This is how far the anti-vaccination movement will go.





The so called Australian Vaccination Network (who are actually deadset against vaccinations) use outrageous fear-inducing tactics and bogus science to scare new parents out of vaccinating their kids.

But it turns out, that’s not even the worst of it.

This organisation has been exposed for bullying grieving parents who have spoken publicly in favour of vaccination and stand accused of sending anonymous hate mail and making relentless cyber attacks.

Toni and David McCaffery – who lost their baby Dana to whooping cough in 2009 – spoke to News Ltd over the weekend and explained the horrific ordeal they have been through. Long time friends of Mamamia and the pro-vaccination movement, we’d like to share the McCaffrey’s story with you.

The McCaffreys lived in an area with terribly low vaccination rates and tragically this mean their daughter Dana lost her life, before she could be vaccinated against this preventable disease. Their daughter was put at risk because so many families in their immediate area had chosen not to vaccinate their own children.

Dana’s death prompted the McCaffreys to join the pro-vaccination movement. This brave couple were determined that no other parents should have to suffer the way they had. They wanted to make sure that people knew the real dangers of the diseases that vaccines have been invented for and to push back against the disturbingly effective scare campaigns of the anti vaccination movement.


But speaking out in favour of vaccinations, came at yet another price for the McCafferys. Their advocacy was met with widespread criticism by members of the Australian Vaccination Network.

Peter Bowditch wrote about the treatment the McCaffreys received for Mamamia last year.

Former President of the AVN, Meryl Dorey.

So Toni and her husband Dave went public to warn other parents of very young children. They have made a point of never suggesting that the AVN or its activities were the cause of the baby’s death, even though the AVN are most active in the area in which they live – the area with a dangerously high number of non-vaccinated children.

This respect has not been reciprocated.

Meryl Dorey [the former head of the Australian Vaccination Network] attempted to get Dana’s medical records the day before her funeral, claiming that she wanted to see evidence that the baby really had pertussis (the medical name for whooping cough – for which there is no cure or treatment).

Despite repeated requests from Toni and Dave McCaffrey to leave them alone and stop using their baby’s death in the AVN’s false propaganda, Meryl Dorey continues to mention Dana in her attacks on doctors and anyone who supports vaccination.

Dana McCaffery, who died of whooping cough aged 4 weeks.

The McCaffery’s new weekend interview paints a picture of how incredibly difficult this time must have been for them.

They have been victims of “anonymous letters, cyber-attacks and heartless, abusive messages telling them to ‘harden the f*ck. up’.”

They have been accused of lying about the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death; they have been told that by speaking publicly about how Dana died they have become part of a “conspiracy”.

The News Ltd report claims that AVN founder Meryl Dorey even went so far as to post propaganda from the Australian Vaccination Network on a memorial website established in Dana McCaffery’s name.

The story is sickening in the extreme.

Toni McCaffery’s striking statements provide further insight. She said:

“The lunacy and the venom directed at us has just been torture – it’s been frightening, abhorrent and insensitive in the extreme.”

“They hated us because our child died … We were being told you’re horrible and you’ll kill other people, diminishing what my child went through, that she was weak anyway and it was natural selection.”

“When someone disrespects your loved one, it hurts. But people mocking your child’s death – it’s just not human.”

In response to why they have chosen to speak out now, the McCafferys posted a statement on their Facebook page. They explained that, “After seeing all the recent coverage on vaccination and the number of parents that have fears, we felt it is important to remind people to be very careful of the sources of your information.”

Further, despite repeated requests, the anti-vaccination movement has not retracted the misinformation about Dana that has been published on the AVN website, and other websites around the world.


Imagine living with that.

Imagine knowing that you lost your beautiful, perfect baby girl before she even had a chance at life, and then having her own death used to scare other parents out of protecting their own kids from the very disease that killed her.

And sadly, the McCafferys are not the only family who have been attacked and bullied for speaking out, and trying to educate the broader public. Pro-vaccination campaigner Pete Tierney published a post on his website recently, in which he examines the story of Chris Kokegei.

In September of 2010, Chris Kokegei – who lost his son, Michael, to chicken pox – appeared on Sunrise, to talk about immunisation and prevention of diseases. Pete Tierney explains what happened next:


Chris Kokegei talking about his son’s tragic contraction of chicken pox on Meet The Press.

The woman rang. She had an American accent and she introduced herself (Chris cannot precisely recall the name given), saying that she was from the Australian Vaccination Network.

He had no idea who she was, or what the AVN was about. The woman immediately conveyed her concerns to Chris that he was advocating something which was dangerous and ineffective (the Varicella vaccine), and questioned him as to whether he should be doing this. His advocacy was going to harm more children, he was told.

When Chris told her she does not have the evidence to back up her claims, the woman told him to go to the AVN website to find all of the information. The woman also told Chris that his son must have been weak, to have succumbed to such a harmless disease. These things are a matter of survival of the fittest, he was told…

The woman rang again, two days later. Chris hung up the phone a second time.

The scaremongering that anti vaccination campaigners engage in extends to the real world, where they threaten and bully the opposition. And what is scarier again is that the AVN is actively trying to stop parents who have lost children to deadly – but preventable – diseases, from speaking out about the need to vaccinate.

The ‘No Jab, No Play’ legislation is being considered in NSW parliament. These stories and the ‘Jabbed‘ program on SBS last night serve as terribly important reminders that parents need to be presented with the actual facts. (If you missed ‘Jabbed’ on SBS last night, you can watch it here.)

That anti-vax campaigners cannot not be allowed to continue masquerading as a reputable and reliable source of information. And good people like the McCafferys must be left alone to get on with their lives and mourn their daughter’s passing, in peace.