AVSN: FIVEaa interview Meryl Dorey
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Host: FIVEaa Breakfast show (awaiting confirmation of name of interviewer)
Guest: Meryl Dorey, Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network
Guest: Prof Chris Burrell, The University of Adelaide
Date: 26 November 2012
FIVEaa: Immunisation. Immunising our kids. Mass vaccinations are back in the news as an eminent group of scientists are putting out a booklet that they say is about reminding parents of how fundamentally important it is to vaccinate our kids. Of course, there is another view and Meryl Dorey is the President of the Australian Vaccination Network; an interesting name given that they're anti-vaccination. Meryl Dorey, good morning.
Meryl: Good morning, gentlemen, and I have to correct you there. The Australian Vaccination Network believes that everyone has the right to make an informed choice and a free choice when it comes to vaccination. They choose to vaccinate, that's great. They choose not to vaccinate, that's also great. As long as they've made an informed choice.
FIVEaa: But you campaign, Meryl, about the dangers of vaccination, do you not?
Meryl: We campaign to give parents the side of the vaccination issue that they will not get, in general, from the government or their doctor. So we're giving them, we're giving them an opportunity to make an informed decision about vaccination.
FIVEaa: And today we learn from one of the scientists involved that they say that your information about autism, for instance, the dangers of, the science says you're in much, you're in as much danger with or without the vaccination and that's very, very low.
Meryl: Well that information...
FIVEaa: How do you respond to that?
Meryl: That information is not correct. There has never been a large-scale clinical trial testing vaccinations to find out whether a fully-vaccinated population is at greater risk than a fully-unvaccinated population and the AVN has been asking the government for 20 years to do this basic study. The major study that people like Professor Nossal - who was involved in this publication - refer to, is one that has been totally discredited because one of the lead researchers, a guy by the name of Thorsen, has embezzled over two million dollars from the Centers for Disease Control and has absconded and is now one of the 10 most wanted people in the United States. And yet this study is referred to as proof that vaccinations don't cause autism. The whole study was a complete fraud.
Now, one of the things that was talked about in this article that was published today in Adelaide and in other newspapers, was that the whooping cough vaccine... people are not choosing to use the whooping cough vaccine and that's why we're seeing this epidemic. Now, nothing could be further from the truth. Australia's vaccination rate against whooping cough is at an all-time high and we have the highest level of whooping cough that we've ever had since we started vaccinating, simply because the vaccine is not working and because it may actually be making children more susceptible to contracting whooping cough, and this is not the AVN saying this.
FIVEaa: Meryl Dorey, that's where we'll have to...
Meryl:This is not the AVN saying this.
FIVEaa: Thank you
Meryl: This is science saying this.
FIVEaa: Thanks, that's where I'll have to leave it because we do want to talk to a scientist, one of twelve scientists who disagrees presumably with what you say. Meryl Dorey, thanks though for the Australian Vaccination Network's view as this major push comes from scientists, like Professor Chris Burrell, here at Adelaide University.
Good morning, Chris.
Prof Burrell: Yes, good morning.
FIVEaa: Well that's exactly, I suppose, what we're on about. What about that widely spread autism study, first of all, how do you respond to those claims?
Prof Burrell: Well, I think this story started with a study in the British Medical Journal some years ago that appeared to show a slightly higher risk and a number of cases were described. It's been looked at very thoroughly since then and found to be incorrect, have no foundation, and yet that story, it still lingers in some people's minds, but...
FIVEaa: And the Network says, well of course we still don't have enough evidence.
Prof Burrell: Well, I think the process of licensing each vaccine involves a number of stages of checking the safety. There's short-term study in a small number of people intensity, then there's monitoring over the community in very large numbers and this records all the adverse events that happen around the time of vaccination and then tries to link them. Were they caused by the vaccination or were they likely to happen anyway? And there are true risks from vaccination. Very, very small, that are well recorded. For instance, with polio there's a risk of about one in a million people have a serious complication. It's about the risk of being hit by lightning in Australia, there'd be one instance of that about every 20-25 years.
FIVEaa: Perhaps you're going to the point that Professor Gustav Nossal is quoted about today is that because we are reasonably well inoculated, we no longer see the - and when you mentioned polio, this sprang to mind - we no longer see the huge problems that come if you're not inoculated.
Prof Burrell: That's absolutely true and the problems still are occurring in parts of the world where the vaccinations not been done thoroughly. So even our children who are unlikely to meet the polio virus if they stay in suburban Adelaide all their life, are still at risk once they travel. And the second thing that happens - and it's not just a theoretical risk as it's being reported repeatedly - is that the virus can be introduced into communities and there've been outbreaks of polio in religious groups, in the Netherlands and other Western countries where the virus has become introduced and it's attacked those circles of communities who have not been vaccinated. So the theoretical risk is borne out by instances like that.
I think that a large number of the so-called risks are incomplete evidence. There's no foundation for them. But people associate things with vaccination. For instance, because children get four to six colds every year, it's very common that in some cases people will have a cold around the time that they're vaccinated and it's associated. So...
FIVEaa: Well, is this a problem equally in Australia and the US and the UK, or is it worse there in the sense that, you know, the science is falling behind or people are going with the myths or going with the minority views. Where are we internationally?
Prof Burrell: In terms of coverage of vaccines, Australia's has been doing quite well, but I was disturbed to read this report this morning that Australia's rates have fallen. I think the UK had a phase when larger numbers of parents were not vaccinating children and they had resurgence of whooping cough, so Australia has been doing okay, but I think this drop in vaccination rates is a worry. We have imported cases of measles from time to time in South Australia and this targets those people who have not been vaccinated.
FIVEaa: And the impact on them?
Prof Burrell: Well, it's quite a nasty disease as an adult. As a child, it's disabling, it's debilitating, but they mostly recover. Worldwide we still have, I think it's one to three million deaths a year from measles. That's actual deaths in children.
FIVEaa: Thanks very much. It's a long topic, but an introduction today from Professor Chris Burrell at the University of Adelaide as a booklet comes out from the Academy of Science [sic] and twelve prominent scientists tackling the issue for parents. We'll get some details for you about how you can get it, in fact you can get it on a website which we'll stick on ours. [end of transcript]
Posted: 30 Nov 2012
Last update: 17 Jun 2014