Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

AVSN: VOX FM interview Meryl Dorey


The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network is the subject of a current health warning issued by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. The warning, in part, states:

"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."

"Given the issues identified with the information disseminated by AVN, the Commission urges general caution is exercised when using AVN's website or Facebook page to research vaccination and to consult other reliable sources, including speaking to a medical practitioner, to make an informed decision."

For accurate information about vaccination, please visit the Immunise Australia Program website and I highly recommend reading Immunisation Myths and Realities: responding to arguments against immunisation.

Interview transcript.

Host: Dave Collins, VOX FM
Guest: Meryl Dorey, Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network
Date: June 2012

NOTE: The audio quality of the guest speaker was very poor; their audio frequently dropped out and occasionally was garbled. This is notated in the transcript as [dropout] or [garbled]. If using this transcript for critiquing purposes, I would urge you to also listen to the source audio files (link to file at end of post).

Dave: I'm speaking with the president of the AVN, Australian Vaccination Network, Meryl Dorey, today. G'day Meryl.

Meryl: Hi there.

Dave: Thanks so much for your time today. First up, I'd like you tell us about the AVN, being the Australian Vaccination Network, how you became involved with the organisation and, as well, what it stands for.

Meryl: Ok. Well, basically, I became involved with it, I started the organisation in 1994. I have a son who's vaccine-injured. Prior to that, I never questioned vaccination. I never even knew that a vaccine can cause problems. I hadn't been told any information about vaccination at all, except what the schedule was and when my child was supposed to get his vaccines. Which, he's 23 years old now, he would have had 18 vaccines by the time he started school, where now, a child in Australia gets close to 50 vaccines in the same time frame.

I became interested in the issue because of my own son's reactions, and I started the organisation because I felt that it wasn't right that I hadn't been given any information to make this decision. It's an important choice what we do with our children's health and it's one that needs to be made with proper and complete medical information and I wasn't given access to that. So, the reason that the AVN exists is to provide information to balance the very one-sided information that most parents will get from their doctors or their council clinics. So we provide a balance; we don't give the entire story. The information on the pros of vaccination is available everywhere; finding the information on the other side is the difficulty.

Dave: You mentioned earlier about your son, you said he was vaccine-injured. How can you prove this?

Meryl: Well, as far as proving it goes, I have no proof. It's almost impossible to prove a vaccine reaction because most people in the medical community believe that vaccines don't cause serious side-effects, so even when they see it happening in some of them, they say it's coincidental, or the child had a virus or bacteria. I'm lucky because my doctor, when I told him what happened, he said, "oh, that may have been the whooping cough vaccine, let's leave that out of his next shot". And that was when I started to research because, as I said, I had no idea that vaccines could cause serious reactions. And I continued to vaccinate without the whooping cough vaccine until he was 18 months old, and then he had another serious reaction to his measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and ended up in hospital. And at that point, they denied that there was any connection between the vaccination and the reaction.

And part of the Australian Vaccination Network, we have an adverse reactions database we've had over a 1,000 serious reactions reported to us, that have never been reported by the doctors. And when someone reports to us, we report that reaction to the government. And I constantly see the same exact reactions that my son had, over and over and over again. And it becomes [garbled] that there are reactions that are occurring to vaccination which are not being acknowledged by the medical community.
The Australian government acknowledges through ADRAC, the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee, that only about 1% of all serious reactions to drugs and vaccines are actually reported.

Dave: 1%

Meryl: That's right. [garbled] in a conversation I went to Canberra to lobby [garbled] us to report adverse reactions because the government wouldn't allow us to do that for almost ten years, and we finally got permission to. And I spoke with John McEwen who was the doctor in charge at the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee at that point, and he admitted that only about 1% of reactions were reported. So, therefore, when we're told that something is perfectly safe, we're basing that on information that's 99% incorrect. And those aren't great odds. I think that we need better information, we need better tracking of adverse reactions, when it comes to our children's health. And we can't really believe the assurances that the medical community are giving us because it's not based on information, it's more based on wishful thinking.

Dave: Well, if it's agreed that only 1% of cases are reported, why is this not dealt with? Why aren't governments and medical authorities saying, "well, hang on a tic, this just isn't good enough, we should be up there around 99% of reported". This is children's health we're dealing with.

Meryl: Well, we should be, we definitely should be. One of the things... I said I went to Canberra to lobby. [garbled] was the Minister for Health at that time, and one of the things that the AVN was trying to accomplish was to make it mandatory for all health professionals, to report adverse reactions when they occurred. They paid an awful lot of money to the General Practice Immunisation Incentive to push vaccines, but they were not being penalised in any way if they didn't report reactions when they occur. What Larry Anthony said, every country, even countries with mandatory reaction reporting, only get about 1% of reports given in to the government, so therefore we're not doing any worse than anyone else, so it's fine. That's not a good enough attitude, is it. These are children's health, the lives of our precious children we're talking about, and we need to make sure that the information that we're using to say whether vaccines are safe, is the best possible information. And unfortunately in Australia, we don't have that.

Dave: Meryl, I want to deal with some of the criticisms of you: hilariously ignorant, has many factual errors, irrational antivax beliefs, wacky crackpot standards, hilarious antivaccine idiocy, and that it has been proven by the Health Care Complaints Commission that you have supplied false, misleading and biased information. How do you respond to these types of criticisms and where do they come from? Are any of them true?

Meryl: I don't believe that any of them are true. They are coming from two organisations in Australia. One of them is called the Australian Skeptics, and that's a misnomer to call themselves because they're skeptical about nothing that is mainstream and completely skeptical about anything that's considered alternative or complementary health. As a matter of fact, they're trying very hard to stop [dropout] to any form of complementary healthcare. But they started a group three years ago called Stop The AVN and, just like their name is, they are out to shut the Australian Vaccination Network down. They don't believe that anyone has a right to not vaccinate and they don't believe that anyone has a right to get information on the downside, or the risks, of vaccination. And I [garbled] comes from a group of people who have a vested interest in making sure that vaccination is the done thing.

Dr Brian Martin, who is at the University of Wollongong, wrote a paper called, "Debating Vaccination", all about these attacks against me personally and against the Australian Vaccination Network. And these attacks have included death threats, they've included incredibly violent pornography being forwarded to myself and to members of our organisation, they've included threats to people who are advertising with us, to the point where I stopped taking advertising because I refused to put anyone who supported the AVN into that position. Everytime that I have a seminar, they contact the venue and try to get the venue to cancel, so everytime I book a seminar I have to let the venues know upfront, you will be receiving these letters, I can send them copies of them, you'll be getting letters like this. If you feel that you're going to cancel this seminar, please let me know at this point, do not cancel after we've booked. So I'm very upfront with everyone about it.

These sorts of activities should be illegal because they are threatening, intimidating, and bullying. And that's why Brian Martin, who's the head of Whistleblowers Australia, wrote this article about these attacks, and he's written several other articles since then. As the Health Care Complaints Commission goes, Stop the AVN and the Australian Skeptics know perfectly well that we fought against the Health Care Complaints Commission for an entire year and we won our case in February. The decision the Health Care Complaints Commission made to investigate us and also warning against us, was thrown out by the Supreme Court of New South Wales. And yet these people still continue to say that we were found to be deceptive and misleading. Well, no, the Supreme Court said that the Health Care Complaints Commission acted outside of its jurisdiction and did not do a proper investigation and had no jurisdiction to actually issue a warning against us. But because it suits their agenda, they continue to discuss this as if it's still [audio cuts off].

[end of Part 1 audio file]

[start of Part 2 audio file]

Dave: I'm speaking with the president of the AVN, Australian Vaccination Network, Meryl Dorey. Meryl, are your critics happy to debate you face-to-face, because they sound pretty passionate about their opinion, as well. And for them to be able to dispel your statements and beliefs, once and for all. Has this ever happened, and if so, what was the outcome?

Meryl: David, I have asked for this for three years now and I've asked for over 15 years to have someone from the medical community to come out and debate me. Most recently, I challenged the head of the AMA [garbled] and he refused. Members of Stop the AVN and the Australian Skeptics, who are the critics of the AVN, have refused to do a public debate. They said that if they [garbled] public to debate me; and I have offered them, you can choose the moderator, you can choose the venue, we will each have equal time, we can have the questions given in advance so that you can have your references there. I just can't see how I could be more fair than this. And they have said that they refuse to debate me because they feel that I will, and I've never heard this term before, "gish-gallop" them. And gish-gallop basically means that I will have so many facts and figures at my fingertips that they can't possibly debate me. And what that means is that they don't have the information. Because if I, as simply a parent who's been researching this issue for 20 years, can defeat immunologists and doctors and GP's and, you know, public health officials in a public debate, what does that say about their information?

Dave: Well, I ask you at this point then, if they won't debate you what do you feel they have to lose?

Meryl: Well, there's several things. First of all, there is an awful lot of money involved in vaccination, whether a GP or an immunologist or someone who works in a health field. And many of these people who are with Stop the AVN and the Australian Skeptics, are health professionals. So, they have their career to lose. So much of western medicine is based on the vaccination theory, if the vaccination theory turns out to not be fact, then they're looking at losing their careers. That's one thing. There's also [garbled] their ego, a lot of these people have an awful lot of ego invested in this issue and being right on this issue, and they don't want to lose that.

But a lot of them are just actually really, really [dropout] whether they're right. And any information that might show [dropout] not correct in their belief, they don't want to accept, they don't want to look at. They have their belief system down pat and they don't want that challenged. By refusing to debate me, or anyone else, on this issue - and I'm having two seminars next week, in Byron Bay and in Lismore, northern New South Wales - and I wrote invitations to the head of the public health units, to the head of the [garbled] local, and to a local paediatrician who is very outspoken on this issue and constantly appears on television and in newspapers, asking if they would come - not to debate me - but just to provide the balance for the people who are at the seminar. And I've said again that they can have their time on stage, they can name their own moderator, they can be there at question time. I just want to make sure that people who come to the seminar will be able to hear all of the information. And they would not do it. They would not do it, at all. And to me, that's very telling, that they're out there pushing vaccination and saying everyone must vaccinate and yet they won't just send their information when they're given an opportunity to let the parents see both sides of the story.

Dave: Meryl, what is a conscientious objector form and do doctors have to sign them?

Meryl: Ok. Now, in 1998 we went down to Canberra to lobby, to make sure that vaccination was not made compulsory, because that was the plan at that point. And we got the conscientious objector clause put through. And what that means is that any parent who does not want to vaccinate their child, can fill in this conscientious objector form and submit it to the Health Insurance Commission and they will not lose any government financial entitlements. The government's actually lying to parents because they said that if they don't vaccinate their children, they will lose out on the $2,100 Family Tax Benefit supplement Part A, and that's not true, because all they have to do is register as a conscientious objector. As far as whether or not a doctor has to sign it, we've had many doctors refuse to sign this form, which goes against what we did when we went to Canberra. The actual reason that we went to Canberra was to make sure that people would be able to get these forms signed. Dr Williams though, wrote an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, saying that doctors are required to sign the form. The Australian Medical Association came out afterwards and said that doctors don't have to sign the form.

And we are currently fundraising to try and get a QC to give us a written opinion on the law as to whether or not doctors do have to sign it, because we believe that they should have to sign it. They're not signing the form to say that they agree or disagree with your decision, they're simply signing the form to say that they have fulfilled their obligation under the law to counsel you on the benefits and risks of vaccination, as they see them. So, to me there doesn't seem to be any out for them, but again, we're trying to raise money. It's probably going to cost about $5,000 to get this written opinion so that people can know, for once and for all, whether or not the doctor must sign the form. In the meantime, we have a buddy system set up where if someone wants to go to the doctor and is nervous about it, or if they're having trouble finding a doctor to sign the form, we have people in many areas across New South Wales and Australia, who are willing to go along with them and who have a lot of information on this issue to support them in getting their form signed.

Dave: What's some of the important information that people can access on the AVN website?

Meryl: Well, the most important things that parents need to know when they're trying to make this decision is: are the vaccines safe, are they effective, and is my child at extra risk of having a serious reaction because of a family history or some sort of susceptibility. So, we urge people to look at the package inserts for the vaccines and we have links to those on our website. And also, to understand what the diseases are and how dangerous they actually are, for instance, chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella were never considered dangerous diseases of childhood, and the death rate from all of those diseases was virtually non-existent before the vaccines came in. So, know your diseases, know the vaccines, know what's in the vaccine, and know your particular child's risk of a side-effect. And also know how effective they are, because we're in the fifth year of the largest whooping cough outbreak we've ever had and that's despite the highest level of whooping cough vaccination we've ever had. 84% of the people who are getting whooping cough are finding that it's caused by a bacteria that's not contained in the vaccine, and most of the people who are getting the disease are fully vaccinated against it. This sort of information is not in the mainstream media. Mainstream media does not cover this issue well. But parents need to make sure that they have this information before they make a decision. [garbled] before you buy a car, or a refrigerator, so why wouldn't you do the same amount of research for something that is going to be targeting your child and their health.

Dave: I'd like to know in all of your time, 20 years you said, of doing research on vaccination, members of the medical profession that you've dealt with along the way, have you found some that have actually come across to your way of thinking?

Meryl: There are many doctors who question vaccination and question much of mainstream medicine. [garbled] come forward publically because they are threatened with loss of licence if they do. There is an organisation called ACNEM, the Australian [sic] College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, all the doctors there believe strongly in informed choice when it comes to vaccination. It's very difficult because doctors are under such threat by their organisations, like the AMA, if they step out of line and do something that the AMA does not support or does not believe in, that they will suffer for it. So, it's very hard to find doctors who will become public on this issue, but it is not at all unusual for doctors not to vaccinate their own children. And the doctor who vaccinated my son who was injured by the vaccine, I found out later hadn't vaccinated his own kids.

Dave: Meryl Dorey, president of the AVN, Australian Vaccination Network, thank you so much for your time today.