Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

AVSN - Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe

This post is primarily aimed at people not familiar with the anti-vaccination movement. In particular, those who may be approached to host a screening of this movie, or those who are being encouraged to attend a screening.

Vaxxed The Movie

Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is a documentary directed by disgraced (former) doctor, Andrew Wakefield.
It was pulled from its planned March 2016 premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival after public outcry. For an overview of this film, and background for this post, please read David Gorski's Reviewing Andrew Wakefield's VAXXED: Antivaccine propaganda at its most pernicious, and from an Australian perspective, Jane Hansen's excellent piece Anti-vaccine film axed (excerpts below).

Update 1 Dec 2016: Addendum added to end of post, featuring a series of videos focussing on the lies contained in the movie Vaxxed.

Vaccine misinformation and public health

On 30 April 2014 the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) released the Public statement - warning about the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, Inc. ('AVN'), formerly known as Australian Vaccination Network Inc. Excerpt:
Warning

The Commission has established that AVN does not provide reliable information in relation to certain vaccines and vaccination more generally. The Commission considers that AVN's dissemination of misleading, misrepresented and incorrect information about vaccination engenders fear and alarm and is likely to detrimentally affect the clinical management or care of its readers.

Let's repeat an important point, ''…dissemination of misleading, misrepresented and incorrect information about vaccination engenders fear and alarm and is likely to detrimentally affect the clinical management or care [of people]…''

Andrew Wakefield's original 1998 paper and ensuing publicity was responsible for lowering immunisation rates in the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland, with a corresponding increase in the incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in serious illness and deaths.

Vaxxed is a Wakefield Measles-Mumps-Missile-Mk-II and if 1998 taught us anything, it's that
vaccine misinformation can, and does, kill.

Vaxxed in Australia

Vaxxed was scheduled to premiere in Australia at the CLIFF film festival, held 7-9 October 2016 in Castlemaine, VIC. Again, after public outcry, festival organisers pulled the documentary. Andrew Wakefield personally congratulated the CLIFF organisers for attempting to show it. CLIFF was an outstanding choice for the Vaxxed premiere, given the organiser of CLIFF film festival is an anti-Semitic, anti-vaccine, Sandy Hook massacre denialist.

The Victorian Health Minister, Jill Hennessy, said, "I have no hesitation looking the anti-vaccination movement in the face and condemning what they do as being unsafe, unhelpful and scientifically wrong. We've got to keep challenging the anti-science myth pedalling that goes on around vaccination and a film that goes out there to say 'vaccinations aren't safe' is really, really unhelpful, particularly in communities where the vaccination rates are in many circumstances lower than what the state average is." (Bendigo Advertiser, 22 Sep. 2016)

Sarah Cox

Sarah Cox (Tauranga, NZ) is the official Vaxxed leader in Australia and New Zealand [video].

Cox is an appropriate flag-bearer for this dangerous threat to public health documentary, having
inflicted multiple, daily BLEACH ENEMAS on her son to treat his autism [warning: graphic content].

Cox admininsters the official Facebook page Bring Vaxxed to Australia/New Zealand along with Tasha David (AVN President) and Phil Diaz (Cinema Libre Studio, official distributor of Vaxxed).

AVSN: Meryl Dorey, Tasha David, Jennifer Smith

image: Meryl Dorey, Tasha David, Jennifer Smith promoting the movie Vaxxed at the CDC protest rally, Atlanta, USA

Tasha David, AVSN President, met with Vaxxed producers Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree earlier this year to discuss bringing Vaxxed to Australia.

In October 2016, AVSN advised that it had made plans with the Vaxxed team to get Vaxxed screened in Australia, and invited sponsorship to get some of the Vaxxed team to Australia.

It is entirely appropriate, and not without irony, that the Vaxxed team of Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey, chose an organisation with a government public health warning to be its official representative in Australia.

Finally, AVSN announced the Australian premiere of Vaxxed would be held in Logan City, QLD, on 6 December 2016. The AVSN organiser of the screening (and apparently others to be held in Australia) is Jennifer Smith, co-founder of youth ex-charity, Mayibuye. Other organisers of the Logan screening include Lee Maddox (Browns Plains, QLD) who runs conspiracy site Real News Australia (RNA), and his co-RNA conspirator, Andy Somes (Shailer Park, QLD) who serves on the board of the health organisation, Project Shangri-la.

Update: 28 Nov 2016
The Daily Telegraph published Jane Hansen's excellent piece Anti-vaccine film axed (27 Nov 2016). Excerpts follow:

Anti-vaccine film Vaxxed has been pulled from screening by a Queensland council after a hail of criticism from community leaders and medical experts.

After pressure from The Sunday Telegraph, Logan City Council has banned an anti-vaccine group from using a council property for the film's Australian debut.

It alleges a cover-up by the American Centers for Disease Control over supposed links between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

The autism theory - first proposed by Mr Wakefield in a discredited study that saw him struck off as a doctor - has been disproved but has sparked ongoing conspiracy theories and fear among parents around the world.

On Friday the Council dumped the film.

"City of Logan Mayor Luke Smith said the film contradicted Council's public health policies and initiatives," a spokeswoman for the council said.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick, who also holds the electoral seat covering Logan City slammed film and called for a boycott.

"I am calling on all residents of Logan to boycott the screening of this movie," Mr Dick said.

"The conspiracy theories portrayed in films like this are counter-productive to the many strategies we have in place to promote vaccination and protect children, families, patients, staff and the wider community against vaccine preventable disease."

Jim Chalmers, the federal Labor MP for the seat of Rankin, which takes in most of Logan City, said he was also disappointed the film was planned to show in his seat.

"There's no debate - vaccinations save lives, particularly among children.

"We should be working to make sure immunisation rates are as high as possible in our community and events like this only make that more difficult," Mr Chalmers said.

Australian Medical Association President Michael Gannon said the film 'spread silly lies' and posed a risk to community health because 'vaccine hesitant parents may misinterpret it and not vaccinate compromising the protection that comes with herd immunity."

The film centres on Dr William Thompson, one of the authors of the 2004 CDC study.

Dr Thompson claimed the CDC deliberately excluded data which showed a group of African-American children with autism had also had the MMR vaccine.

The film failed to reveal that the children were given the vaccine after they were diagnosed with autism.

Vaxxed and Doxxing

Reasonable Hank is a pro-vaccination blogger. His real name, Peter Tierney, appears on his Hank blog multiple times. In early November 2016 a few anti-vaccination conspiracy clowns jumped the shark. Smith, a Sydney naturopath and co-proprietor of Just Organics in Bondi; Belgin Colak, a Sydney mother of two; and Breana Stanley, a mother from Mernda, Vic, published the personal details of Reasonable Hank. Staying true to form in established anti-vaccination research skills and methods, Smith, Colak and Stanley identified the wrong bloke.

But this was no ordinary doxxing; Reasonable Hank's real name was already generally well-known and trivial to find. No, this was a vicious, vindictive campaign of harassment and intimidation. The poor misidentified individual, physiotherapist Peter Tiernan, explained the distress Smith and Colak caused in newspaper and radio interviews:

It is worth noting a very disturbing element of this doxxing included Colak directly contacting a minor, Tiernan's 14yo daughter, via social media in an attempt to get to her father. Numerous phone calls were made to Tiernan's home and workplace. Photos and details of Tiernan's parents, his sister and his wife were also posted, inviting ridicule and adding to the intimidation.

Many people gleefully participated in the "doxxing" threads, posting lewd and offensive comments, and generally laughing at the distress they were causing the Tiernans. Joining in the fun was Sarah Cox, the official Vaxxed leader for Australia and New Zealand.

The AVSN published no less than four individual posts about the doxxing, all of them posted after the media broke the story they had the wrong bloke, and all of them encouraging continued speculation that Tiernan was really Hank.

The image featured here is a post made by Meryl Dorey to a group of which she is an administrator, and in the comments is not one, but two separate postings by the doxxing perpetrator, Breana Stanley, containing a link to the doxxing articles.

As far as I am aware, a criminal investigation into the doxxing is ongoing, and there is a possibility of civil action.

Conclusion

The movie Vaxxed is a scare-mongering piece of false and misleading information about vaccination. As viewings of this movie increase, we will see a decrease in immunisation rates, which will result in an increase in the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases. This increase will be exacerabated by the fact that AVSN is pushing this movie in Australia, compounding the misinformation and doing its utmost to ensure it reaches the widest audience possible.

The movie has been made and is out there. People are already buying it on DVD and downloading pirate copies from the internet. But, if you have been approached to host a screening of this movie, I can only ask that you consider the active role you will be playing in the potentially deadly effect this movie may ultimately have on public health.

If you need reminding, vaccine misinformation can, and does, kill.

Let Vaxxed the Movie die a quick and painful death. Better it than our kids.

Addendum: the Lies of Vaxxed

A series of short videos focussing on the lies of Vaxxed.

Episode 1 ''The Flu Shot''

Episode 2 ''Vaccine Safety Testing''

Episode 3 ''80 Years of Vaccines''