Meryl 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.
The Australian Vaccination Network, an antivax organization fronted by Meryl Dorey, has long been an antiscience group devoted to spreading any kind of nonsensical rhetoric they can. The good news? Now they’re being called out on it.
As The Sceptic’s Book of Poo-Poo extensively documents, the media used to be pretty easy on the AVN, but now are routinely pointing out that they are antivax, and one has even highlighted some of Dorey’s outrageous and fallacious claims. This all comes on the heels of the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission concluding that the AVN is in fact and in deed antivax, and needs to have disclaimers on their site — a finding Dorey has ignored.
The AVN has been the loudest of the antivaxxers in Australia, a country that has seen a rise in many preventable diseases, including pertussis, which has claimed the lives of several infants.
The antivax group Australian Vaccination Network has been found to give "misleading and inaccurate information" to its followers, according to an Australian government investigation. The investigation also concluded that despite their many denials, the AVN is in fact an antivaccination group and must make that clear when disseminating information.
The entire report can be downloaded here from the Antivaxxers.com website.
Here’s the background: Meryl Dorey is the head of the AVN. She travels across Australia talking about the dangers of vaccination, and by "talking about" I really mean spewing misinformation. She says things that are not correct, cherry picks data, misrepresents scientific studies, and basically distorts reality in order to push her propaganda about vaccines.
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.
I am not all that big on celebrity endorsements, but I do understand that they can be very beneficial in getting the word out on important topics ot people who might not otherwise hear it.
So I’m pleased to see that Jennifer Lopez did a short video about the benefits of vaccination against pertussis for a website called Sounds of Pertussis (created by the vaccine division of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Aventis). The video calmly and rationally explains why it’s important to vaccinate for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.
Regular readers know my stance on this: pertussis can kill, as parents David and Toni McCaffery found out when their four-week-old daughter Dana died from it in 2009 — she was infected because not enough people had vaccinated their children, and the herd immunity in that area of Australia was too low. It’s important to talk to your physician about this and find out if you should vaccinate yourself and your loved ones.
The antivaxxers are loud about this issue, of course. Meryl Dorey and her Australian Vaccination Network have spread misinformation far and wide on this issue, even saying that pertussis doesn’t kill anyone… a statement that is so clearly false that it’s difficult to believe someone could honestly utter it. No doubt the antivaxxers will ooze out of the woodwork in the comments below — they always do — and make all sorts of similar false claims. And also no doubt we’ll see the attempts to poison the well by saying the JLo video was produced by a — gasp — pharmaceutical company!
Like Ben Goldacre, I am not a huge fan of a lot of the tactics used by those companies to sell drugs. But that doesn’t mean everything they do is wrong. Vaccinations, as I feel I must point out over and again, have saved hundreds of millions of lives, a number so huge it’s awe-inspiring. But so many antivaxxers seem to want to see us return to the days when children died of measles, when kids were confined to iron lungs when they couldn’t breathe due to polio, and people died by the millions from smallpox and other preventable diseases.
Meryl Dorey — the truth-impaired mouthpiece of the Australian Vaccination Network, a group of antivaccination conspiracy-mongers who couldn’t find reality with both hands, a compass, and detailed instructions — was "honored" by the Australian Skeptics this week. Richard Saunders and Rachel Dunlop (pictured), on behalf of the AS, gave Dorey their annual Bent Spoon award, awarded to "the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle". Dorey certainly fits that bill! She hasn’t met a conspiracy theory she hasn’t loved, or couldn’t use to threaten the public health with:
Meryl appeared on national television telling a reporter that “we didn’t die from (these diseases) thirty years ago and we’re not going to die from them now”, juxtaposted alongside footage of babies gasping for breath as the journalist detailed the story of the death of Dana McCaffery from the vaccine preventable disease, whooping cough.
Dorey is also an HIV denier, and, as you can see from reading those links, doing her damndest to threaten public health. It’s a shame someone like that has any voice at all in the media, as she spreads misinformation that can lead to the deaths of many people, and we know for a fact that the drop in herd immunity in areas where the AVN is loudest has resulted in deaths from preventable diseases.
The Skeptic Lawyer has more to say about her as well. Dorey is going on the offensive, issuing a press release, going on radio, and being interviewed in papers saying how she’s proud to get this award, since skeptics are obviously just dogmatic shills for Big Pharma, etc.
And while she says this, people — including babies — sicken and some die due to vaccine-preventable illnesses. Nice work, Dorey. I’m so glad you’re proud of the damage you’ve done.
Fighter for truth and science Ben Goldacre tweeted a link to a nifty blog post showing just how safe the Gardasil HPV vaccine is. Using easy-to-understand graphics, the post (on the very nice Information is Beautiful blog) makes it very clear that comparing the good it does to the very tiny risk, Gardasil is a monumental achievement. Actually, just all on its own it’s a big advancement in the fight against cancer. The post also puts it in place among other low-risk dangers like getting hit by lightning or being killed in an earthquake. I like that; I myself have compared it with dying from falling off a chair.
Also, there is a website called the Vaccine Information and Awareness Service (gotta love that URL) which provides a great repository of info about the truly awful shenanigans of Meryl Dorey and the (ironically-named) Australian Vaccination Network, the loudest and — amazingly, given how reality-free these people tend to be — perhaps least-accurate antivax group in Australia. It’s a good place to go when you hear the latest health scare nonsense from the AVN. I’m glad so many people are rising up against the voices of scare-mongering and antiscience. They pose a real health threat, as far too many people have learned.
While I’m at it, my friend and pediatrician Joe Albietz has another slam-dunk article about the awful antivax nonsense being spread about the H1N1 vaccine.