Of all the peddlers of fraudulent, bogus and dangerous healthcare advice, it's the anti-vaccinationists that stir me most to anger. Of the anti-vaxxers, few deserve censure more than the AVN and its head, Meryl Dorey.
To the unwary, the Australian Vaccination Network might sound like a responsible establishment promoting public health through immunisation, but in fact they are the opposite. Through their persistent campaigning against the use of vaccines they have reduced the immunisation rates in some areas of Australia to desperately low levels.
Dana McCaffery was just 4 weeks old when she died from pertussis (whopping cough) in March last year. She was far too young to be vaccinated herself and in the North Coast region of New South Wales, the home of the AVN, far too few people around Dana had protective immunity. There is no cure for whopping cough.
If you can, read the account by Dana's parents. Their fortitude is remarkable.
Even before the baby's funeral Meryl Dorey was telephoning the Director of Public Health for the NSW North Coast, trying to obtain the private details Dana's death and disputing the diagnosis.
Within days, the Toni and David McCaffery were confronting the AVN on national television, during which debate Meryl Dorey continued to try to dispute the facts of Dana's death. As Meryl has previously said, on the subject of measles and whooping cough:
“You didn’t die from it 30 years ago and you’re not going to die from it today”.(Needless to say, Meryl is no doctor of medicine).
I wonder what Meryl thinks of the 9 infants that have already died in the ongoing pertussis epidemic in California.
So it's encouraging to read that the Australian authorities are acting to limit the activities of the AVN. Public awareness of the need to vaccinate is growing, through initiatives like this and this. In this pro-vaccination movement, the work of Toni and David McCaffery is a big inspiration.
Many thanks to Phil Plait and Rachael Dunlop for keeping me up to date with the anti-vaxxers' shenanigans.