Tip of the Iceberg

30 07 2010

The NSW Health Care Complains Commission (HCCC) describes the information provided by the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) as “inaccurate and misleading”. However Meryl Dorey from the AVN claims that “all their information is accurate and fully referenced from medical literature”. Obviously someone is telling porkies, and it isn’t the HCCC.

There simply isn’t enough space on my server’s hard drive to detail all the inaccuracies and lies promulgated by the AVN, so I’ll just concentrate on the most obvious ones. Because if the AVN can’t get basic information correct, what hope do they have when the subject becomes more complicated?

The Immunisation Schedule

Surely for Australia’s self-appointed “vaccine safety watchdog”, this would be the most rudimentary knowledge. So can the AVN manage to give correct information on this basic topic? Let’s take a look. Here is what they claim is on the schedule:

AVN's claim of the vaccination schedule

Let’s check the real Australian Vaccination Schedule. Ignoring the AVN’s nonsensical claims of what constitutes a vaccine or a dose,  and that the AVN have included vaccines given after not by 12 months, their description of the schedule is far from accurate. The Chicken Pox (Varicella) vaccine is given at 18 months, not 12. There is one dose of Meningococcal (at 12 months), not three doses. Finally, there is no influenza vaccine on the schedule at all.

These may seem like minor errors, but let’s not forget that the AVN have claimed on their website that they provide “all the information you need” on vaccination. If they can’t get the schedule right, what hope is there for more complex information?

Vaccine Ingredients

Another of the most basic vaccination subjects would be ingredients. After all, if they don’t know what’s in vaccines, how could the AVN be expected to offer advice on the purpose and effect of those ingredients? Let’s look at the statement on their Diphtheria page:

The AVN's claim about vaccine ingredients

The “mercury” they are referring to is Thiomersal, a preservative used in some vaccines since the 1930s which contains about 1 molecule of mercury per dose. So does “every diphtheria vaccine used in Australia” contain it? No. In fact, it’s not in any currently used diphtheria vaccines, let alone all of them. The first thiomersal-free diphtheria vaccine was licensed for use in Australia in 1997, more than a decade before the AVN wrote this article, and every childhood vaccine used in Australia is thiomersal-free.

Again, one must ask: If the AVN cannot get such basic advice correct, what is the chance that the rest of their information is accurate?

Adverse Reactions

One of the AVN’s biggest claims comes in the form of adverse reactions. Meryl Dorey has claimed that between 1991 and 2009, they have received (and reported to the Government) over 1200 adverse reactions. In fact, they claim to make “more reports than anyone else”. Their 1200 claimed reports average to almost 6 reports made every month. Big claims indeed. But do they add up?

Looking at the Dept of Health Adverse Event Report for the 2.75 year period from January 2000 through to September 2002, we can see that the AVN made a total of 11 reports of adverse events during that period. An average of just one report every 3 months, which is about 5% of the their claimed reporting level. Perhaps of equal interest is that the same report shows that pharmaceutical companies made 143 reports over the same period. So not only are the AVN’s reporting figures highly dubious, they are clearly not the major reporter of reactions. The fact that Evil Big Pharma self-reported over 10 times more reactions than the AVN must be a source of embarrassment for Meryl!

What about their predictions of adverse events? The advice people may rely on when making a decision about whether or not to vaccinate.

In 1998, just before the Australian Government commenced the Australian Measles Control Campaign, the AVN issued a media release claiming that the campaign would result in over 320,000 adverse reactions, including deaths. Following the campaign, it was revealed that there were just 89 reactions, 33 of which were simple fainting!

It’s pretty clear that the AVN are incapable of predicting adverse event levels with even the slightest level of accuracy, or of factually describing reaction numbers afterwards. Two qualities which one would consider mandatory for any group proposing themselves as a useful source of information on vaccination.

Vaccines, Procedures and Regulations

Back in March 2010, the AVN made the following outrageous posting on their Facebook page:

Swine Flu Use-By?

It contains more factual errors than I thought possible in a single paragraph! First and foremost, it’s simply impossible for the claims about H1N1 vaccines being administered past use-by to be true. The vaccine wasn’t even trialled until June 2009, manufacture didn’t begin until July 2009, it wasn’t approved for use until September 2009 and it has a shelf life of 12 months. Therefore even the first batch had not approached its use-by date in March, let alone later production. The child version (Panvax Jr) did not begin production until November 2009, so the first batches of that were a good 8 months away from use-by.

The AVN were immediately corrected, yet almost a month later Meryl Dorey made the same claims again. The first post could perhaps be explained away as an error from someone simply incompetent, but the fact that the claim was repeated weeks later clearly shows that the AVN deliberately make false statements in order to support their anti-vaccination agenda.

Apart from the date impossibility issue, the post demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the vaccines in use and medical procedures. The Government did not (and could never) apply for “special dispensation to extend medical use-by dates”. Such a thought is laughable to anyone with even a vague understanding of the procedures involved. To do so would leave them, the manufacturer, the TGA and anyone administering the product up for enormous lawsuits if anything went wrong. It simply cannot happen.

Secondly, all vaccines and medicines are disposed of as medical (not hazardous) waste, irrespective of their contents. They can, and will, dispose of any vaccines past their use-by date in such a manner.

Finally, the child version of Panvax (Panvax Jr) is thiomersal-free, thereby invalidating their ridiculous argument anyway.

The Bottom Line

To quote the HCCC, the Australian Vaccination Network “provides information that is incorrect and misleading”, and they therefore “pose a risk to public health and safety”.

Parents have a right to expect that an organisation claiming to be an accurate source of information is exactly that. Unfortunately the AVN are no such source. The examples of mistruth, deception and inaccuracy above are just the tip of the iceberg.




10 responses

30 07 2010

Fantastic post, just one slight correction.
Evil Big Pharma didn’t self-report almost 10 times as many reactions as the AVN – they self-reported 13 times as many reactions as the AVN. It gets better and better.

I’ve been wondering about this discrepancy and I can think of 3 different explanations:
– The simplest is that the AVN just don’t bother to pass on all the reactions reported to them and are exploiting people, making them feel better but not actually doing anything.
– Perhaps the reports are so vague the TGA can’t do anything with them and they are invalid.
– They are in the autism category – things that aren’t vaccine reactions but parents/the AVN are convinced they are. So the AVN assures their followers they are passing everything on, and the TGA doesn’t count them because they aren’t actually reactions.

30 07 2010
Vaccinate Your Children

Hmm, yes that was supposed to say “over 10 times”. Fixed.

30 07 2010
Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain

Have sent the ink to this brilliant article to Steve Liebman at 2UE.

31 07 2010

Brilliant. I will forward this to my wife for inclusion in the Kindergarten vaccination fact-file. Great work.

31 07 2010
Tip of the Iceberg « Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day


31 07 2010
Tip of the Iceberg « VACCINE CENTRAL


6 11 2010
Tip of the Iceberg


21 11 2010
Liz Ditz

Topic highjack (kind of)

My blog pal SeattleMamaDoc (Wendy Sue Swanson) has a new project
encouraging pediatricians to use social media to support infant vaccination.


Wendy Sue’s further explaination:

This video only explains how this conversation began. This is not a gimmick or ploy to find a way or method to discuss vaccines. Rather, this really happened last Friday while I was in line at Met Market getting coffee. I really fret about it until I wrote the e-mail to my friends and peers.

I really want to listen to families. I want to understand what their concerns are. I want to understand as much about vaccine as I can, to better advise parents. I want to give really good advice. I think most of my colleagues (and you all) feel the same way.

Organically, this coffee line situation happens over and over again. Tonight while running errands with my mother, a woman recognized me as a pediatrician and… drumroll, asked “what I thought about vaccines.” Blew me over. I didn’t say a word about medicine– she recognized me, had me for a minute, and asked the one weighty question. I was almost speechless (okay, not really, it’s not in my nature but I did feel more than usual ineffectiveness) because I’m so wrapped up in this process right now. It’s everywhere (confusion and simple wondering about vaccines)—families ultimately feel they are left worried and confused.

25 02 2013

Can I ask…why would the AVN have such an agenda? If vaccinations are safe and of utmost importance for child and adult health, then why does the AVN exist in the first place? I’m confused.

28 02 2013
Vaccinate Your Children

In my opinion, Bam, the reason is simply because they do not understand the complexities of immunology, vaccines and the human body. Immunologists for example, spend the better part of a decade of full-time university to learn their speciality, while Ms Dorey freely admits that her only medical or scientific qualification is that she “has a brain”. If someone with such a “qualification” told you they could fly an aeroplane better than a qualified pilot, would you get on their 747 or the one being flown by the qualified pilot?

I would also like to put your question back on you…. Why would (essentially) the entire medical community…GPs, Immunologists, Paediatricians, Epidemiologists, researchers etc have an agenda to recommend vaccination if it is not safe? And how do they manage to conspire together to (presumably) falsify the thousands of published scientific papers, and decades of worldwide official statistics that support their position?

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