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The "Australian Vaccination Network"
They misinform, they promote fear. In the interests of public safety, they have to go.
Vaccination is a marvel of medical science. An example of mankind triumphing over diseases that had previously caused millions of deaths and disabilities.
At about 94%, Australia now has one of the highest childhood vaccination rates in the world, and previously common diseases such as Whooping Cough (Pertussis), Polio and Measles are now almost eliminated.
But there is a dark cloud on the horizon, and that cloud is the crackpot anti-vaccination lobby, headed in Australia by the deceptively titled "Australian Vaccination Network". A anti-vaccination group headed by an American woman, Meryl Dorey.
Let me be blunt. Unvaccinated children die. A point devastatingly illustrated by the tragic case of 4-week old Dana McCaffery. Despite the best efforts of paramedics, doctors and an intensive care unit, Dana died of an entirely preventable disease -Whooping Cough- that she contracted before she was old enough to be vaccinated against it. The problem for little Dana was that the Northern-NSW community in which she lived has the lowest child immunisation levels in Australia, at about 64%. Her heartwrenching death was caused by selfish, uninformed and/or misled people who didn't vaccinate their children. Grab a box of tissues and watch the embedded video above. Further, in what could only be described as a despicable act, the McCaffreys allegedly received hate mail from AVN supporters following the initial Sunday Night story on Dana and the deadly effects of the low child vaccination rates in some areas of Australia.
On their website, the AVN claim to be 'pro-choice', a promoter of unbiased vaccine information. In reality their organisation is vehemently opposed to vaccinations of any kind, and modern medicine in general. They provide no pro-vaccination information whatsoever, and they intersperse their anti-vaccination diatribe with madcap theories of government conspiracies. They scaremonger with outright lies and unsupported anecdotes of vaccination reactions with absolutely no legitimate medical evidence or data to support their extremist viewpoints. They sell T-shirts with slogans such as "Love them, Protect them, Never inject them". Their only weapon is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), and they use it extensively.
The AVN promote false information, such as their inference that the current childhood DTP vaccines contain "lethal" mercury. The fact is that all childhood vaccines used in Australia since 2000 DO NOT contain mercury (thiomersal).
So why would the AVN continue to risk lives by making these outrageously false claims? Who knows, but perhaps the answer can be found from Meryl herself, who has publicly stated that we are now "living in an evil fascist dictatorship" [who are] "behind the conspiracy to cull the human population and turn the rest into little more than computer terminals", or perhaps the answer lies amongst their supporters, who claim that Doctors only vaccinate so they can get paid by the Government and that vaccination is some form of Government mind control and tracking system! The AVN recently invited Dr Archie Kalokerinos to speak at one of their seminars. He believes that vaccinations are an attempt by the World Health Organisation and the Save the Children Fund to commit genocide by spreading AIDS throughout developing countries. I kid you not.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Australians are too smart to believe the tripe being peddled by the AVN, and vaccination rates are currently at their highest ever level. It's telling that the AVN do not list a single paediatrician or obstetrician amongst their membership, and of the 55,000 GPs across Australia, only 2 are listed as supporters of the AVN.
As their profile grows, the battle against the misinformation of the AVN is also growing. The Australian Skeptics (here and here) and the Millennium Project (here and here) have been following and exposing the crazy ideas of the AVN for a while now. Renowned Australian philanthopist and businessman Dick Smith recently took out a full page advertisement in The Australian newspaper, warning people of the deceptive practises of the AVN, and The NSW Government Heathcare Complaints Commission is currently investigating the AVN for alleged breaches of the Public Health Act, while the Government have also refused their application for tax-deductible charity status. In 2007, the AVN were forced to issue a public apology to the Australian Medical Association, admitting that they published an article containing "a number of factual errors" in relation to vaccination.
As if their reputation could not be further tarnished, Meryl Dorey continues to support the disgraced British Doctor Andrew Wakefield, who's debunked 1998 research was the only published study to link vaccination and Autism. In 2010, Dr Wakefield was found guilty by the British medical authorities of numerous charges dealing with medical misconduct in relation to this research, with the Medical Council ruling that he was "dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain of children". Yes, this is a man who is held in high regard by the AVN.
The risks of not vaccinating
If you believed the AVN, you'd be under the impression that there is little or no risk in not vaccinating your children. But according to the real medical experts, nothing could be further from the truth.
In some ways, vaccination is a victim of it's own success. It has been so effective at preventing serious disease that most people today simply have no idea about how serious and widespread these diseases were. They have never witnessed the devastation of an outbreak. This has lead to some complacency and allowed extremist groups like the AVN to appeal to the wider population.
But the risk of not vaccinating is still as large today as it was 50 years ago. The diseases are just as fatal, and there is still no effective treatment for them. A community in the Netherlands found this out the hard way when in 1992, there was a Polio outbreak within their community. 71 people were infected, with 2 dying and 59 being paralised.
And the risk doesn't just apply to your child. The lower the herd immunity, the greater the chance of an epidemic, as happened in the Dutch case above and in other isolated, unvaccinated communities.
That's why it's extremely important for adults to keep their immunisation by having boosters as required. It's estimated that even with our high child vaccination rates, there may be as little as 10% of the adult population that continue to have immunity to all the dangerous childhood diseases. The DTP Whooping Cough vaccine, for example, may only protect you for 10 or 15 years before a booster is required. All Australians should consider visiting their GP to enquire about their immunisation levels, especially if you're currently expecting a baby or spend time around babies. My GP has just booked me in for a booster course when my son has his first series of vaccinations.
Peter Doherty AC, the Nobel Prize winning professor and immune system expert, has described the denial of childhood vaccination as a crime against humanity. Yet that is what the AVN encourage parents to do, every day.
The AVN say: Vaccination is not effective. Whooping cough and measels are not fatal. 12 people die every year in Australia from Measles, despite vaccination. (Yes, that's right, they have made all of these contradictory statements!)
The Truth: The table below shows just how wrong they are, on every count. In particular, take a look at the pre- and post-vaccination death toll data for Polio and Whooping Cough. It's mind-boggling. This data from the USA also unequivocally demonstrates the effectiveness of vaccination, and also dispels other myths.
The AVN say: Vaccination causes SIDS.
The Truth: The SIDS claim is particularly disturbing, considering the fear it evokes in parents. However, numerous medical studies have in fact found that vaccination drastically reduces the risk of SIDS, a point further illustrated by the fact that over the last 20 years as vaccination rates have increased, there has been a corresponding decrease in SIDS deaths. Investigating a range of studies done on the subject found that the risk of SIDS is halved in infants who have been fully vaccinated over those that have not.
The AVN say: Vaccination causes Autism.
The Truth: This oft-repeated myth of the antivax movement has been debunked by study after study, conducted all around the world. In fact, there is not a single legitimate study that has shown any link whatsoever. But you won't find links to these studies on the AVN website, because they don't want you to see them. About a decade ago, there was a single study that did theorise a link between MMR and Autism, but it has since been discredited and withdrawn. Here are links to several of the studies:
A Danish study finding vaccinated children were actually less likely to suffer from Autism than unvaccinated children.
An English study finding no change in Autism rates for vaccinated/unvaccinated children, and no change in rates before and after the introduction of vaccination.
A Japanese study finding no reduction in Autism after they withdrew the [accused] MMR vaccine in 1993.
An American study finding no change in Autism rates for vaccinated/unvaccinated children.
A Canadian study finding vaccinated children were less likely to suffer Autism than unvaccinated children.
The AVN say: Vaccination causes Polio, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Asthma, and ADHD.
The Truth: Every claim is pure rubbish. A near-endless stream of FUD from the AVN. One by one:
Polio: Clearly from the data above, this is obviously bogus. 95% of Australian children are vaccinated against Polio, and yet there hasn't been a single native case of Polio in Australia since 1978. Over 30 years of children being vaccinated, and not a single case. It's impossible for our injected Polio vaccine to cause Polio.
Shaken Baby Syndrome: Yes, I'm serious. This doozie stemmed from a violent criminal in Florida originally using the creative defence that he didn't shake his baby to death, the injuries were caused by vaccine. His defence was later changed to a claim that doctors caused the baby's death, but the anti-vaxxers are sticking to the original story.
Asthma: Another figment of the AVN's imagination, this has been debunked by a number of studies, including this British/Swiss study that actually found vaccinated children were slightly less likely to be affected by asthma.
ADHD: There is no medical study or legitimate theory that links vaccination with ADHD.
Crackpot groups such as the AVN are putting childrens lives at risk every day, and it makes my blood boil. If the AVN had it's way, Australia would be returning to the dark days of Polio, Measles, Mumps, Smallpox and many other diseases. Childhood death rates would soar to their pre-vaccination levels, and thousand of parents across Australia would experience first hand the devastating agony of burying their child. Don't let it happen.
What you can do
First, forget about trying to convince the AVN they're wrong. Anyone who thinks that the Save the Children Fund are actively engaged in child genocide is well beyond logical reasoning.
You can do your best to make sure everyone knows that the AVN is not what they appear to be. Email a link to this page to everyone you know, and join the Stop the AVN Facebook page.
The best thing you can do is get yourself a booster vaccination, particularly if you spend any time around babies or children. You can currently get a free booster if you're a new parent or regularly spend time with infants. By doing this you'll ensure that you can't pass potentially fatal diseases onto children.
Lastly, seek out accurate medical advice on vaccination for your children, which is available from your GP and the sources listed below. I cannot emphasise enough the fact that the AVN and other similar groups are not, and never have been, an accurate source of information regarding vaccination.