AVN may be closing doors; Meryl Dorey stepping down

By Phil Plait | February 2, 2010 10:45 pm

We have another MAJOR win for reality and skepticism, folks. And this is a good one: Meryl Dorey just announced she’s stepping down as head of the Anti Australian Vaccination Network, and that the AVN itself may shut down.

Ah, the hits keep on a-comin’.

Regular readers may remember Ms. Dorey, that hero of the antivaxxers who has twisted the truth about vaccinations so much it’s shocking her tongue hasn’t turned into a Möbius strip. She has said no one dies from pertussis anymore… when little four-week-old Dana McCaffery died of that very disease, because herd immunity in her area of Australia was so low. Dorey is an HIV denier. She thinks doctors lie and poison babies. She viciously defames those who disagree with her. It goes on and on.

The timing of this announcement is very interesting, seeing as how the Australian Skeptics have been hammering at Dorey and the AVN, and in fact Dorey and the AVN may be held accountable for breaking Australian laws about dispensing medical advice without a license; they are currently under investigation by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission.

They’ve also been getting a lot of negative publicity, which is the very, very least that they deserve. My friend, the tireless Rachael Dunlop, has been instrumental in exposing the truth about Meryl Dorey, and is largely responsible for holding Dorey’s and the AVN’s feet to the fire.

Reading Dorey’s statement on the AVN blog is actually rather interesting. She says:

I am getting older; my children have missed out on so much so I could run the AVN; and at this stage in my existence, I need to be able to work on this subject and still have a life. Without a large injection of capital behind me, I simply cannot continue.

In other words, she’s leaving to spend more time with her family. Hmmmm. Also, her use of the word "injection" nearly made every molecule in my irony gland explode at the speed of light.

OK, no more snark. Dorey, in that blog post, is asking someone to step up and take her place. I have no doubt someone will, so I expect the AVN will go on without her, spreading their falsehoods, slathering their fearmongering over an unsuspecting and trusting audience, and helping thousands of Australian babies be exposed to pertussis, measles, mumps, polio, and all sorts of other preventable diseases that would have been otherwise eradicated by simple vaccinations.

I can hope, though, that without Dorey’s voice, the AVN will be far weaker, and if the charges against them hold up, they may fall apart entirely. That would be a very good thing indeed.

So whaddya know? Dorey claims she wants to save people’s lives. This move on on her part may finally do it.

Tip o’ the syringe to HappySinger and the Young Australian Skeptics for this news.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Piece of mind

Comments (76)

  1. Marion Delgado

    Someday soon we need another term besides herd immunity. I deal with this stuff in non-net life, and good people get really turned off when I bring up herd immunity (and free riders, and virgin fields, and so on, but that’s aversion to jargon and technical terms). They don’t like to think of people as herd animals.

    Pack immunity? 😉

  2. Pi-Needles

    Good news everybody! 😀

    [/Professor Farnsworth voice off.]

    @ 1. Marion Delgado Says:

    Someday soon we need another term besides herd immunity. I deal with this stuff in non-net life, and good people get really turned off when I bring up herd immunity (and free riders, and virgin fields, and so on, but that’s aversion to jargon and technical terms). They don’t like to think of people as herd animals. Pack immunity?

    But we *are* herd animals! 😉

    (Or what collective noun you wish to choose. ‘Pack’ sounds like wolves, ‘troop’ suits primates but is a bit military for my liking, ‘flock’ is for the birds, ‘pod’ has been taken, etc .. No ‘herd’ will do me fine.)

    Change terms to suit the squeamish & humour-challenged? Nah. It is what it is & trying to euphemise it ain’t going to do much other than create needless confusion.

    Ignoring the reality that we are also animals is pointless and I, for one, am not ashamed of my animal nature. I know many animals that are better company and more “decent” as I understand it than some people are incl. some of our erstwhile political leaders. 😉

  3. Bruce

    This is great! First global warming was shown to be complete garbage, and now the antivaxxers’ lies are being exposed too!

  4. Jonathan

    err, “group immunity” ?

  5. @Dianne_

    Poignant timing with Dana McCaffery’s birth one year ago on the fifth of February and her untimely death on the 9th of March. Thanks to the tireless campaigning of her parents, The Australian Skeptics this is a win for all Australian parents, reason and science. Well done to all involved.


  6. Dorey, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya – I don’t want ass prints on that door.

    Bruce @ #4: Wow, didn’t take long for you to show up. Now un-show up.

  7. Ha-ha [/Nelson]

    Seriously, that is potentially excellent news. Of course it depends on what happens, and who takes over from her, but it’s a good thing nonetheless 8)

  8. Bruce

    @ Victor #7:

    Interesting. You are skeptical about the antivaxxers’ lies, but not about the warm-mongers’ lies. The warm-mongers even admit they lied about the Himalaya glacier melting. Time to face reality: global warming is the scam of the century.

  9. Gary Ansorge

    Unfortunately, AVN is like cockroaches. The more you step on, the faster they breed. Plus they can go 30 days w/o food or water. Look for Jenny to step up and provide an “injection” of capital.

    To the Australian Skeptics:

    GOOD ON YA,,,(hope that’s right).

    GAry 7

  10. Scott

    Let’s not be sore winners.

  11. The Sequinned Avenger stood on the rooftop, gazing across the city. It was peaceful tonight. Perhaps it was the warm glow of the setting sun, but the world seemed a safer, happier place than it had a year ago.

    “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”, he affirmed pensively under his breath.

    Yes, Dorey will continue to froth and bubble with more outrage than sense. Yes, the AVN is not necessarily being wound up. Yes, if enough donors cough up, the AVN may continue. Yes, Dying Ignorance may continue as a magazine. Yes, the AVN is only one organisation among many. Yes, public opinion still opposes evidence-based medicine to a shameful extent.

    But damn. This is good news: the AVN can’t survive without Trumpetface’s humiliating resignation threats.

    Tonight, I’ll be raising a glass to Toni and David McCaffery and enjoying the wonderful news.

    Tomorrow, the Sequinned Avenger will be back hunting, ridiculing and counteracting woo wherever it hides. But tonight, he will sleep with a smile on his face.

    The world just got better.

    Sincere thanks to Daniel Raffaele for launching Stop The AVN and the countless folk who have taken part, including some giant contributors who know I love them.

    Thanks also to Phil for his steady solidarity, and his readers and Twitter followers for their support.

  12. reasonablehank

    Thank you for your support Phil. I see this as a starting point. Within one year we have taken down the biggest anti-vaccinationist organisation in Australia. We have relied on nothing but good people, hard work, facts and the law.

    Kudos to Toni and David McCaffery for providing the strength.

    For Dana.

    What a great week.

  13. Eric Howe

    “Herd immunity” too animal for people? How about “community immunity”? Or is that too much like “conjunction junction, what’s your function?”?

  14. I got the fright of my life when Phil told us the news. I leave the interntez for a few hours to go teach critical thinking to kids and this happens?!!!

    Many people have been responsible for this wonderful news today – Phil being one of them. It goes to show you that tenacity, hard work and grass roots scepticism can make a difference.

    It sounds to me that she has made up her mind to resign, even if the money does come in. This may not mean the end of the AVN completely, but without her as a talking head, they will be half the beast they were.

    This is a serious blow. Congratulations to everyone involved. I going for a big drink (just as soon as science is done with me for the day).

  15. *Sniff* Smells like victory. No time to rest on our laurels though. There are more woo-meisters, quacks, and snake oil salesmen to fight off. Ever vigilant, skeptics!

  16. jcm

    Even if AVN shuts down, it might pop up some where else.

  17. Ausduck

    I agree with reasonablehank @13. A great week for science and reason.
    And a timely one – thank you again to Toni and David McCaffrey for their strength and grace.

    But could I add that the campaign also had some non-members of Australian Skeptics involved. Not trying to diminish the importance of the group, just want to tip my hat to those grass root skeptics that aren’t members (yet?? I live in hope :) )

    I’d also like to add that there is also an investigation in to the AVN currently underway by the NSW Office of Gaming, Liquor and Racing – believe it or not this is the govt authority that regulates charitable organisations in NSW. This is a separate investigation to the NSW HCCC investigation and is looking at possible breaches of the laws/regulations governing charitable bodies including provision of information re donations. Again, this investigation is the result of a complaint.

    Thanks Phil for your your support. And thank you to all that dare to be skeptical in the true meaning of the word.

  18. Ken

    @1 – I dont know … I think I like the sound of a free ride through a virgin field that has herd immunity.

    It just sounds sexxxy!

  19. Ausduck

    @17 : Jen, they probable won’t go away completely, but they will have lost their driving force and public persona. Any media savvy person will tell you what a blow that is. And nothing is ever over with these types pf organisations and this type of thinking. Which is why we of the skeptical persuasion must be ever vigilant and continue to expose the logical fallacies and misinformation as it appears. And we must also continue to present the good, science based evidence.
    (My apologies all, I didn’t mean to come off sounding like Churchill there!)

  20. Katie Brockie

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! what we have been working for has been achieved.

  21. I wish to echo the sentiments of @ausduck that many more people than just the Australian Skeptics have been involved in this campaign. A collective of lower case australian skeptics have made this happen.

    But Daniel Raffaele deserves a special mention. He has been instrumental in making this happen, as the founder of “Stop the AVN”.

    Ken McLeod independently submitted the complaint to the HCCC (the findings of which are expected to be handed down any day soon).

    Dick Smith paid for a full page ad to run in a national newspaper back in May, then did all the media to follow up.

    Plus many, many letters have been written, complaints submitted to television and radio stations, talk back radio shows called, podcasts recorded, articles/blog written etc. Hours of research and man hours have made this happen. The campaign has been relentless. I’m not surprised she has had enough.

    Thanks to all the bloggers like Phil and Steve Novella who have also been big supporters of this campaign.

  22. Frank E.

    #4,9- Are you for real, or just a cheap masochist hoping Phil will spank you on a free site?

    I can’t help but feel empathy for the bewildered parents of autistic kids as they look for reason. The snake oil salesmen and hucksters that prey on victims fears, exposing us all to pathogens, are criminals. They deserve a public beating, not just a web posted one like the anti global warming threaders do.

  23. I’ll send her an injection of cash alternative (since injections are just the tools of the devil and evil baby murdering doctors): homoeopathic money.

    That is some water that was once exposed to money, but has had the money component so diluted that only the memory of the money remains in the solution.

    It’s a viable option to money surely if it follows homoeopathic concepts?

    My thoughts on these anti-vaccine nutcases.

  24. Glen from Australia

    Well done to all those involved in crippling such a heinous network. If there were a medal for your efforts, you’d certainly deserve it. I await with baited breath on the NSW ACCC decision.

  25. molybdenumfist

    Just saw this on FB… woohooo!!!
    …and Gary @10, sounds about right mate

  26. David McCaffery

    @ 21 And ‘you’ Doctor Rachie and your merry band of Zoners.

    Phil, Dan and everyone who work for reason have our unending respect.

    Thank you! From my little Dana and the family.

  27. I hate to rain on the parade – and I will rejoice if the promised event occurs, but some bitter cynic in my says that Meryl is fishing for accolades from her followers after a year of losses and will reluctantly agree to stay on (particularly if a gullible financial backer appears).

    I sincerely hope that AVN comes to an end – and soon, they are causing too much grief with their fundamentalist anti-vax approach. Perhaps we could help them along by buying ‘Living Wisdom’ fill it with science-based medicine and use it to educate that hard-core cadre of anti-vaxxers about the damage they are doing to their fellow citizens.

    It is interesting that Meryl posted her ‘resignation’ on the same day that one of the Nation’s largest newspapers published this: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/anti-jab-stance-puts-community-in-jeopardy/story-e6frg8y6-1225826079397

  28. “Social immunity”?

  29. Michel

    What a good news to start the day!

  30. I may have “accidentally” written a satire about the whole incident. I hope the folks at the AVN don’t mind, I wouldn’t want them to get angry or anything: http://www.naontiotami.com/?p=1168

  31. Merijn

    Luckily I didn’t have my mouth full of coffee when reading ‘injection’ in a sentence uttered by her! Thank you for your update!

  32. llewelly

    Also, her use of the word “injection” nearly made every molecule in my irony gland explode at the speed of light.

    That’s why I no longer use irony meters. I got sick of being irradiated when some denier of germ theory, evolution, or AGW made a statement like that.

  33. llewelly

    Remember when Oral Roberts announced that God would “call him home” if he didn’t raise $8 million by March? I see this announcement in a similar light.

    Although I believe it is a clear sign of weakness at the AVN, I also think Meryl Dorey is probably not planning on stepping down; she is hoping her supporters will continue to lead the network so much that they will pour in enough funds to enable her remain at her position.

  34. mike burkhart

    This is good news If you want proof that we need vacines let me tell you about the time I had chicken pox. I got it when I was in 2nd grade during spring brake I recoverd and went back to school and gave it to 4 other kids in my class there is now a vacine for chicken pox I wish it was around then

  35. Daniel J. Andrews

    As Grendel (24) points out, this may be a bid for a cash injection (jab?), as in “Support AVN or we’ll close the doors”. Good work by the realists in putting pressure on the AVN. Thank you.

  36. Whilst I agree that this may be a ‘cry for help’ rather than a threat, the fact remains that Ms Dorey has lost much support, including having advertisers desert her in droves, since we began this campaign.

    In 17 years, she has never had this much dissent and criticism. This has resulted in the media questioning her knowledge, research and authority. Whether or not the AVN close, their reputation has been seriously damaged. They will likely never have the status in this country which they previously held.

    There remain 2 complaints pending with the Health Care Complaints Commission, and one with the Office of Liquor and Gaming (regarding her charity licence). This is in addition to increasingly negative publicity on radio, in press and in blogs. If you Google Ms Dorey (as Meryl Dorey) now, you will find more criticism than praise.

    It may be a small step, but it is a step in the right direction.

  37. Great start to the day! This is going up as a repost on Facts, not Fantasy as well.

  38. SLC

    Re Bruce @ #4

    This is great! First global warming was shown to be complete garbage, and now the antivaxxers’ lies are being exposed too!

    I see that the Marc Morano sockpuppets are out again.

  39. Katharine

    Indeed, the internecine warfare among anti-science people is rather funny.

  40. This is excellent news, Phil.

    We are lucky in Greece at least in that respect. Although there is a lot of woo, at least the anti-vax woo is quite low to nonexistent, and more than 90% of people are vaccinated.

  41. gopher65

    I use the word “tribal” to describe humans, because traditionally we don’t live in a herd. And really, we still don’t. We live in a tribe (our close associates and family), next to 10’s of thousands of other tribes.

    I’d describe a “herd” as something that happens when you have thousands of mostly non-related individuals that group together for protection.

    A “pack” is when you have a closeknit group of individuals who group together for hunting.

    Humans fall into neither of those categories, so I call them tribal. It’s a better fit in my mind.

  42. brian j. parker

    Without a large injection of capital behind me, I simply cannot continue.

    I agree with those who see this as more of a hopeful plea for money than a willingness to step down.

  43. Pepijn Schmitz

    How about flange immunity?

  44. I’m of two minds about this. First, though, it’s great that the AVN may go away completely. The tiny little pessimist in me, though, fears it will go the way of other pseudoscience organizations – close doors, get a new name and resume the same old crap. As to Dorey stepping down, that may be both a good thing and a bad thing. Good in that her “fame” (infamy?) can’t be used to spread her misinformation. Bad in that someone a bit more sane may take the reins. Dorey was a pretty easy target, what with her support of things like Icke’s lizard overlord conspiracy.

    At any rate, congrats to the Australian Skeptics, Stop AVN, the McCafferys, Dr. Rachie and all the others! Excellent work!

  45. I sorta kinda went off-line for a few weeks and when I come back I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe. Wakefield’s paper withdrawn and Dorey (maybe) stepping away? For god’s sake don’t wake me.

    Kudos to everybody involved.

  46. @toddW, let me assure you, if they pop up as something else, we know them, what they do, and where they preach. They will not be left alone.

  47. @Dr Rachie
    Just like whack’a’mole but less fun?
    Sic ’em.

  48. Bubba

    Sadly, last night on the NYC Fox affiliate, they ran a story about a couple whose son is autistic and they, of course, blamed vaccinations. Even though they had a scientist on to say that a connection between vaccinations and autism has been proven to not exist, the story was way too sympathetic to the family’s point of view. If only the attitude of Australians made it over here.

  49. This could make a lot of mini Doreys scattered all across Oz.

  50. PrimevilKneivel

    Population Immunity

    I too have been bother by the term “herd immunity”. Herd and sheep references have been a staple of the paranoid and by using terms that play into that (though they may be accurate) reinforces their position that Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big actually healing people rather than fleecing them for as much money as they can, just want us to be blind followers.

  51. Katharine

    We ARE a herd animal, though, at least most humans. People just don’t like to think it.

    Human psychology is pretty depressing.

  52. Katharine

    Next group to tackle: animal rights activists. Animal welfare is all well and good, but they think rats are people. It’s a little disturbing.

  53. Matthew

    Complaints about scientists using the term “herd immunity” for humans are exactly as feeble as those about “them folks with fancy book learnin’ what say we come descended from monkies”.

  54. Katie B

    I like “population immunity”.

  55. Ron

    #57 Katharine said: “Next group to tackle: animal rights activists. Animal welfare is all well and good, but they think rats are people. It’s a little disturbing.”

    I agree. The peta mindset actually discredits the cause of animal welfare. I heard one of their speakers say that they believe a cat is immoral for killing a mouse. He went on to say that humans should become “moral interveners” and save mice from cats.

  56. Tristan Heydt

    Working as I do at a peepshow and porno theater in San Francisco, everytime I read “AVN” it makes me giggle a little inside; I know it as Adult Video News, a porn industry news magazine.

  57. Davros

    how about somthing with some punch

    Team Super Immunity !

    Ultra Immune Squad!

    Megga Immunity league !

    I can just imagine the Saturday morning cartoon
    stickers, toys,lunch boxes, movies

    some one call Hasbro stat

  58. It sure is a great time for skeptics right now. All of our heroes are winning! If I had some photo-shop skills I would make a poster with James Randi as Superman smashing the bomb dowsing rods, Steven Novella as Batman capturing Andrew Wakefield, and Dr. Rachie as Wonder Woman with Meryl Dorey caught in the magic Lasso. Dr. Plait would of course be Green Lantern, flying around with some moon landing denier caught with his power ring. Way to go, you are all awesome!

  59. MadScientist

    I read Dorey’s statement as “I’m bored and no one wants to pay me to shill for diseases”.

  60. I’m tempted to go across and comment on her blog only I am fairly certain that they are not very tolerant of dissenting views over there. At least any dissenting view seems to get deleted fairly fast. . .

  61. Markle

    Count me among the guardedly skeptical. Shades of Oral Roberts. Strong smell of the threats of Web Forum-suicide trolling. Some anonymous ‘faithful donor’ suggesting a tithe to the cause accompanied by a tearful story of family sorrow. This just smells fishy.

    Still, with the threat of sanctions hanging over her head, perhaps it’s just a wily escape maneuver. “Hey look Commissioner, I’ve shut it down. Go easy.”

    And I’ll throw in with some version of Population Immunity. It’s people oriented and it’s more important to bring those discomfited with the comparison to animals into the tent than to stick with a historically accurate term.

  62. fred edison

    Dorey certainly sounds pleased to have been an integral part of making more people disease carriers and helping to sicken (and kill) babies who can’t be vaccinated because of their young age. What a great accomplishment for someone who would have to be incredibly narrow-minded and unbelievably selfish to be proud of her role in the AVN. And someone probably would fill her shoes because ignorance is contagious. Some people ‘down unda’ can’t and won’t see the forest for the trees.

  63. Katharine

    I have the silly verse impulse, so.

    This is Why You’re Stupid

    Maybe your abilities aren’t up to comprehension
    Of the science to which we who get it must bring your attention
    Or perhaps you’ve been hoodwinked or fooled or just deluded
    By your parents or your clergy or your party who can’t prove
    Their own opinions, ’cause they’re fools themselves or maybe they need money
    Or maybe they’re just conmen who may think it’s really funny
    But whether you’re a moron or a fool, it should be clear
    That to people with a brain, your head is stuck inside your rear

  64. Greg in Austin

    Something close to home:
    Cases of Whooping Cough on the Rise in Hays County


  65. Damn I hate being right: http://www.northernstar.com.au/story/2010/02/05/vaccine-lobby-group-at-risk/

    From her local newspaper:”RUMOURS the Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network is about to close down may be premature, according to its president, Meryl Dorey.”

    Rumours – what rumours? She made the bloody announcement herself!

  66. Grendel (70): There’s nothing new there; Dorey said in her post that if funds came in the AVN might continue. That’s why I said the AVN might shut down when I wrote about it.

  67. Karen

    Sorry but had to laugh that the AVN needed a ‘large INJECTION of capital’.

  68. Susan

    Deja vu. A few years back the AVN announced it was closing its doors due to financial problems. The floodgates opened and many thousands of dollars donated. It doesn’t surprise me that it is happening again. If the AVN survives then in a few years time we will be back here again. I doubt the organisation will survive without Meryl. It has essentially been a one woman show since its creation. Most members, as with many other groups, are happy to pay their dues but don’t want to get involved in the day to day affairs. Those who do are often the fanatics, with level headed ones few and far between – and they give up after a while when they come to realise just how crazy some members are. From someone who knows.

  69. I’ve just been over to the AVN site – is it just me or has a lot of recent material been deleted?

  70. Vigilant

    Fact: Thimersol is used in most vaccines. It has been suggested that Thimersol is the second most deadly heavy metal known to mankind. You only need 1 part per billion for it to cause damage to the brain. Mercury goes straight to the brain.
    Go ahead, prove me wrong. I dare you!

    Fact: Aluminium is used in vaccines. Have you done away with the use of aluminium pots and pans? If you have, why would you have done that?

    Fact: Formaldehyde is used in vaccines. Do you have carpet or get your clothes dry-cleaned or have plastic in your home? Have you ever done any research on the safety dosage of Formaldehyde? Have there been any long term studies (say 1000 years like the Chinese) to say that it is totally safe for the body?

    Now if anyone wants to argue with me about the safety dosage for any of these ingredients, feel free to do so but first, I want you to conduct an experiment on yourself.
    Yes, you.
    Inject all three of these ingredients at regular intervals into your body, (equivalent to what a baby would receive in its first 12 months in a vaccine).
    You heard me.

    If you can do this without any long term ill effects on your health, that’s great, you just keep on injecting yourself with that stuff but don’t try and tell me that vaccines are 100% effective and safe until they have been around for at least 1000 years. (we have been around a lot longer than that but I just thought 1000 was a nice round number)

  71. Andrew

    Vigilant: Are you spoofing the antivaccine liars, or are you serious?


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