If you haven’t heard of the Australian Vaccination Network (aka the anti-vaxxers) and assume that opposition to vaccines must be confined to a handful of loons living in tree houses, you need to know what sort of people belong to the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and what lengths they’ll go to, to distress, frighten and misinform parents.
Until about three years ago whenever any media outlet ran a story about vaccination they would go to founder & President, Meryl Dorey for a comment on behalf of the AVN.
The comments she gave to the media were never positive and rarely factual, relying on bogus science (or no science at all), fear-mongering about the side effects and dangers of vaccinations, and conspiracy theories about the power and influence of pharmaceutical manufacturers.
What changed the situation was the death of a baby from whooping cough. Her name was Dana McCaffrey and you can read her tragic story and see and interview with her parents here. At only 3 weeks of age, baby Dana was too young to be vaccinated and her innocent parents were unaware that they lived in the region with the lowest level of vaccination in the state.
After their baby died, they questioned why health authorities had not warned them about this. “Did I miss a pamphlet in that bag of information they give you in hospital?” Dana’s mother Toni McCaffrey anguished. She hadn’t. No warning had been given.
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 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.
It was this behaviour by Ms Dorey (and a coordinated effort by many people who gave up their time to expose her actions) that caused a spotlight to be put on her by the media. Now if any news outlet goes to her they are quite likely to mention her anti-vaccine activities.
Most credible news sources refuse to give her oxygen. But still, Meryl Dorey and the AVN continue to speak at public festivals and even in birth classes, trying to scare parents with misinformation about vaccines – something for which there is no scientific proof in any country in the world. Ever.
But has Ms Dorey learnt anything from the way the mainstream media has turned on her? Has she reconsidered what she does and says? Well, no, she hasn’t. Within the last week she has affirmed the official AVN position that members should not contact grieving parents of vaccine-damaged children (mysteriously, none of these children’s stories are ever reported in the media, and the AVN claim this is because of a ‘cover-up’ by big pharmaceutical companies and the government. Really?).