to place an autism advertisement in a magazine. Despite raising thousands of dollars from the general public, these ads were never placed. We are not aware of these donations being refunded,” the service’s website says.

Oooops; that Meryl!

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Stupid quote of the day

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 31, 2010

I have been accused of harassing this grieving family by making this call. It is my assertion however that the official from the NCAHS has not only committed a serious breach of confidentiality by informing a third party that I had contacted him; he in fact, has harassed the McCafferys by calling a grieving family to tell them that I had asked for confirmation of Dana’s diagnosis. What possible reason could he have had for taking this action?

Meryl Dorey, AVN

Why this is stupid

Firstly, because it is stupid to claim that a phone call to Dana’s doctor, by an unrelated 3rd party is in any way “confidential”; and it is even more stupid to imply that by informing Dana’s parents that some person is asking for confidential information regarding their baby’s death in any way constitutes breach of confidentiality. Meryl is forgetting that the doctor she called was not her doctor and she was not discussing issues of her health. That would fall within the area of professional doctor-patient confidentiality.

Secondly, it is stupid to claim that the doctor informing the parents of such attempts to get confidential information about their baby’s death by a 3rd party, constitutes harassment. In fact, it is an ethical requirement for the doctor to disclose who he is discussing the details of Dana’s death to her parents; matter of fact he should ask for permission before disclosing this actual confidential information to outsiders. But then we’re talking about ethics and I don’t expect anti-vaxxers to be very well versed in that area.

That Meryl!

Update 8/09/10 – It has been brough to my attention that the official contacted by Meryl Dorey was not Dana’s doctor, but a high ranking official in the institution where Dana was diagnozed with pertussis. Furthermore, he apparently did not contact the McCaffery’s to inform them about the inquiries. It was the McCafferys who contacted the institution to ask if anyone had been poking around, after being harrased by the AVN thugs after their daughter’s death.

Breaking News: Australian antivax group to shut down

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 3, 2010

The great news keep on coming! First the bomb dowsing magic stick was discredited, then Andrew Wakefield first got torn to pieces by the GMC and then the Lancet retracted his 1998 paper that sparked the MMR-causes-autism scare, thus dealing a deadly blow to the anti-vaccine movement. And today we get news that Meryl Dorey the head of the grossly misnamed Australian Vaccination Network is resigning and unless huge amounts of donations come in the AVN itself will close its doors by the end of February. Woot!

After almost 17 years of running the AVN, it is my bittersweet duty to inform you that within the next 3-4 weeks I will tendering my resignation as President of this great organisation and moving on to the next stage of my own personal development as mother, wife, activist and researcher.

Alternatively, if a benefactor or series of benefactors come forward to establish a fund that would guarantee the AVN’s existence for at least the next 2-3 years, or if donations were to be come in during the next week that would give us the same financial sustainability, then I would be willing to continue in my role for the foreseeable future.

If nobody comes forward to take on the role of President or if the funds are not provided to allow us to continue however, the AVN will be ceasing operations on or about the 28th of February.

Yeah, they’re asking for all their supporters to give up 1% of their incomes to support the AVN. I hope that does not happen. The AVN, while it may be guided by a desire to do good, is seriously misguided and what it does is hurt the very same children it aims to protect. Unfortunately bad deeds can be done out of the best of intentions, so while I don’t doubt that the motivations of most of these folks are to do good, that doesn’t make them any less dead wrong! So yes I am happy to hear this news, and can’t wait to see what Thursday and Friday will bring us. Chalk another one up to reason!

The only bad news is that Dory hasn’t seen the light, metaphorically speaking. The decision to resign and possibly shut down the AVN was a purely financial one; it appears she intends to keep up her fight for the right to spread misinformation as a “researcher” and writer, which roughly can be translated in “there’s a book coming out soon enough”, am I right? It would have been better if she’d actually understood that she is wrong and had decided to accept reality, especially in the wake of the Wakefield scandal, but that does not appear to be the case, but I’m keeping hope alive. You just never know!

Aussies Fight Back Against Anti-Vaccine Nonsense

Posted in Depleted Cranium by Skepdude on August 13, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT DEPLETED CRANIUM

The anti-vaccine movement is nothing new.    The US, the UK, Germany, Canada and many other countries all have their own anti-vaccine activists, working to misinform the public and kill people through preventable infectious disease.   In the US, we have Jenny McCarthy, who I may remind everyone, is only well known because she showed everyone her who-who in 1993.

In Australia they have the AVN, or “Australian Vaccine Network.” The Australian Vaccine Network claims to be “pro-choice,” as opposed to “anti-vaccine,” as many other organizations do.  They also claim to be empowering people by providing information, although their information ranges from one-sided and misleading facts to outright lies.   The biggest anti-vaccine assclown in the Australian anti-vaccine movement is Meryl Dorey.   Ms. Dorey makes the standard comments, claiming that vaccines cause autism (they don’t) and that they harm the immune system (they actually stimulate antibody production) and that they’re ineffective.

Click here for a video of the news report that got this started.

But recently there has been a major shift in public opinion in Australia, as a series of events have lead to the AVN getting some well deserved bad press...

What touched this off was a story on Australia’s Channel Seven over the tragic death of Dana McCaffery.   Dana was only four weeks old when she caught whooping cough, the disease that would ultimately kill her.  This disease was almost eliminated in most of the industrial world decades ago but is making a comeback.   At such a young age, Dana had not yet received the vaccination that would have saved her life, and thus was counting on the “herd immunity” of the community to keep her safe and healthy.

I really don’t like the term “herd immunity,” but it’s an accurate way of describing how widespread vaccination can prevent illness, even in those who are not vaccinated.   In any population, there will be a few individuals who are not immune to a disease through no fault of their own.  Some of these individuals are simply too young to have had the vaccine.  Others may have immune system diseases like AIDS.   Still others may have received an organ transplant or have an auto-immune disease which requires immune suppression drugs.  Yet in such cases, their chances of getting a disease is very low as long as the community has a high enough rate of immunization.   For a disease like whooping cough to exist at all in such a community, it must be introduced by an outsider, who must transmit it directly to one of the individuals without the immunity.  Even if this happens, the disease will not have a chance to get very far, because there are not enough suitable hosts to sustain the pathogens spread.

One could compare the concept to critical mass in a nuclear reaction.   Bellow critical mass, one might get an occasional fission and it may even trigger a second, but it will not create a significant propagation of the effect and the reaction will die out rapidly.

So why didn’t herd immunity protect little Dana McCaffery?    It seems that in her region of Australia, the level of vaccination has fallen to the point where the disease can take hold.   This is not unique to Australia, as whooping cough has made a comeback in the US, along with diseases like measles.   Full blown outbreaks of such diseases have occurred in areas that had not seen them in decades.

There is one thing that sets Australia apart from most other countries, however:  the report on the death of Dana McCaffery seems to have touched out an appropriate level of outrage and the AVN has been enduring some very very bad publicity…

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT DEPLETED CRANIUM

Complaint against anti-vaccination group

Posted in News by Skepdude on August 10, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT 6 MINUTES

A militant anti-vaccination group is the subject of an official complaint to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, alleging that it is endangering children’s health by acting as a de facto health care provider and offering misleading advice.

The Australian Vaccination Network, which is given a high profile by the media in urging parents not to have their children immunised, should be prohibited from making unsubstantiated health claims says the Australian Skeptics group.

In a complaint to the commission, a supporter of the Australian Skeptics, Ken McLeod, says the AVN is engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct with the intent of persuading parents not to vaccinate their children, and this is in breach of the Health Care Complaints Act.

AVN president Meryl Dorey has rejected the claims, saying that she operates an information service, and that the Health Care Complaints Commission has no jurisdiction over the NSW-based network.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT 6 MINUTES

The AVN is reaping what they sowed

Posted in Bad Astronomy, Skepdude by Skepdude on August 7, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT BAD ASTRONOMY

I’m not shedding too many tears over the tsunami of bad press the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) is receiving right now.

I’ve written about them before, oh yes. They are the ones headed by Meryl Dorey, the woman who says vaccinations are dangerous, who says no one dies of pertussis, who says that it’s better not to vaccinate, who insinuates (at the 11:50 mark of that video) that doctors only vaccinate children because it’s profitable for them. She says that, even though on that live TV program she sat a few feet away from Toni and David McCaffery, parents who had just lost their four week old daughter to pertussis because she was too young to be vaccinated yet and the herd immunity in Sydney was too low to suppress the pertussis bacterium. This year alone, three babies in Australia, including young Dana McCaffery, have died from pertussis.

Not enough parents are vaccinating their children. And groups like the AVN spread misinformation about vaccines, spread it like a foul odor on the wind.

As I wrote a few days ago, the AVN will be investigated for their propaganda about vaccines. And now Dick Smith, an Australian businessman and founding skeptic there, has sponsored a devastating ad created by the Australian Skeptics. The ad ran in The Australian, a national newspaper, on Thursday:

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT BAD ASTRONOMY