THE Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and its founder, Meryl Dorey, are the subjects of an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission.
The AVN is accused of ‘engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct with the intent of persuading parents not to vaccinate their children,’ by Ken McLeod, a member of a group known as Stop the AVN.
When Mr McLeod first filed his 20-page complaint in July it was unclear whether the AVN or Mrs Dorey would fall under the commission’s jurisdiction and complaints process, as neither were registered health-care providers.
However, the complaint was referred to the Health Commissioner, who decided an investigation should proceed.
Mr McLeod’s complaint lists instances in which he claims the AVN has provided false and misleading information about whooping cough, bacterial meningitis, the Gardasil vaccine and the safety of the measles, mumps andrubella vaccine, MMR.
And while the commission may take several more months to complete itsinvestigation, the ABC last month released a statement to say that information supplied by Mrs Dorey which was broadcast on ABC Mid-North Coast local radio in September was found to be misleading.
The presenter of the morning program, on which Mrs Dorey and Lismore obstetrician Dr Chris Ingall were guests, referred to statistics supplied by Mrs Dorey.
The investigation found the use of these statistics, about whooping cough, was misleading as they were ‘drawn from different data sets and related to different groups of children’.
The statistics were also presented as vaccination rates for 1991, when they were, in fact, for 2001, the ABC said.
The broadcaster received two complaints about the statistics used during the segment.
The use of the data was found to be in breach of the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy and context in factual content.
Professor Peter McIntyre, from the National Centre for Immunisation and Surveillance, said better reporting and diagnosis of whooping cough had lead to an increase in the number of cases reported each year.
Prof McIntyre said it was wrong to suggest the prevalence of whooping cough had increased and that vaccination did not work.
He said the five per cent of children who were not vaccinated accounted for 30 per cent of all reported cases of whooping cough.
“They have around seven to eight times the chance of contracting whooping cough than vaccinated children,” Prof McIntyre said.
Mrs Dorey said the network sourced its information directly from the Australian Government and peer reviewed medical journals, and that it was the ABC which got it wrong.
“I believe they have misunderstood what was on the graphs,” she said.
Mrs Dorey is currently having her information verified by the editor of a peer-reviewed medical journal in the United States and would be filing her own complaint with the ABC should her interpretation of the data be verified.