Anti-vaccine group accused of harassing, misleading parents

The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) has compiled a damning report into Australia's most prominent anti-vaccination group, the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN). The HCCC accuses the AVN of providing inaccurate and misleading information and selectively quoting research out of context to argue against vaccination.

The report has also noted accusations that the AVN harassed the parents of a child who died of whooping cough last year, after they advocated the importance of childhood vaccination. Meryl Dorey runs the AVN from a home office on the north coast of NSW. The AVN provides anti-vaccination information through their website, their magazine and seminars. An investigation by the HCCC into the AVN has found the information they provide to parents is inaccurate and misleading.....

...Harassment claims: Dana McCaffery died of whooping cough in March last year. She was 32 days old - too young to be vaccinated against the disease also known as pertussis. What her parents Toni and Dave did not realise was that they lived in an area with one of the lowest rates of childhood vaccination in the nation, and one of the highest rates of whooping cough. The McCaffery's live just a few kilometres from the headquarters of the AVN. They say they have been harassed by the AVN since their daughter died, and that the AVN has made repeated claims that Dana did not die of pertussis.

"Our daughter wasn't even buried and it began," Ms McCaffery said. "It began the day before her funeral, it began with phone calls to the health department to get her medical records contending she didn't die of pertussis." An email from Paul Corben, the director of Public Health at the North Coast Area Health Service, backs up Ms McCaffery's claims....

...The McCaffery's have made their own complaint to the HCCC about the AVN. They have continued to advocate publicly for vaccination and say the AVN continues to publish false and hurtful comments about them.

They say an AVN representative posted a message on Facebook urging them to "tell the whole story".

"One day I hope the parents of this baby tell the whole story and are able to see how they have been used by a group of ruthless scumbags with alterior (sic) motives," the Facebook post said. "Then maybe they will be able to honour their child's life with the truth."

Mr McCaffery says the comment is "reprehensible". "To suggest that we're being used by a group of people - that we're not honouring our daughter's life with the truth - is just reprehensible. They are terrible people," he said....

More information, and a link to the findings can be found at PodBlack Cat's blog here Success! The Findings Of Australia’s Health Care Complaints Commission Against The Australian Vaccination Network And Meryl Dorey

The HCCC has ordered that:

The Australian Vaccination Network should include an appropriate statement in a prominent position on its website which states:

1. the Australian Vaccination Network’s purpose is to provide information against vaccination in order to balance what it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere;

2. the information provided should not be read as medical advice; and

3. the decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.

I don't think this goes far enough, they should also be made to correct inaccurate and misleading information they have provided. However from my reading, this doesn't appear to be the case despite the final report identifying many inaccurate statement on their website. The report stated for instance regarding the seminars they hold that "while the statements reportedly made at AVN seminars would seem to be in some cases grossly inaccurate, it is open to organisations such as the AVN to hold seminars where participants and guest speakers make statements that are anti-vaccination or raise questions about vaccination." While this would seem to be upholding freedom of speech, what about the rights of people not to be misinformed with inaccurate and misleading information? There wouldn't be the same protection for those who yell "fire" in a crowded building causing a panic.

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