The AVN falsehoods keep on a-comin'

By Phil Plait | August 4, 2010 7:16 am

stop_the_avn_logoMeryl Dorey, head of the flailing Australian Vaccination Network — an organization dedicated to twisting the truth about vaccines and saying anything at all to scare people into an antivax stance — has once again put fingers to keyboard, and as usual the truth eludes her.

She wrote a lengthy essay about her dealings with Toni and David McCaffery, who lost their four week old infant Dana to pertussis two years ago.

I hardly need to point out that her interpretation of reality doesn’t come within a glancing blow of it; you can read what Dorey wrote, and then compare it to Toni McCaffery’s response detailing what really happened, and why Dorey is so wrong.

I also received a note from David McCaffery about a terrific site that helps educate people about vaccines: Chain of Protection. They have really good videos describing benefits of vaccinations. Here’s the one about herd immunity which shows just why it’s important:

Herd Immunity – How it works from Chain of Protection on Vimeo.

Check out the site. It’s what Meryl Dorey wouldn’t want you to do.

Related posts:

AVN now getting routinely publicly humiliated
Australian skeptics jeer Meryl Dorey
Major step against antivaxxers in Australia
The AVN is reaping what they sowed
Australian skeptics strike back against antivaxxers


Comments (66)

  1. Astrofiend

    Man, if Dorey tried that on me after I’d lost a baby, I would literally have to inject her in the eye with a smallpox filled syringe.

  2. The AVN and Dorey were slammed again on Lateline on the ABC tonight. They’re now being asked to justify their status as a charity and have 28 days to respond to the Government.
    The NSW Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing look after charities and they’ve asked the AVN about:
    Fundraising without an authority
    Unauthorised expenditure
    Failure to keep proper records of income

    One thing that was nice to hear is they are now being referred to as an “anti vaccination organisation”.

    Hopefully in the next day or so a vodcast of the story should be available here…

  3. The Lateline segment is already on YouTube, thanks to the lovely Sc00ter:

    Stop The AVN on Facebook:

  4. This quote from Dorey is quite telling:

    “We find it amazing that some people firmly believe that God was not perfect. Apparently, according to these people, God forgot to add the heavy toxic metals, pig cells, chicken cells etc that are found in vaccines.”

    Ok, even putting to the side that pig cells, chicken cells, etc aren’t in vaccines, she seems to be stating a “God made us this way, who does Medical Science think they are coming up with cures that God doesn’t provide” viewpoint. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that she’d take that view.

  5. Arrrghgh…Facebook fail. No access from work to read the McCaffrey’s response.

    I did see that Dorey saw fit to put in a large section about all the families she’s cried with due to vaccine injury…blah blah blah…

    Couldn’t just straight up defend herself without pushing her agenda.

  6. ausduck

    Further to #2

    The OLGR have also noted other breaches of the Charities Act, and will be referring their concerns to the NSW Department of Justice and the NSW Attorney General. For those US colleagues that is similar to your District Attorneys. Some serious legal pwnage may be on the cards.

    This whole saga is an example of what grass root skeptics can achieve (whether they identify as such or not), and there certainly has been a dedicated bunch of people from all backgrounds and professions, concerned citizens all, over here in Australia. Thank you to everyone!

    And thank you Phil, for your continued support as well.

  7. Is anyone aware of AVN getting any support from the US’s cesspool of equally odious groups, like Generation Rescue, the National Vaccine (MIS)Information Center, etc?

    AVN is one group where having Andy Wakefield as a medical advisor would be an improvement.

  8. Between today’s post at Respectful Insolence about the Geiers and this bit about Dorey, it is turning into a grumpy Todd day…though the AVN getting hammered does put a silver lining on things. Age of Autism ran Dorey’s nonsense on Sunday and are, predictably, supporting her.

  9. AVN makes me feel sick!

  10. Holy Crap, ok so great video and I’m glad people are fighting the anti-vax nonsense, but there wasn’t anyone on set with the ability to apply some make-up? I thought at first it was going to be a joke video comparing heard immunity with a zombie outbreak (not a joke).

  11. This whole saga is an example of what grass root skeptics can achieve

    …and how ridiculous it is that they have to. The AVN are hardly a secret organisation and yet it has taken a monumental effort by average people (and several baby deaths) to get government agencies even mildly interested in looking at them. And the result so far… the AVN were told to put a notice on their website and they replied “bugger off”.

    The TGA are similarly impotent on advertising. The WA Coroner has called on state and federal governments to take a close look at alternative medicine yet here we are, in the middle of a federal election, and neither side of politics has taken it up as an issue.

    If the real watchdogs had a fraction of the fervour and tenacity of the AVN, Australia would be a very different place.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Ouch! I so feel for McCaffery having to wade through the filth produced by Dorey’s inanities. It’s telling that I couldn’t, I had to just check McCaffery’s context vs Dorey from time to time.

    And why am I not surprised that Dorey sets up this scenery of people milking the death of an innocent baby all they can, while it is exactly what Dorey is doing? Granted, she is an anti-vaccination fundamentalist dodging and weaving a hurtful shower of events. But she is stooping so low that she rakes the mud she has trampled up and tries to fling it.

    A sane person would have stopped trampling, with a “mea culpa”.

    @ #3 TechyDad:

    Interesting. I can’t follow Dorey’s logic or lack thereof, but it does seem to imply she is fundamentalist (“inerrant” gods) in more ways than one. That is indeed not surprising because such thing correlate. But it is telling.

  13. If you haven’t read Dorey’s billious drivel Phil links to above you really should. She is as “sensitive” in the comments. Then you should read Toni’s response. It is heartbreaking.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ #9 Rhacodactylus:

    a zombie outbreak (not a joke).

    Not a joke but LOLable! I hear you, I had to refrain form that one; facts are never (should not be) so ugly.

    Well, not exactly ugly, that is unfair on real persons, but facts are not so unshaven.

    [Que the no-hair theorem. See!? ʘ‿ʘ]

  15. @TechyDad

    WRT Meryl’s “god” nonsense, she claimed to me, on her blog, that she’s a deist. I LOL’d. She clearly doesn’t know what the word means.

    Every word she utters is wrong.


  16. Gus Snarp

    The quotes that Dana McCaffery has posted from emails and letters sent to her by Dorey’s followers are just disgusting. This is a family that lost an infant child, I cannot even imagine their grief, and these people send them long diatribes about how they ‘totally sympathize with them, but you know it was the toxins they let their child be injected with what really killed her’ (shorter paraphrase of nutty emails). At least save your screed for “Big Pharma”, Australian health officials, and Phil Plait. They can take as well as they dish out, but a grieving mother? Seriously?

  17. Dennis

    I’ve never taken a course in statistics, so please correct me if I’m wrong, but I see a HUGE problem with this statement:
    “subsequent research has shown me that this is a test which gives false positives up to 100% of the time.”

    “up to 100%”??? That’s as dishonest as advertisements which use the phrase “up to n% off”.
    In (precisely) 100% of those instances, “up to” directly translates to “less than”.

  18. Robert E

    I can’t imagine the self-restraint it takes on Toni’s part to continue her response in a civilized and respectful manner. I’d have long since broke down into violent hysterical profanity, being forced to deal with that person over and over again.

  19. AVN and their ilk puts me into a nearly inarticulate rage. Can they even be counted as members of the human race? Are they some sort of depraved offshoot? *sigh* for good measure

  20. @Larian

    Perhaps they are reptilians?

  21. Cindy

    Just the other night we were talking about how the US govt had to step in and create a fund for vaccine lawsuits because most of the pharma companies were getting out of the vaccine business. So much for the “Big Pharma” in for the money.

    If I were the McCaffertys, I would have locked the Doreys up with a rabid dog then given them the choice to get the vaccine or not.

  22. Ray

    Toni and David have my utmost respect. They’re better people than Meryl Dorey ever was or will be. I would have done bad things to those AVN people long ago.

  23. Andrew Wilson

    Anyone who promotes not vaccinating children is directly responsible when these children (and those not yet vaccinated) die or suffer from the disease for which the vaccine is supposed to provide immunity.

    ” … We were virtually being accused of being responsible for the death of this baby who was 5 months too young to have been protected by vaccines … ”

    It shows her ignorance that she does not understand herd immunity and that those who are ” … too young to have been protected by vaccines … ” are just as much at risk as those who parents don’t vaccinate them.


  24. Here, here! (Hear?) Well put! Let’s scuttle this dorey! To the bottom with Meryl!

    In the video, however, the mother should’ve been wearing blue to show her immunity status…
    Or am I missing something?

  25. Just recently we’ve been having a pertussis outbreak here in California. Last couple of days San Diego had a fatality, month old infant died of Whooping Cough likely caught from the adults around her. So the call is going out to get vaccinated against the disease. People like the AVN put folks in danger with their lies about vaccines and innoculations, and they have deaths on their hands.

  26. Sharku

    Yuk, I couldn’t read past the point where she just spent several paragraphs admitting that she was trying to get some NCAHS official to breach doctor-patient privelege and then gets on a high horse about how her (supposed) right to confidentiality was violated… The gall of that woman!

  27. The AVN also has a number of very informative articles on their website. I found the travel vaccination article particularly helpful. Here is what they say about polio:

    Polio is an enteric (stomach) virus which, in almost every case, causes gastric symptoms which pass quickly and without long-term effects, leaving the person immune to polio for life. A very small percentage (less than 1%) of those infected with polio, may develop paralysis which will generally pass over time, leaving only a small number with any ongoing health problems.
    There are two vaccines against polio – one is a live virus (OPV) and the other is a killed virus vaccine (IPV). Both of these vaccines are cultured on monkey kidney and lung tissue and are known to be contaminated with up to 60 monkey-derived viruses – several of which have been linked with cancer in humans.
    Since polio disease is generally very mild, prevention may not be necessary. In addition, use of the live virus vaccine can cause polio in the vaccine recipient and their close contacts. Good hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent infection by the virus which is carried in the throat and gut and can be spread via exposure to coughing and sneezing as well as faeces. Since polio virus exists in just about every water system in Australia, there is no evidence that travelling will increase your risk of exposure.

    Oh, and if you go to a malaria zone don’t use mossie repellents that contains DEET. Apparently they’ve been linked to brain injuries and cancer.

    That is what passes for advice by the AVN.

  28. Gus Snarp

    @Dennis, #15 – My thoughts exactly when I read that. It doesn’t even make sense. There should be one single percentage of false positives, you can’t use “up to” with a single number.

  29. Tribeca Mike

    Toni McCaffery’s response is heartbreaking. Personally, I would have applied a flaming boomerang directly to that knob Dorey’s backside. Living Wisdom indeed!

  30. idahogie

    Please help me if I’m wrong, but I thought the video didn’t present the notion of herd immunity very well at all. My understanding is that herd immunity is gained when there are enough people with immunity from some transmittable disease that the bug cannot establish a viable base. In other words, in a community with adequate vaccination, the number of potential carriers is too small to maintain an infected subpopulation. Herd immunity reduces the red-shirts to near zero.

    The video makes it sound like the number of red-shirts stays the same, and you just reduce the likelihood that a pre-vaccinated infant or immuno-compromised person will interact with one. That doesn’t seem to capture the real benefit of herd immunity.

    Or am I mistaken?

  31. Tom

    I still have a hard time fathoming what drives these people. They’ve been proven wrong time and again. They’ve seen how their meddling hurts people. What could possibly motivate them to keep spewing the anti-vax garbage?

  32. @Shane

    Perhaps Meryl should be informed about how hygiene “helped” in the U.S. Improved sanitation resulted in worsening of the complications of polio because people were being exposed less often as infants. She may also want to see some videos of the iron lungs used to treat individuals with paralytic polio, not to mention the people who walk about on crutches because of post-polio syndrome.

    Ugh…she is a disgusting person!


    Ideology? Blind, religious fervor?

  33. Katharine

    Friggin’ conservative bot a-holes. This sends me into enough of a rage I need a good nasty bumper sticker to stick on my car. Suggestions?

  34. Tribeca Mike

    Tom — “What could possibly motivate them”? My guess is, among other things, they wish to feel superior, important and lead action-packed lives in a mundane world, as well as enjoy the soothing ego-strokes of fawning acolytes who parrot their every utterance. In other words, they’re wannabe cult leaders.

  35. Gus Snarp

    @Shane – That’s some serious cherry picking by AVN. That 1% is an awful lot of people if the infection rate is high enough. And the paralysis “generally passing with time” bit, that’s half the time. One quarter will be permanently disabled and 5-10% will die. Do these people really want polio to come back? A friend of my dad’s had polio. There was no way his legs were going to get better or that he’d be able to walk again.

  36. Darth Wader

    Hmm… lets see, should I risk a significantly chance of death for my child or a minimal risk (really none, but just trying to see it from the other side) of autism.

    Wait! Is autism worse than death?

  37. #28. idahogie:
    You might be onto something there! We need Dr. Mark Crislip (host of QuackCast) to set us straight!

  38. Tribeca Mike

    Dart Wader — you ask, “Is autism worse than death?” Good point, but for religious fanatics death is often preferable to life, because only in death do you get to sit on a cloud and have pleasant chats over cookies and cream with The Savior, who has nothing better to do and wants nothing more than to spend quality time with said religious fanatic, who must be a totally awesome dude or dudette indeed to deserve such attention.

  39. John Paradox

    I need a good nasty bumper sticker to stick on my car. Suggestions?

    One suggestion: Anti-Vaccination: Population Control through killing innocent babies



  40. Tribeca Mike

    I need a good nasty bumper sticker to stick on my car. Suggestions?

    Skeptics Do It With Proof?

    (Not originated by me, alas)

  41. Steve in Dublin

    #28. idahogie:

    I’m with idahogie too. There should be many less people with red shirts in that video. As I understand it, it’s not a ‘blocking’ action as they seem to portray it, but more of a ‘less in numbers as a percentage of the population’ thing.

  42. TheBlackCat

    I agree that Dorey is a despicable excuse for a human being, but I am not liking the violent rhetoric I am seeing. I do not think that is an appropriate response, even as a joke.

  43. @TheBlackCat

    Agreed. That’s the sort of thing that antivaxers engage in. Let’s not stoop to their level.

  44. Ray


    Who is joking? You kill my child and you better hope the police get to you before I do. If the “justice” system won’t hold these people responsible, who will?

  45. @Ray

    I think it’s more the “sticking needles in her eye and injecting smallpox” type comments that BC was objecting to (correct me if I’m wrong, BC). While such feelings are understandable, considering how utterly despicable Dorey and her group are, comments like that are exactly the same kind of thing we often criticize them for.

  46. Dave

    Thanks for posting the links to the two versions of the story. I can’t imagine what the McCafferys are going through. I hope their pain leads to something positive happening both in Australia, and elsewhere. Thanks for posting this Phil. You and I don’t always see eye to eye on other stuff, but you’ve educated me greatly on this subject, and helped me in situations in my own family where mis-information was being spread. Keep up the good work.

  47. Charlie Young

    #31 @ Katharine this really isn’t an issue delineated by political leanings. There are many liberal types who refuse vaccination, also. Some of the outbreaks of vaccine preventable disease in California were initiated by affluent, liberal thinking people not getting their kids vaccinated. The biggest enemy is fear and ignorance, not left or right politics.

  48. Zucchi

    Agreed. I don’t want anybody to do anything violent to Dorey. What I want is for public health watchdogs to crack down on purveyors of dangerous lies.

    And as noted, this issue doesn’t seem to split along political lines. It’s really irritating that the Huffington Post, which has presented a lot of good liberal writing, has become a home for this crap.

  49. Muzz

    One of the more subtle but telling impacts this whole affair is having is that the media consistently refer to them as “Anti- Vaccination group…” now. There’s no tiptoeing around their scarcely veiled agenda any more.
    (As it should be too. It often said that if you scratch an anti-vaxxer on the scalp you’ll probably hit tinfoil. But it’s hard to tell with some of the more prominent US names. In the case of the AVN, however, it’s plain as day. Arch cranks through and through.)

  50. Let’s shoot Dorey into space, she would enjoy the anti-gravity.

  51. ND

    I think you all have it wrong. Dorey should be given booster shots for any vaccine she has taken and new ones for one she hasn’t. It’s only wrong in the eyes of anti-vax people (no not talking about Unix-heads).

  52. The Mutt

    Please don’t take this as a threat, because this is just my internet outrage talking, but if my baby had died in agony and Dorey treated my family like this, she would be having a Sopranos style meeting with an aluminum baseball bat.

  53. Stonez

    The AVN are despicable in a comletely non-comic way. I wish there was an immunization against stupid!

    /cue Phil’s stupid pic!

  54. Old Geezer

    @33 Katharine. How about, “Vaccinate. This prick will protect you against those pricks.”

  55. Steve Morrison

    Tom @31:

    As for why these people persist even after they’ve been proven wrong, try googling “cognitive dissonance”; or, better yet, read Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). In fact, everyone should do the latter.

  56. Buzz Parsec

    It’s very hard to post this without swearing:

    “I [Meryl Dorey] have been accused of harassing this grieving family by making this call. It is my assertion however that the official from the NCAHS has not only committed a serious breach of confidentiality by informing a third party that I had contacted him; he in fact, has harassed the McCafferys by calling a grieving family to tell them that I had asked for confirmation of Dana’s diagnosis. What possible reason could he have had for taking this action?”

    First, she claims some right of medical privacy to protect her from revealing that she was attempting to violate someone else’s medical privacy. The arrogance of this is overwhelming.

    She accuses the people she attempted to suborn of harassment for revealing that she did so to the people whose privacy she was invading. That’s like accusing someones neighbors of harassing them when they call them to inform them that they’ve just spotted you attempting to burgle their house.

    Finally, show asks what possible reason they would have for doing this. Maybe to warn them that were being stalked by a psychotic child-murder?

    I used to wonder if Meryl Dorey was simply ignorant and misguided. She is clearly evil incarnate.

  57. Autumn

    I’m sorry, but I can not respond to people like Dorey with anything other than threats of violence.
    Dorey has issued and implemented a violent campaign whose end effect is the death of a lot of people.
    She does this in order to change a political stance.
    She, and those who support her, are, by the US State Department’s definition, terrorists.
    The definition of “terrorist” would apply even in cases of violence against property, so saying that a dedicated campaign that has resulted in multiple deaths doesn’t meet the US definition of terrorism because the victims were babies is BS of the highest degree.
    Note Bene that I realize that this is occurring in Australia, but, Damn .
    Prosecute this “person” to the fullest extent of the law.

  58. Graham

    I agree with all that has been posted about the awful Meryl Dorey but please lets get rid of the silly term “Herd immunity”. Animals are in herds, people are in groups.
    At the start of the video the commentator says “herd immunity is a term used to describe the protection that a group of people” Ok if its a term used to describe a group of people why not just call it group immunity because thats what it is. Just call it what it is without trying to come up with a cute or catchy name. Plain and simple group immunity.

  59. Yeebok

    I can’t read any more of Toni’s post and I’m only up to #7. I was getting teary :( That a parent who’s had to bury their child, should have to defend themselves from this is just disgusting and for Toni to feel she needs to do it in such detail must be agonising for her.
    I has a sad :( but at least I know about it, I woulda had a sad no matter how I learnt about it. Another ta for the heads up.
    Comment from Marge FTW !
    Marge Innovera [..] Meryl, since you’re American, let me respond to this post in American: You’re a lying sack of shit. There’s a job for you at Fox News.

  60. Karen

    I can’t imagine how it must feel for the McCaffery’s to have to keep revisitting this. How horrific.

  61. Two things. First, I find myself in the irritating position of defending Meryl Dorey, specifically to refute TechyDad’s comment #4: she did *not* say anything about God making us this way, or pig or chicken cells being in vaccines. That was one of her group’s members, making a comment on (I think: it is not explicit in the post itself) Facebook. Yes, the quote is both mind-numbingly ignorant and blood-boilingly offensive. But no, it was *not* Dorey herself, and should not be represented as such.

    Yuck. The bad taste in my mouth won will take a while to go away, I think, but it is our responsibility as sceptics to keep things as accurate as possible!

    Now, the original reason why I was going to comment: I had no idea until reading Dorey’s post that she had any connection with the McCafferys beyond her heading an organisation essentially responsible for their baby’s death. But that Mr Dorey and Mr McCaffery knew one another before the whole debacle started just pushes the irony meter into the uncomfortably-close-to-exploding zone.


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