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Anti-vaccination network told to change its name or be shut down

The heated battle between Australia’s anti-vaccine lobby, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), and those fighting against its misinformation took a positive turn late last week, with the New South…

Parents need the facts about childhood vaccination. Nonanet.

The heated battle between Australia’s anti-vaccine lobby, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), and those fighting against its misinformation took a positive turn late last week, with the New South Wales Department of Fair Trading ordering the AVN to change its name or risk being shut down.

The move follows what has been described as “numerous” complaints from both the public and the Australian Medical Association that the AVN name was misleading the public and wasn’t an accurate representation of its activities.

The order was hand delivered to the home of Meryl Dorey, AVN president, spokesperson and public officer, just before midday on Friday.

What’s in a name?

Publicly, the AVN claims to be pro-choice and a “vaccine safety watchdog”. And its name gives the impression of a neutral resource for vaccination information, but scratching the surface of its slick-looking website quickly reveals an anti-vaccine agenda.

A 12-month investigation of the site by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, found the AVN website, “provides information that is solely anti-vaccination, contains information that is incorrect and misleading, and quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.” This resulted in the publication of a public warning advising people not to get their medical advice from the AVN.

The AVN later challenged the public warning and won, however during the case the Judge was not convinced by Dorey’s claims “to educate her subscribers and the general public into making decisions about vaccinations”.

As Justice Adamson put it, “It seems slightly coy that your client is so shy about admitting what it is on about”.

Further evidence for the Judge’s suspicions come in the form of T-shirts sold on the AVN website emblazoned with “Love Them, Protect Them, Never Inject Them”. And a children’s book called Melanie’s Marvellous Measles which teaches children to embrace infectious diseases!

Not very “pro-choice”.

The AVN provides incorrect and misleading information to parents wanting to learn more about vaccination. Image from shutterstock.com

The issue of the misleading name has led to confusion for parents and professionals alike, with The Australian College of Midwives a recent victim. It mistakenly sent out invitations to all its members (which were later withdrawn) for an AVN seminar, as it was unaware the AVN was an “anti-immunisation lobby”.

Parents commenting on the Stop the AVN Facebook page share similar stories;

Dear Meryl, I was attracted to the AVN several years ago because the name suggested that you might be a reputable source of information about vaccination (I was preparing for an overseas trip). I found nothing of the sort on your site…..I was indeed misled and deceived by your name. And I’m not the only one.

In 2009, the Australian Skeptics, with sponsorship from Dick Smith, took out an ad in the Australian newspaper to warn parents not to look to the AVN for health information. During the flurry of publicity that ensued, Dick Smith said:

They are actually anti-vaccination, and they should put on every bit of their material that they are anti-vaccination in great big words. They have every right for that belief but they should communicate it clearly so people are not misled.

Yet, the practice of anti-vaccine groups using misleading names is not new. In the United States there is the National Vaccine Information Centre or NVIC, (which refers to itself as a vaccine watch dog) and in New Zealand there is VINE or Vaccination Information Network.

And it’s pretty obvious why they are so keen to disguise their true agenda – I can’t imagine parents looking to the Anti-Vaccine Network for unbiased advice (although kudos to the Australian media, as the AVN is increasingly being called this).

The AVN now has until February 21, 2013 to submit an application for a name change which also must be approved by the Commissioner. Of course, Dorey and co have a right to appeal this order, but if they decide to ignore it, their registration can be cancelled and their assets seized and split up – making this a rather serious matter indeed.

The AVN has until February to change its name. Flickr/tyfn

So far, Dorey has responded to the order in the only way she knows, with accusations of “suppression of free speech” and “government bully boys”. And in a bizarre analogy she questioned why she was being targeted when “Greenpeace is not green, nor do they go around looking for peace…”.

Of course, this is not an issue of free speech, but one of a name that accurately describes the activities of the organisation. As NSW Fair Trading Minster Anthony Roberts put it in no uncertain terms on radio 2UE:

What we are asking this organisation to do is be upfront and honest with people and stop misleading people … for far too long this organisation has been misleading individuals and getting away with it.

These people aren’t about pro-choice, these people are about pushing an anti-vaccine line.

So here’s my suggestion for the AVN: change your name to the Anti-Vaccination Network. That way there can be absolutely no confusion about your agenda and you get to keep you domain name. Because you’re not fooling anyone anymore.

Join the conversation

82 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Craig Minns

    Self-employed

    I am no supporter of Ms Dorey's work, but I am uncomfortable about this. The material presented is obviously and unambiguously anti-vaccination, there is no effort made to equivocate.

    However, it does raise an interesting issue with respect to the efforts of our PM some years ago in the AWU slush fund matter. If it is thought a serious offence to misname a fringe advocacy group that is not (as far as I can tell) financially motivated, to the extent that a cease and desist order must be hand-served, why have our esteemed judiciary not taken a similar view on the actions of our PM in creating a misleadingly-named and falsely constituted Association designed to defraud?

    I suspect Ms Gillard and her spin-doctors will not be happy with this decision.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Craig, this must be the best non-sequitur insertion of a personal hobby horse that is completely unrelated to the article that I've seen all year.

      Does The Conversation give an annual award in this category?

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    2. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Felix there is no non-sequitur, sorry to burst your bubble.

      Are things slow in the APS at the moment? I note there are lots of Canberra-types commenting...

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    3. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Well said Felix.

      Caring for the health of our children being used to further a personal vendetta against the PM?

      Craig - don't expect anyone to take you seriously on any opinion you may express.

      Back On Topic.

      Most excellent news that an organisation be persuaded about declaring, up front, the truth of their mission. Even if they do mistake telling porkies for freedom of speech. Now can we expect further truth in advertising? Any time soon? No rush. No one ever claimed honesty was hasty. Happy to wait...

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    4. In reply to Craig Minns

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Craig Minns

      "The material presented is obviously and unambiguously anti-vaccination, there is no effort made to equivocate."

      Craig Minns - AVN is not being ordered to change the material on its website (not yet, at least) - it is being ordered to change the misleading name that gets people to that site under false pretenses.

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  2. Giles Pickford
    Giles Pickford is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired, Wollongong

    I think the Governernt and the insurance industry should go a step further. People who refuse vaccination should not be able to claim on Medicare or any other health insurance. They are like smokers who needlessly put their lives and and their neighbourse at risk. If they are so sure they want to opt out, then they should opt right out.

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    1. Warren Day

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      They are worse then smokers (I am a smoker). Smokers do not tell others to smoke. Most do the opposite. Smokers can cause harm to them self but not the whole community like anti-vax people. Smokers do not pretend that smoking is good for you. Smokers will die fairly quickly and fairly young and will be less of a burden on the public health system then if there is an outbreak of any the preventable diseases we vaccinate against. One way Anti-vax relates to smoking is that they seem to be copying all the tricks big tobacco used when trying to cover up the dangers of smoking. Playing the victim, cherry picking data, ignoring scientific and medical community and pushing a product (homoeopathy, Scientology and "natural medicine") which, if used instead of mainstream medicine to treat illness, can cause serious harm.

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    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      Giles, I agree but I also think they should be prevented from sending their children to childcare, kindergartens, schools etc. until the children are vaccinated as required.

      The minimal risks from vaccinations are insignificant in comparison to the many serious problems that can arise from not being vaccinated.

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    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Giles Pickford

      I think they should be made to wear a yellow V and be given a hand bell they have to ring wherever they go

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  3. cara letho

    various

    Fair enough- but where does one go to get further info. If on one side of the spectrum there are those who have no side effects from vaccination and the other end are those who die from vaccine reaction; then logically there would be a whole range of reactions in between that are not acknowledged or dealt with. That is the info that is required in order to give informed consent.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to cara letho

      Cara,

      This action does not shut down the AVN - it just says don't pretend to be "objective" or "balanced" when in fact you are the Australian Anti-Vaccination Network.

      The AVN site presents itself very cleverly. The reason for the reaction is they know full well that being forced into a disclosing its actual position will erode this carefully crafted image. and reduce its "credibility".

      And that "credibility" is based on flying a false flag.

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    2. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to cara letho

      Ummmm, No, Cara. You're drawing a false continuum. Ab-reactions are ab-reactions, some of which include sever allergic reaction which can lead to death, and some of which are less severe but they are all nonetheless ab-reactions - the slight discomfort from the injection would occur with saline solution for some.

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    3. Kate Squires

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to cara letho

      You go to a doctor.

      There is no further info. The information required to make a balanced, informed consent is readily available from doctors and the government. Not from unqualified fraudsters like the AVN and Meryl Dorey.

      I found out that encephalitis is a rare side effect of the measles vaccine, but that encephalitis from measles itself occurs at a much higher rate - substantially higher, thousands of times higher in fact. There is my informed consent; do I take the risk of complications from measles with high frequency, or do I take the 1:1,000,000 risk from the vaccine. Derp.

      I am not aware of anyone dying from vaccines, except for the tenous links the AVN try and draw.

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  4. David Petersen

    Veterinary Surgeon & Company Director

    Vaccination would have to be the greatest preventative medication invented by man for both humans & animals. The lives saved & prevention of suffering from long term effects of diseases like Polio would be far greater than anything else we have done in the medical field.

    Unless people understand epidemiology & statistical analysis they have no hope of recognising the gains made. We can easily see cures - we can't easily see prevention.

    The AVN deliberately muddy the waters & confuse those without the ability to see through their regressive stance.

    The sooner this sort of propaganda is off the Internet the better.

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    1. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Petersen

      Or, for the non-epidemiologists, if you are old enough, you will have known survivors of polio. They're easy to spot, walking sicks, leg calipers, and so on. These, of course, were the lucky survivors.

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  5. Laurie Willberg

    Journalist

    I have just taken the time to actually read through the AVN website. There does not appear to be any "misinformation" at all. Advice from their site is sensible and directs parents to ask questions and to inform themselves, rather than being mindless drones.

    "1- Obtain the package inserts for each vaccine you are considering giving to your child or taking yourself. You can find links to the package inserts in our Vaccination Information section (they are referred to there as Data Sheets). These…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Australian Vaccine Skeptics would be perfect and would meet the requirements for honest disclosure.

      Now if only they could get Alan Jones or Prince Monckton as a sponsor .... :)

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    2. Rhianna Miles

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      You can't have looked very closely at the AVN site, Laurie. No self respecting health professional would disagree that informing yourself of the risks and benefits of any medical product or procedure is an appropriate thing to do, but relying upon the incorrect information from the AVN can not possibly lead to informed consent.

      Ongoing misrepresentation of statistics of pertussis outbreaks to imply the vaccinated are more likely to become unwell (and the epidemiological explanation provided so…

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    3. Kate Squires

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      It appears as though Laurie has gone to the AVN school of cherry picking. If the "what to ask your doctor" was the only advice they offered, I doubt anybody would have a problem.

      I don't know if you didn't look, or you just didn't reference it because it would be inconvenient, but the website is littered with innumerable pages of misinformation and lies. Not to mention their Facebook page. But ignoring these, what about quotes that Ms. Dorey has made to the media?

      - vaccination is rape with…

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    4. Kate Squires

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      "I also understand that a member of their organization was charged with making threatening phone calls to Meryl Dorey, which puts this beyond the scope of mere "fair comment/criticism" and pushes it firmly into the "hate crime" category."

      Well you're a terrible journalist, because nobody was charged with anything. Though I'm not interested in playing tit for tat because we could list a bunch of heinous things the AVN has done to grieving families

      My personal favourite was when the President of the AVN told one of her members to ring families infants that had died from SIDS to enquire as to their vaccination status. Nice.

      And there is no organisation. SAVN is not an organisation, it's a Facebook page. I like the IDF on Facebook, it doesn't make me a member of the IDF.

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    5. Rhianna Miles

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Also, Laurie, I'm having a lot of trouble finding the phoney AVN website posted by Australian Skeptics. Could you provide a link for your accusation. All I can find is a page called "Real Australian Skeptics" which is run by.......... the AVN!

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    6. Guy Taylor

      IT Professional

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Sadly, the above comments are from someone who is not interested in Evidence or Science based Medicine. A quick google search reveals numerous article in homeopathic journals etc, so I suggest a strong bias could be present.

      To then say that the AVN web page doesn't contain any misinformation is obviously an ideologically based statement, rather than one of any research, as this is not the case.

      Each of the above pasted bullet points are misleading.

      a) Ingredients - Where to start with this…

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    7. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      I decided to have a quick squizz at the AVN website. One link was labeled "Professional Members", interested I clicked on it. Response "Page not found". I couldn't make it up if I tried.

      I also had a quick look at Laurie's comment history. From what could see every single one was anti-vaccine or pro-woo. Don't come on here and pretend that you have "just taken the time to actually read through the AVN website." Just? It is obvious you are a AVN supporter from way back.

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    8. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Thanks Rhianna, you beat me to it. Laurie, Australian Skeptics NSW has only one website at skeptics.com.au. Several years ago the AVN bought several similar domains and set-up a blog called The Real Australian Skeptics. Under Dept of Fair Trading rules, any material posted by an Inc must be identifiable as from that Inc. When Fair Trading directed the AVN to make it clear that site was theirs (not ours) they initially ignored the requests. So if you are referring to the Real Aust Skeptics then you too have been misled. Rest assured this latest incident is not the first time the AVN has got on the wrong side of the Dept of Fair Trading. See Luke Weston's comment for more information.

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    9. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Adam Richards, visit their site with caution. It's been infected with a "direct pills" hack for literally months. Following links from Google will sometimes by-pass their site all together and take you to cheap viagra. Curiously the AVN is aware of this hack but have not fixed it. This is definitely an issue for privacy since they have a shop linked to their site and a "adverse event reporting form" all of which will contain private information. Very dodgy indeed.

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  6. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    I think this is a marvelous move - but it doesn't go nearly far enough.
    Lets change the Liberal Party's name to the Property Party. The Labour party should be changed to the Union Careerists Party. The Greens party should be the anti-Carbon Dioxide Party.
    The AMA should be called the Doctors Union and Restrictive Practices League. The ADF should be the Mercenaries for Politicians to Toady up to America. The Human Rights Commission should be the Don't Be Rude Authority. The Press Council should be the Wet Lettuce Wrist Slappers.
    A brave new world

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      (and "science denier" would be "general opposer of what anybody else said")

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  7. Stephen S Holden

    Associate Professor, Marketing at Bond University

    Raises a great issue - what's in a brand? Leaving aside all discussion of vaccination, should a brand be held to truly reflect what's being promoted? Is Greenpeace peaceful? Does Virgin Australia refer to the sexual inexperience of the pilots or the flightcrew or ? Does NAB refer to what the bank does to us? Do Mars Bars and Milky Ways come from out of space? To stray back towards health... can Public Health departments in Australia justify their title given their typically one-sided promotion of what is good for us such as promoting longevity over quality of life (think heroin/marijuana for medical use, euthanasia, etc.)? Should U. of Canberra's Centre for Research and Action in Public Health be concerned that its acronym is CRAP Health?

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Stephen S Holden

      "can Public Health departments in Australia justify their title given their typically one-sided promotion of what is good for us such as promoting longevity over quality of life" Really?

      Stephen S Holden - do you know anything at all about Public Health Departments in Australia? Ever met a Public Health clinician? Ever spoken to one?

      Public Health is about as far as one can get from what you allege - it;s about reducing the burden of infectious diseases and lifestyle issues such as smoking. Heroin and Euthanasia? Nothing to do with Public Health departments.

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    2. Stephen S Holden

      Associate Professor, Marketing at Bond University

      In reply to Stephen S Holden

      Sue, happy to speak with you. I'm sure I can always learn more about what is public health and what is not.

      My understanding is that public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, **prolonging life** and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals" (yep, straight out of Wikipedia except I highlighted the focus on prolonging life).

      That public health is much more concerned about…

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Stephen S Holden

      So, Stephen, even out of your wiki definition of public health, you highlight "prolonging life" over "the science and art of preventing disease, (prolonging life) and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals". By what understanding do you judge that the prolonging life bit is promoted at the cost of the others?

      The you say "That public health is much more concerned about my longevity than my QoL…

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  8. Mick Gilbert

    Observer

    The real issue here is that these AVN people are fools. Not only that, they are stupid fools.
    If they truly wanted to "protect" their children from the "dangers" of vaccination they would simply shut up and let everyone else get on with vaccinating their kids. That way, disease overall is reduced and there's less chance of their kids becoming infected.
    By arguing against vaccination for all they increase the risk for everyone – especially their unvaccinated kids.
    Anti-vaccs should take their movement underground if they're worried about some mythical threat. In the meantime, please keep your potentially infected little gromits away from my kids.

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    1. Eliza B

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Mick Gilbert

      If your kids are vaccinated, they won't get infected by 'little gromits'. Isn't that right? Isn't that why we vaccinated?

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    2. Mick Gilbert

      Observer

      In reply to Mick Gilbert

      Not if my child is 3 and hasn't gone through the full program of vaccinations, no.

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    3. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Mick Gilbert

      Lizzil, As with everything in science and medicine, it is more complicated than that. Many vaccines require more than one injection to take effect. Not all people respond to the vaccine with the same effficiency, the efficacy of vaccines varies. No vaccine is 100% effective. So even if we vaccinate everyone there are still weak points in community immunity which can be exploited by infectious disease.

      This is particularly critical for babies and young kids whe are either unvaccinated because…

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  9. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    It's worth pointing out here that of course Ms. Dorey (this "Network", much like the Westboro Baptist Church, is really mainly just one person with a mailing list and a website selling Scientology DVDs) is completely free to have her blog or website or Facebook page or whatever and to continue to post whatever rubbish she wants.

    But if she wants to have an Incorporated Association, and especially a Charitable Fundraising Authority, then she is bound by certain basic legal requirements regarding…

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  10. Michael Woodhead

    logged in via Twitter

    I think it's right that the AVN should be made to change their name and be more upfront about their anti-vaccination agenda. However, where do we draw the line? There are many other health-related lobby groups out there with deliberately vague or misleading names and hi-falutin titles. Many of them are funded by industry and/or professional groups with financial interests in pushing one particular approach or product. Maybe all such groups should be required to include a simple but prominent plain English summary of their funding sources and exactly what they support/oppose.

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  11. Paul Regis

    Business Analyst

    Most seem to agree that vaccines are a great tool in the fight against disease. Does anyone know what is at the heart of the anti vaccination network?
    I remember the MMR scandal in the UK where the lead physician against the vaccine was discredited. His "science" ultimately stemmed from a financial motivation and consequential self-interest.
    The AVN oppose vaccines, but why? Is it just sheer ignorance? They have an agenda but I cannot understand their motives. There's always a place for fair and reasoned debate, but this seems very odd.

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    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Paul Regis

      Paul, at the heart of the anti-vaccination network is a megalomaniac leader who has little regard for science or honesty but loves an adoring flock of acolytes who believe her every word. Spend some time going through the informative Australian skeptic podcasts and you'll find out all the sordid details of the antics of the AVN and the low regard they have for children and others with compromised immune systems – all because Dorey is essentially a conspiracy theorist who seems to style herself on the US crank, Jenny McCarthy, another anti-vaccine idiot.

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Paul Regis

      I don't know exactly what motivates the perpetual president of the AVN but I think many of her followers genuinely believe that their children have been damaged by vaccines, and have found some solace in the simplistic answers, combined with support, offered by that organisation.

      The AVN itself, viewed from outside, appears to have a president-treasurer (the only one they have ever had), a few admins on their FB page and a large number of members who do not seem to be organised.

      Human nature…

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  12. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Mark A,

    Speaking of polio - news this morning that 6 WHO workers have been massacred in Pakistan by the Taliban. They reckoned the WHO was sterilising muslims. I wonder if the Taliban has an anti-vax website.

    The sad thing about "surviving" polio is that - at least for some - it comes back in later life - suddenly and without warning. Vaccination - stopping this disease before it starts is the ONLY option.

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    1. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Taliban...antivaxers, Mmmm.

      The only thing we can thank polio for, is the establishment of intensive care medicine as a specialty, because there were just so many ventilator dependent patients during epidemics.

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  13. Eliza B

    logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

    Does this mean we can make major corporations change their names and tag lines and be more up front about what they are marketing to us? Surely big junk food marketing is a public health risk?

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    1. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Eliza B

      These changes have come about becuase the Dept of Fair Trading received numerous complaints from various people over an extended period. I see no reason why you can't apply to same method to other companies that you think are misleading the public.

      However as far as junk food goes, I don't think any reasonable person could be convinced that you are being misled into thinking their food is anything but (generally) bad for you. Especailly now places like Maccas declare their calorie count for every menu item.

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Eliza B

      Lizzil Gay - if a processed food or beverage industry group were calling itself and its website something like "Australian Nutrition Network" of course they should be regulated too. If you know of such organisations, why not lodge a complaint?

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  14. Laurie Willberg

    Journalist

    @Rhianna Miles
    Here's the phony link: http://australianvaccinationnetwork.org/
    It seems that the reactions of Australian Skeptics are way out of proportion to information on the real AVN website -- sort of like a pile of Chicken Littles proclaiming that the "sky is falling" because someone dares to question the status quo pronouncements of the benefits of vaccines (never mentioning the risks at all by the way). I don't see any medical association websites posting any actual vaccine studies whatsoever…

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    1. Guy Taylor

      IT Professional

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      "It seems that the reactions of Australian Skeptics are way out of proportion to information on the real AVN website "

      Really? The information on the AVN site is completely misleading. I don't believe pointing this out as being an over reaction.

      "I find that skeptic groups worldwide have a knee-jerk affirmation policy regarding any status-quo issues pertaining to established industry. Since they do no actual research their views are highly suspect."

      Really? There are plenty of skeptical…

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    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Laurie, you must be a shill for Big Bollocks and Big Denial.

      I find that anti-vaccine journalists worldwide have a knee-jerk denial policy regarding any status quo issues pertaining to evidence-based medicine. Since they do no actual research their views are highly suspect.

      See, it cuts both ways Laurie only you don't have the evidence on your side.

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    3. Laurie Willberg

      Journalist

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      It's interesting that there are no quotes from or links to material that is allegedly being complained about.
      There are plenty of allegations, but no facts.
      I find it interesting that a non-profit organization that has nothing material to gain from the information it provides is being attacked by what could be perceived as mouthpieces for an industry that has billions of dollars to lose -- that has already LOST a huge segment of public confidence.

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    4. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Oh dear Laurie, your conspiracy theories are showing; "mouthpieces for an industry that has billions of dollars to lose.." Which one is that exactly? You can see my disclosure statement on the left of this page. I don't receive any money from Big Pharma if that is what you are implying.

      As for you comment re: non-profit organization, the AVN turns over about $280,000 per year and pays Meryl Dorey editors fees for a magazine that is supposed to be published 6 x a year but has only been published twice in 2012, once in 2011, and twice in 2010.

      See http://www.dilutedthinking.com/avn_finstat.php

      The AVN are happy to collect subs and return nothing. They continue to advertise subs on their Big Pharma hacked website but they don't deliver. See http://www.dilutedthinking.com/avn_livingwisdom.php

      So your assertion that the AVN has "nothing material to gain from the information it provides" is a furphy. A but fat one at that.

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    5. Guy Taylor

      IT Professional

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      "...that has already LOST a huge segment of public confidence. "

      Yes, it's been lost purely because of the misinformation spread by groups such as the AVN. Well crafted lies and propaganda can sway public opinion...

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    6. Rhianna Miles

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Hi Laurie. Only just found your reply since it's not on the thread we were discussing it. I can't see any evidence that blog is linked to Australian Skeptics. Can you point it out for me?

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    7. Rhianna Miles

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      Oh, and as far as "pronouncements of the benefits of vaccines (never mentioning the risks at all by the way). I don't see any medical association websites posting any actual vaccine studies whatsoever"

      Let's look at the immunise Australia website and the immunistion handbook:
      http://immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook-home

      There's 73 references in the HPV page, 59 in the pertussis page (I suggest you read it - it may help you understand the current epidemiology of pertussis), 41 references for rotavirus........are you seriously saying that nobody provides any information on actual vaccine studies. The most obvious place to look for them is overflowing. Risks vs benefits and all.

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  15. Blair Donaldson

    logged in via Twitter

    Congrats on the excellent work Dr Rachie and the SAVN, it's just a pity the relevant government departments took so long to bring Meryl Dorey to account for her dangerous, deceptive and intellectually bankrupt behaviour.

    It's nice to see a win for science-based medicine.

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  16. Debra Joan Smith

    Account Executive

    Amazingly wonderful. My only question is: Did all the common sense in the world flee to Austalia?
    Your future generations will thank you.

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  17. Dan Smith

    Network Engineer

    "Greenpeace is not green, nor do they go around looking for peace…"

    I know, right? This is a NATIONAL DISGRACE. Other examples I've collected recently in my outraged dealings with the so-called "real world":

    - Coles. Nobody there was able to sell me so much as a single Cole. Ideally I was after a Porter, but would have settled for a discounted Trickle, from Days of Thunder. No dice.

    - Subway. As the 5:15 train from Central is usually packed, I thought I'd embark on a foot-long Turkey & Ham. The thing came apart before I'd even sat down, and there was thousand-island dressing on my seat, courtesy of some hooligan.

    - The Good Guys. I wanted someone nice for my sister*, but this place is a barnful of false advertising. The only person who'd talk to me was a large, sweaty man boasting an unhealthy obsession with white goods.

    Not good enough. I'm off to the Pill-Dispensing Emporium to get something for my headache.

    * Full Disclosure: I have no sister.

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    1. Dan Smith

      Network Engineer

      In reply to Dan Smith

      Gold!

      Are you available for a Channel 10 pilot next year, "The Farmer Wants An Imaginary Wife"? I can't guarantee it will be watchable, but that doesn't seem to be a dealbreaker for them at the moment.

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  18. Geoff Taylor

    Consultant

    As someone who had polio as a child, before Salk and Sabin did their marvellous work, for me the positives of vaccination far outweigh the negatives.
    I think those I know who were made deaf from rubella exposure in pregnancy would also agree.
    To the AVN, you only really appreciate safety measures when you experience the lack of them firsthand.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      Precisely Geoff.

      It's very simple to do a field trial of life without vaccination ... a visit to Pakistan or India or pretty much anywhere in Africa ... where one will see horrendous damage done to individuals and where outbreaks of epidemics are a constant menace.

      I'd suspect no one associated with AVN has ever bothered to look or notice.

      At the core of this AVN nonsense is the refusal by these self-centred individuals to take a tiny individual risk of an adverse reaction, for an obvious benefit for the whole population. It's nothing but narcissism and fabrication.

      We've already had a couple of outbreaks of whooping cough in the "hippie belt" in Northern NSW in recent years. Perhaps this mob would like to bring back smallpox to prove their "point".

      I agree with others here - no school for unvaccinated kids, no public financial support either.

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      Of course a parent with an autistic child which they believe due to vaccination would say the same thing: you only really appreciate the downsides of vaccination when you experience them first hand. I should add I don't know if some vaccination practices might be behind the rise in autism, but I don't think sufficient research has been done to discount that possibility. Unfortunately if it were the case that a preventable risk of autism did result from certain vaccines or methods of vaccination, such is the money involved we would never be able to admit it or to introduce safer methods. As a species we would it find more acceptable to have a low percentage of neural damage to infants than embarrass either the bank balances of the pharmaceutical shareholders or the reputations of the medical profession.

      Polio vaccine is an oral vaccine is it? I would have thought that would have allayed most of the usual concerns.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      Sean Lamb - you say "I should add I don't know if some vaccination practices might be behind the rise in autism, but I don't think sufficient research has been done to discount that possibility." On what basis do you think that?

      The fact is, the now-debunked assertion by Wakefield and colleagues that autism could be causally linked with MMR vaccine sent ASD researchers down the rabbit hole of looking for a causal association - they found none. Perhaps you don't think sufficient research has been done in this area, but the Austism Science Foundation does - see their comments here:

      http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/autismandvaccines.html

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    4. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      Dr Ieraci, my point was simply that as a species we would place higher weight on protecting medical reputation and pharmaceutical profits than a small increase in autism.

      So if there was a link between certain vaccination methods and autism, science would be helpless to investigate it, since science is not immune to the power structures of human society.

      I have no insight whether there is a link or not, not being a scientist. I just see potential for such a link, if anecdotal evidence or the lived experience of parents suggest it. I can't say they are right, I just don't dismiss them.

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    5. Dave Hawkes

      Postdoctoral Researcher (Viral tools and Neuropeptides) at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      Sean,
      Can you please give an example of something that science has not investigated because of "the power structures of human society" please.
      Scientists do not dismiss parental concerns, they investigate them. Systems have been set up to investigate and monitor the anecdotal evidence of parents and in the past these systems have been used to pick up problems with a particular vaccine, no vaccine has been linked to autism, and there have been many many studies cited elsewhere in these comments that demonstrate that autism rates are not higher in vaccinated populations.

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      Sean: "my point was simply that as a species we would place higher weight on protecting medical reputation and pharmaceutical profits than a small increase in autism."

      As a SPECIES we would do that? So, human evolution would favour "medical reputation and pharmaceutical profits"?

      And the entire medical profession, from early childhood nurse and GP to neonatologist and immunologist, to paediatric nurse, would all conspire to hide the truth about something that harms children?

      Do you seriously think that, or have I missed the satire?

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    7. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Geoff Taylor

      "Can you please give an example of something that science has not investigated because of "the power structures of human society" please."

      Not be investigated or, and potentially more dangerous, a false explanation introduced instead. A non investigation always leaves a hole that potentially can be investigated at a more propitious time, the effects of a false explanation can be far more insidious. As a scientist yourself you would be aware that while some scientific fields, eg structural biology…

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  19. Michael Vagg

    Clinical Senior Lecturer at Deakin University School of Medicine & Pain Specialist at Barwon Health

    It's important to note from a free speech point of view that the underlying reason for this order is NOT to stifle all forms of comment, but to specifically identify an NGO which provides misleading health information to the general public.

    It would not matter what Ms Dorey's organization was called if it was not making health-related educational claims.

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    1. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Michael Vagg

      Thanks for that clarification Mick. It's also important to reiterate what Luke Weston said somewhere else on this thread, which is that there are rules and regulations set by Dept of Fair Trading and if the AVN wants to put Inc after their name then they have to abide by them. It's really not that complicated.

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  20. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    Sean,

    Below somewhere here you state: "As a species we would it find more acceptable to have a low percentage of neural damage to infants than embarrass either the bank balances of the pharmaceutical shareholders or the reputations of the medical profession."

    This is a distorted view - it pretends that the ONLY benefits of vaccination accrue to pharmaceutical companies and the egos of quacks. It's like a cost benefit analysis in which the overwhelming benefit is ignored.

    In fact one of…

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    1. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I am sure you are right, the overall equation of vaccination is positive.
      All I am saying if vaccinations, despite a net positive cost-analysis, were causing a level of autism, we would attempt to conceal that from ourselves and the most hegemonic tool to do that would be science.
      Or I should say science and shouting abuse at any outfit that attempted to highlight the fact.

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    2. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Sean, if vaccinations "were causing a level of autism", that would emerge in the large studies that followed Wakefield's allegations. You can review the evidence here:
      http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/autismandvaccines.html

      Wakefield's initial suggestions were not met with abuse, but with research. It was after his motivation and methods had been exposed, and no relationship found in the follow-up research, that the discrediting of Wakefield occurred. Not just by shouting, but by evidence.

      What do you think would motivate early childhood nurses, paediatricians and GPs to wish to conceal harm to children?

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    3. Dan Smith

      Network Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I disagree; I think science would be the worst possible tool to use if you were trying to enforce a hegemony. Scientists have much to gain -- peer recognition, further funding -- from challenging established ideas, rather than, say, producing fraudulent research to support the agendas of potential litigants ...

      As a scientist, if you're going to pull a Lysenko, you need supplementary hegemonic power behind you, supporting your pernicious agenda. Just publishing controversial rubbish won't cut…

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    4. Rachael Dunlop

      Post-doctoral fellow at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Wakefield sent science on a wild goose chase after a theory that he had fabricated for his own personal gain. So much time and so many resources wasted which could have been directed to finding the true causes of autism. What a disgrace.

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    5. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Wakefield sent science on a wild goose chase after a theory that he had fabricated for his own personal gain"

      I don't think that is true and I think the way he has been hounded is tends to underline my point about the ability of power structures to distort science. After all, if any medical professional did have some concerns about aspects of vaccination, with the chilling example of Dr Wakefield before his/her eyes he/she might well think it better to say nothing.

      I personally don't think Dr Wakefield was correct, but the right to get things wrong is very important in a functioning scientific community .

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  21. Comment removed by moderator.