AVN cops flak from watchdog
LISMORE pediatrician Dr Chris Ingall has welcomed the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) report on its 12-month investigation into the Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network.
The investigation was triggered by two complaints made to the HCCC, a NSW authority that investigates complaints relating to the provision of health care.
The first was from Toni and David McCaffery, of Lennox Head, parents of baby Dana who died at four weeks from whooping cough (pertussis) on March 9 last year.
The second complainant was made by Ken McLeod.
The investigation found the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) provided ‘misleading and inaccurate information’ on vaccination.
“It backs up what we have been saying about the AVN,” Dr Ingall said. “It has directly affected the health of children on the North Coast.”
Health academic Dr Sue Page said the report was an exhaustive study that showed the AVN’s claim to be aprovider of balanced information was false.
“The report shows that they are anti-vaccination,” Dr Page said. “In this local area they have had a major and negative impact.”
David McCaffery welcomed the report’s findings.
Part of his complaint to the HCCC was that AVN president Meryl Dorey had misrepresented the facts of Dana’s death by implying the infant had not died from pertussis.
The investigation found Mrs Dorey was not ‘in possession of all the facts and circumstances of Dana’s illness and death when she spoke with the media and postedinformation relating to Dana on her web-log’.
Mr McCaffery said the report proved the AVN ‘could not be trusted’.
“People need to access information that gives them the real benefits and risks,” he said.
“People should keep away from the AVN because they do not tell the truth.”
Mr McCaffery also said the State and Federal governments were not doing enough to provide accurate information on vaccination.
The HCCC has recommended the AVN include a prominent statement on its website to say its purpose is to ‘provide information against vaccination in order to balance what is it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere’.
It also said there should be a statement on the website explaining the information provided should not be taken as medical advice and the decision about vaccination should be made in consultation with health-care providers.
The Australian Vaccination Network has been given 14 days to comply with the HCCC recommendations.
Mrs Dorey issued a media release to say she would be ‘investigating all options in order to respond to the outrageous attack on free speech inherent in the recent allegations made against it by a NSW state authority, the HCCC’.
Mrs Dorey argued the AVN did not fall under the jurisdiction of the commission.
However, the HCCC found that Mrs Dorey was a health-care educator and the AVN was a health education service, so therefore fell under the jurisdiction of Health Care Complaints Act.
Mrs Dorey is yet to respond to the findings of the report and did not agree to be interviewed for this story.
FINDINGS CONCERNING THE AVN
Purports to provide balanced information, but clearly takes an anti-vaccination stance.
There was evidence it misleads people by using reliable and peer reviewed research, but quotes selectively from it, often in contradiction to its findings.
Provides information for which there are no references quoted, and refers to cases where there are no tests of reliability of data.
Makes strong assertions about the benefit of exposure to childhood illnesses, but has no supporting research.
No references are provided to support its claim there is a link between MMR vaccination and the development of autism, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel disease.
Wrongly asserts pertussis does not kill.
Uses statistics irresponsibly.