My experience with the media has, in general, been one of trying to convince an amoral pathological liar of the benefits of telling the truth – it’s deeply frustrating and incredibly horrifying at the same time.
So when in mid-March this year, I was contacted by Timothy Elliott, a writer who was preparing a feature article for Good Weekend magazine about people who don’t vaccinate in Australia, I was more than a bit cynical about both his motives and his ability/willingness to report fairly on such a complex and emotive issue.
I sent him several reference articles in answer to his first email message (see footnotes), and altogether, spent close to 5 hours speaking with him – about 2 hours on my own and another 2.5 hours with a woman in Ballina named Kerry-anne, whose daughter was seriously injured by the Gardasil HPV vaccination.
During this time, both Kerry-anne and I presented Tim with a great deal of information sourced from medical journals regarding the risks and ineffectiveness of vaccinations.
He told me he wanted to write a serious piece which examined why parents would choose not to vaccinate and what motivated those who had made that choice.
We are all just anti-vaxxers
His article, How one hippie town became the anti-vaxxer capital of Australia, came out this weekend and, rather than taking a genuine look at the issue, it was just more of the same old, same old; pro-vax tropes without a bit of information. In addition, there were many ‘inaccuracies’ which is a kind way of saying untruths.
From the word go, Tim called me and others involved with the AVN ‘anti-vaxxers’ – a pejorative term which I disagree with absolutely and I told him so. He agreed not to call me/us that but the word is sprinkled liberally from the headline and throughout the entire article. He also couldn’t quite work out the name of our organisation, calling us variously the Australian Vaccine Network, the AntiVaccination-risks Network and finally, the Australian Vaccination-risks Network which is, in fact, our name.
I recorded our conversation and will be making the transcript publicly available when it’s been finalised, but here is just one example of many of how the actual interview was very different to what was reported in the article (not word-for-word, but close enough):
Tim: “What about the criticism that you may have tried to get the records of the McCafferys?” (Toni and David McCaffery – the parents of 5-week-old Dana McCaffery who died in 2009 after contracting whooping cough).
Me: I never contacted the McCafferys. What I did was I contacted Paul Corben. who is the Director of North Coast Public Health. A lot of lies have been told about myself and other people in our organisation and they are lies. The newspapers were saying that Dana had been killed because she was exposed to an unvaccinated child. I contacted him to ask if Dana’s diagnosis had been made by a blood test or by a culture. The reason I wanted to know that was that a blood culture is accurate – a blood test is not. It takes 2 weeks for a blood culture and she had only just died a day before. How could they have a positive diagnosis that quickly? He said blood test.
When I hung up the phone, he contacted Toni and David McCaffery to let them know I had called him. Where was my privacy? I did not ask for any private records – I only wanted to know how the diagnosis was made. Corben is the one who contacted a grieving family – not me. The reason I called was because the unvaccinated were being blamed for her death.
Tim: So you never contacted them? [the McCafferys]
Me: No, I never, ever contacted them. I have never contacted a family who had lost a child. If they want to contact me, that’s fine. I’m a parent. I know what it’s like to grieve for a child who’s been hurt. And I’ve never had an opportunity to set that record straight. To this day, I’m accused of contacting grieving families and abusing them. I would never do that.
And here is what Tim wrote in his article – an out-and-out lie:
“In 2009, Dorey unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the medical records of Dana McCaffery, the four-week-old girl from Lennox Head who died of whooping cough.”
A fact-free zone
The only actual data presented in Tim’s article concerned the overall health of the Byron Shire:
The idea of developing “natural immunity” has huge appeal. Many locals believe that not vaccinating has made the whole community healthier. (This is incorrect: figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that life expectancy, child mortality and rates of all cancers are worse in this region than the national averages.)
The link leads to a custom report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which Tim relied upon to inform his message. The data is derived from the Primary Health Network Area of the Northern Rivers which, according to the Map included in the report encompasses the entire coast from the QLD border to Port Macquarie and at least 100km inland! (Number 9 on the map to the right. It is impossible to say exactly how far South this goes, but suffice it to say that it extends at least as far as Port Macquarie).
Extrapolating information from such an enormous area as being representative of the overall health in Mullumbimby or even in the Byron Shire is like saying that a mosquito bite on your shoulder can make your partner’s foot itch – it’s just plain stupid!
But if we were to take an honest look at the same data from the same Primary Health Network Area but more closely targeted to the population in question, we would find that:
The 2013-2014 vaccine-targeted disease hospitalisation rates published by the National Health Performance Authority, and the vaccination coverage rates for the same period (http://www.myhealthycommunities.gov.au/our-reports/potentially-preventable-hospitalisations/december-2015/explore-the-data and
http://www.myhealthycommunities.gov.au/our-reports/immunisation-rates-for-children/february-2016), reveal that the NSW North Coast Primary Health Network with the lowest vaccination coverages in all of Australia, especially for 1 year olds (86.3%, 88.1% and 88.7% for 1, 2 and 5 year olds respectively, and specifically in the Richmond Valley-Coastal smaller statistical area within it, only 79.3%, 81.3% and 82.3% respectively), also had virtually the lowest number of bed days in all of Australia per 100,000 population for potentially preventable hospitalisations from vaccine-preventable conditions – just 567 (crude rate).
This rate was higher only than the rates for the Murray, Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast and Tasmania PHNs, which were similar, at 551, 546 and 540 respectively per 100,000 population.
The number of bed days per person is a more significant measure than the rate of notifications, and more reliable given that notification rates are more susceptible to the well-documented phenomenon of doctor bias.
These results appear to indicate that, rather than a high-risk area for ‘vaccine-preventable conditions’, the North Coast of NSW, with the lowest vaccination coverage in all of Australia, ought to be seen as a model area for minimising illness arising from the vaccine-targeted diseases.
I am planning on writing a bit more about this article in the coming days but for now, I would just like to say what a disappointment (though not a surprise) it was to read this shallow, unscientific treatment of what is such a vital and fraught issue.
What was left out
As I said, I spent close to 5 hours with Tim. Allona Lahn spent 2 1/2 hours with him and introduced him to another mother of a severely vaccine-injured child on the Sunshine Coast who was interviewed at the same time.
For those who don’t know her, Allona was a Senate Candidate for the Involuntary Medication Objectors Party and has been very active in fighting for the rights of the natural immunity community on the Sunshine Coast and around Australia.
In her own words, here is what the interview was like:
Friday I met with the journalist …
“I believe in vaccination. I trust doctors.”
He was upfront from the beginning of the interview that he was reporting with a pre-existing bias. When I asked him what vaccines his children were injected with, he hummed and hawed, mentioned measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough, saying they may have had some travel vaccines like yellow fever and cholera, but mostly, he couldn’t remember and had no idea. He had NEVER read a vaccine insert, but he “believed” in vaccines.
Over the course of 2.5 hours he repeated he “believed” in vaccination over and over again. He had “faith and trust” in the doctors, the system and vaccines without knowing IF doctors even study vaccines or for how long. He didn’t know the schedule, or that pregnant women were now vaccinated; he had no idea which vaccines he or his children had been injected with, the ingredients, how they were manufactured or that the schedule had trebled in 40 years. He was aware that some will be injured, disabled or die from vaccines, but he still “believes” and was willing to defend and promote injecting diseases and toxins due to his vaccine religion, regardless of the outcome.
…As I shook his hand and thanked him for his time, I looked him in the eye and said, “I trust that you will represent me with honesty and truth?” I added that, by writing this pro-vaccine article, he is endorsing unsafe, untried drugs and pushing an agenda to mass drug everyone from womb to tomb heading towards the slippery slope of mandatory vaccination and the erosion of bodily autonomy and freedom of choice.
Allona’s presumption about Tim’s article proved to be 100% correct! Not only was it far from balanced or accurate, but her input as well as the input of the other mother were completely omitted from the final piece.
Gardasil injury – did our girls get this vaccine?
Tim complained in the article that:
For reasons I can’t quite ascertain, Dorey has invited herself to the interview, which she insists on recording.
Kerry-anne had asked me to be there when Tim was interviewing her because she did not feel comfortable speaking with him alone – a concern which proved to be justified since none of the scientific information she provided to Tim ever made the final cut though he was sympathetic to her in his piece. I also recorded our interviews and asked his permission to do so which he gave me without any indication that he was not happy for me to record.
Tim wasted precious article space with some less-than-flattering descriptions of some people he’d spoken with – calling a woman in Byron Bay “amply bosomed” “with a bum the size of a small country” instead of informing readers about vaccine safety concerns and the lack of effectiveness of some vaccines. I guess these little niceties were emphasised in journalism school though apparently, the word ‘investigative’ never made it into the curriculum?
Tim appeared to take great interest in Kerry-Anne’s description of her daughter’s reaction and subsequent disabilities and at one point in the conversation, he tried to call his wife to ask if their daughters had been given a Gardasil vaccine but she didn’t answer the phone. His obvious concern was also omitted from the final article where he wrote:
Her troubles began in 2011 when Leah, then 14, received Gardasil, a vaccine that protects young women from the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is known to cause cervical cancer.
Tim had been provided with information from the medical literature regarding the fact that there is NO clear link between HPV and cervical cancer and was also informed that it would take 20-30 years to determine whether there was indeed a decline in cervical cancer in the vaccinated because that is normally how long it takes for cervical cancer to develop. He did not have to believe this information any more than he had to believe the information provided by the government about how great HPV vaccination is. But objective reporting would mean he should have provided his readers with the fact that there was a controversy. HPV is not “known to cause cervical cancer” any more than Gardasil is “known to protect young women”.
Does Gardasil increase the risk of cervical cancer?
Since speaking with him, new information has emerged from countries where Gardasil uptake is high showing that:
“…official cancer registries reveal an increase in the incidence of invasive cervical cancer that appears 3 to 5 years after the beginning of the vaccination campaign and affects almost exclusively the age groups the most vaccinated. In 20-24 age group the increase reaches 100% in Sweden (1.86/100000 in 2007 vs 3.72 in 2015),
70% in Great Britain, (2,7 in 2007 vs 4,6 in 2014),
113% in Australia (0.7 vs 1.5),
10% in Norway (2.18 in 2007 vs 2.4 in 2015).
In the 25-29 age groups, the increase reaches 100% in Great Britain (11 in 2007 vs 22 in 2016),
36% in Australia (5.9 in 2007 vs 8 in 2014),
9% in Norway (5.9 in 2007 vs 8 in 2015),10% in Sweden.”
So not only is there no evidence that Gardasil will prevent cervical cancer, the indications are that it could be leading to an increase in the disease in those who are vaccinated, with the condition coming on far more quickly than it normally would in an unvaccinated population.
As I said, I will be adding more information about this article in the coming days, but I felt it was important to respond and to share my experience with those in our community who have been writing to me, incensed about the way in which we have been (yet again) misrepresented and abused by the media.