Last week I wrote about a five-year-old boy in hospital dying from chicken pox. He passed away a few days ago. This tragic event should have been avoided. Instead, the public health system and broader society let him down and we must all feel responsible for the deplorable death of an innocent child.
He spent close to a fortnight in the intensive care unit, his tiny body being hooked up to more and more machines as his fragile immune system failed. His parents were by him night and day. The ICU medical staff fought around the clock to stave off the viral infection that was killing him. Due to the financial cuts made in April by the Department of Health, there weren’t enough beds at the Children’s Hospital, and so he was transferred elsewhere. These cuts included $10M taken from the Children’s Hospital budget, and were mandated by Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton. The staff were not emotionally prepared for this situation, because to work in a Paediatric ICU requires specialist training. However, the real problem began years before this poor boy was even born.
It began with Meryl Dorey and her founding of the Vaccination Awareness Network (later Australian Vaccination Network, currently Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network (AVsN)).
In 1994 Meryl Dorey and a small group got together ostensibly to promote the rights of Australians to make informed health choices. Yet the reality of what they do is far from what they claim. The AVsN claims that there are two sides to every issue but provides wholly biased misinformation on vaccination, going to far as to claim that SIDS and shaken-baby syndrome are actually a result of vaccination. They have made claims of being bullied and complain of “Big Pharma” trying to silence them. Asserting that the group Stop the Australian (anti)Vaccination Network (SAVN, founded in 2009) are buying into the “religion” of vaccines is the nicest thing the AVsN have said about their opponents. They harass the families of children who have died from vaccine-preventable diseases; they attack, abuse and block people who dare to question their posts or mission; Meryl Dorey has taken out AVOs to silence her most vocal critics. However, much of this has only happened recently.
For years, they were allowed to operate unchecked, making their way into schools, being referenced by the Australian College of Midwives in the textbook Midwifery: Preparation for Practice, and convincing countless thousands of parents to not vaccinate their children. They were registered as a charitable organisation and had homeopaths and chiropractors spreading their lies.
Their misinformed propaganda even managed to convince some doctors and nurses, due to the fact that no one was challenging what they were putting out. There is a Toxicology Specialist at RPA who doesn’t believe in vaccination, due to AVsN influence. While working as an Emergency Department registrar, she openly advocated against her patients getting the free flu vaccine.
The fact that Meryl Dorey and the AVsN managed to operate without opposition for almost 15 years is concerning, and it is largely the fault of the general public. Our apathy is what gave them their power; the freedom to peddle their corrupting influence on an unsuspecting public. Ignoring them or dismissing them as a fringe group was not working and it was only after the formation of the SAVN that the broader criticism started.
The media no longer pays credence to the AVsN, instead, they are attacking the lies being spread. There have been numerous investigations by NSW government departments into the AVsN, especially their financial structure. Their influence on the broader community is waning, yet as seen in the suffering of this innocent child, it’s not happening soon enough.
Despite public opinion turning on them, Meryl Dorey and the AVsN are still free to endanger lives. The NSW Northern Rivers region (where they are based) has a childhood vaccination rate of 70%, compared to a national average of 90%. This region has seen a resurgence of measles and cases of whooping cough spreading community-wide. The local councils are lousy with the conspiracy theories spread by the AVsN; recently banning fluoride from their water supply.
We all need to take a stand against the moral failings of those attempting to denounce vaccination. There needs to be more than the SAVN group fighting them. More people need to take the fight to parents who don’t believe in vaccination. This is not an instance of differing opinions, this is a case of fact versus fiction and all the facts show that vaccines save lives, and can eliminate deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. It’s not a case of healthy lifestyles or cleanliness saving us from these diseases, as the AVsN would claim, it’s the vaccines. The proof lies in the high incidence of vaccine-preventable disease amongst anti-vaxxers.
If you hear of parents holding parties to expose their children to diseases such as measles or chicken pox, talk to them, stop them. If they won’t listen, report them to DOCS or the police. The parents of the boy who died this last week were misinformed, but we don’t know how many facts they were exposed to. Anti-vaccination groups tend to be cult-like in the information that they share amongst themselves. They are a varied collective; some are educated and misinformed; some are conspiracy theorists; and some just don’t know better, believing the propaganda spread by Dorey and the AVsN because no one has shown them the reality of the situation.
The AVsN point to 68 medical journal “studies” that they allege support their claim that vaccination is causally linked to autism. Yet, none of these studies actually show any positive correlation between vaccines and autism. There have been a number of studies that debunk the autism claim first made by disgraced former doctor, Andrew Wakefield, in 1998. The most recent study, by the University of Sydney this year, conclusively found that there was zero connection between vaccination and autism.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but now is the time to get angry. There needs to be unmitigated rage flowing towards the AVsN. There is a causal link between the AVsN and the death of a child last week. Right now, there needs to be greater pressure being put on government departments, from the ATO to the Department of Health, and it needs to come from the public. The AVsN have worn out their welcome as a lobby group. They must be stopped from spreading further lies; from endangering public safety; from ever causing the death of another child.
There is blood on Meryl Dorey’s hands and in the interest of the children of Australia, both the NSW and Federal government must stand openly against the AVsN. Peter Dutton and NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner have to increase funding for vaccination in children.
There are no jokes to finish this with. A child died because his parents believed the lies of the AVsN. He was five. He should have been enjoying his school holidays. His parents lives are shattered.
The science is there. The evidence is there. We need to do more. Lives are in danger.
Here are some links to learn more:
Further links can be found in my original post: