We can celebrate another victory for skeptics and reality! The antivax group Australian Vaccination Network has been found to give "misleading and inaccurate information" to its followers, according to an Australian government investigation. The investigation also concluded that despite their many denials, the AVN is in fact an antivaccination group and must make that clear when disseminating information. Ouch. The entire report can be downloaded here from the Antivaxxers.com website. Here's the background: Meryl Dorey is the head of the AVN. She travels across Australia talking about the dangers of vaccination, and by "talking about" I really mean spewing misinformation. She says things that are not correct, cherry picks data, misrepresents scientific studies, and basically distorts reality in order to push her propaganda about vaccines. Given that vaccinations do work, are almost entirely safe, and have almost eliminated such diseases as pertussis, measles, polio, and smallpox, some reality-based people have taken exception to Ms. Dorey's tactics. That included Ken McLeod, who filed a complaint about Dorey and the AVN with the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). There were two thrusts to the complaint: one was that the AVN is a health care service provider, because they dispense health care advice, and second that the way they dispense that advice is misleading and harmful. The HCCC agreed on both points. First, they concluded that:
According to its own constitution and through its activities the AVN is a health education service.
I found it bizarre that Dorey would try to deny that (it was a classic "who me?" denial on her part). She's trying to eat her cake and have it, too; dispense health care advice but then deny any responsibility for what happens when she does. The second part is where the AVN and Dorey get handed their heads. The HCCC report goes on for page after page listing out the breaches by Dorey and the AVN, showing where they have distorted and misrepresented vaccination information, all in a biased, negative way (keep in mind that Dorey has vehemently claimed the AVN is not antivax). For example, the report points out things like:
The AVN's claims that vaccines are untested is simply false;
The AVN's claims about toxic substances in vaccinations are exaggerated and in some cases simply wrong;
The AVN's claims that vaccines are contaminated with viruses is cherry- picked in order to support an antivax stance;
The AVNs claims that vaccines do not necessarily protect against disease misrepresents the facts;
and much more. In the end, sadly, the HCCC won't punish the AVN for its falsehoods, but it has recommended they put up a prominent disclaimer on their home page stating that they are antivax, that the information provided by the AVN is not medical advice, and that a decision to vaccinate or not should be made after consulting an actual health care provider. But have no doubt: this is a big win for skepticism and reality! Dorey and the AVN were repeatedly slammed in this document, which is a litany of their transgressions. While I have no doubt Dorey will continue to claim she is the victim of a pogrom by people trying to suppress information and all that -- and the rabidly antivax Age of Autism site has already called this whole thing fascism: yes, fascism, which doesn't mean what they think it means -- the truth is, Ms. Dorey and the AVN are guilty of spreading false, slanted information in order to spread their vicious antivax nonsense. Ken Mcleod, who filed the suit in the first place, has issued a public statement about the report that's well worth reading, too. And remember, while Dorey and the AVN place themselves up on pedestals, there's a pertussis outbreak in Marin County, California , another in Bakersfield, California, and similar reports from around the planet. The bottom line is that mouthpieces for antivax propaganda distort reality, spread falsehoods, and consistently use fear as a tactic to spread their nonsense. This comes at a great cost: more disease, more disregard for reality, and literally more cost as money has to be spent caring for sick patients. I'm glad that more people are taking this health threat seriously, and very glad for this victory against the antivaxxers. Keep 'em coming!
My thanks to Rachel Dunlop, David McCaffery, Al Janulaw, Linda Mitts, and the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network website for info pertaining to this post.