Category Archives: human rights

Why I am a vaccination advocate

My late Aunt Chris caught polio as a child. This damaged her nervous system, and over the course of her life worsened progressively, a condition known as post-polio syndrome. In the end she suffered numerous health problems because of this. The nerves to her lungs were in the end unable to regulate fluid in her lungs. She then suffered from pneumonia as a result of this and, struggling for breath, died.

Thanks to science, polio is now a vaccine preventable disease. Polio vaccination is safe and effective. Please make sure you and your children are vaccinated against it.

Public liability: AVN, “Dr” David Hendrey & the “Healthy Lifestyle” Expo

Dear Wayne,

I have been speaking with a lawyer, who pointed out to me that liability could arise if an adverse event was suffered as a result of information provided by the AVN or any other exhibitors for that matter. With the right to freedom of speech comes great responsibility, and I am sure that you would be seeking that your exhibitors have public liability insurance that covered such events. I note in fact that your exhibitors kit states: “In particular, the Exhibitor must confirm that the Public Liability Insurance policy held by them covers risks associated with display or merchandise at this Exhibition by the Exhibitor and covers YCHY FOUNDATION and Events”.

Exhibitors would therefore be obliged to report any pertinent details to their insurer regarding the information they provide / devices they sell / etc., such as the HCCC public warning in the case of the AVN, or that your official chiropractor makes false claims to treat autism and HIV. The reason I am raising this with you is that I am concerned, based on rather strong (and I might add defamatory) remarks by Meryl, that she may not have public liability insurance, and that if she does, she may not have advised her insurer of the risks identified by the HCCC in their report. Can you please confirm whether you have received a copy of the AVN’s public liability insurance or not; if so can you please advise me who the insurer is so I can liaise with the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Australia regarding the AVN’s compliance with disclosure regulations.

Warm regards,
Dr Matthew Berryman

Expo organiser Mr Pina-Roozemond responded rather promptly with:

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for the email, just letting you know that I do indeed have a copy of the relevant insurance document.  Taking your lead I called the insurance company to verify that everything was in order and it is.



I’m not entirely convinced that Mrs Dorey would be entirely covered in the event that someone did take her advice seriously, ended up ill, and sued, but I’m not an expert on law or insurance.  I am however pleased that the Expo organisers have considered this, and warned of the dangers of Mrs Dorey’s views and are providing pro-vaccination material:
Screenshot 2014-05-15 13.46.12

Whilst I do take offence at Mrs Robinson having falsely described my robust but polite debate as bullying, I am more offended to hear of bad behaviour on both sides of this issue. I hope the above exchange between myself and Mr. Pina-Roozemond serves as a good example.

Facebook, hate speech and child abuse

Warning: I felt nauseous and cried putting together some of this material.

First, let’s review Facebook’s definitions of violence and hate speech:

Facebook definition of violence
Facebook’s definition of violence
Facebook's definition of hate speech
Facebook’s definition of hate speech

I’d like to know how the below comment, on Meryl’s links to Big Oil and Big Pharma (she sells tupperware and cosmetics, the former made from oil, and L’Oréal owns (owned?) a “big pharma” company, Sanofi-Aventis), can be considered hate speech or a threat.

MD comment

Of course, that’s not the first time that Meryl’s made frivolous complaints to get material removed. But, moving on to more serious matters, I recently became aware of one member of the anti vaccination (antivax)/antifluoride/other conspiracy theory community making threats by private message:

Frankie's a nasty guy
Frankie’s a nasty guy

When the person the message was sent to had done little more than post polite responses to antivax people on public Facebook pages. Yet, after Facebook reviewed a complaint about that message, they found it didn’t breach their “community standards”. Some community if that’s acceptable.

Even more worrying, is that Facebook allows a group for the promotion and discussion of child abuse to stand. First, let me make a few things clear:
I do not consider antivax people in general to be child abusers. Misguided, certainly, but there is usually no intent to cause harm to a child—they simply believe that vaccines are ineffective and dangerous, which is not true, but still, that’s what these people believe. And most are otherwise taking on board other measures, often useful. Example:

not child abuse
not child abuse

What I do consider child abuse is when parents, some of whom are happy to be vaccinated themselves, want to deliberately infect their children with diseases that they know full well are at best very unpleasant, and worse carries the risk of serious complications, including death. These parents have intent to harm their children, no matter how much they want to brush aside the risks of complications.

Before we jump in to look at this child abuse group that Facebook considers to meet “community standards”, let’s review a few extra facts on a couple of diseases and the vaccinations for them.

Here’s a primer on Chicken Pox (Varicella), and, particularly in high risk groups (which includes infants), it carries risk of complications. Measles is also nasty, and even in otherwise health people carries the following complications:

About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. About one out of 1,000 gets encephalitis, and one or two out of 1,000 die. Other rash-causing diseases often confused with measles include roseola (roseola infantum) and rubella (German measles).

No, Vitamin C (or E) won’t help you, and vitamin supplements have a long history of health myths. Nor are better nutrition and hygiene alone responsible for the reduction in disease. Compared with the risks of the MMRV vaccine that prevents both measles and varicella (chicken pox) along with mumps and rubella (German measles), the benefits (outlined in articles above) are huge. Vaccines aren’t linked to an increase in allergies, or cœliac disease or in autism.

Stats and science are important, but somewhat pale in comparison with these descriptions of cases in ICU from an Intensive Care Specialist:

I am an Intensive Care Specialist. Although it was a while ago now, I do remember my first job in Intensive Care (ICU). During my first week I admitted a young man onto ICU with chicken pox. He was 18-19, a young, fit, healthy, tradie. He liked football (soccer – it was England), and had never had any major illnesses before. He was fully vaccinated according to the schedule of the day (this was in the late 1990’s). This was in the days before there was a vaccine for chicken pox. He had chicken pox pneumonia, and was in respiratory failure as a result of this. He was struggling to breathe, and working really hard just to get the air in and out of his lungs. We had to give him an anaesthetic, and put him on a ventilator to try and keep him alive. At that time I had no idea that chicken pox could be so dangerous. I knew it was contagious, I mean, although I had escaped with mild disease when I was a kid, I remember that 26 of my class of 28 kids were off school at the same time with it. I hadn’t remembered learning specifically about it at med school, but I certainly did some reading during that first week on ICU.

It is not unusual, or rare, for it to cause pneumonia of such a severity that it requires hospital care. Not all that get it survive. He was ventilated for a couple of weeks. He, and his family, suffered terribly during that time. He was lucky though. He did survive. His lungs will be permanently scarred though, and I’m not sure he’ll ever play football again. He was the first patient I looked after in ICU with a vaccine preventable disease. The first of so many. The last was only this week, when I tried to help a gentleman with shingles. Shingles is excruciatingly painful, and also caused by the varicella virus. Thankfully, both these diseases are now preventable by vaccination.

So, without further ado, here’s the group for people (currently 482 members) who want to deliberately infect their kids with chicken pox (and in some cases as you’ll see, measles):

Chicken Pox Party group overview
Chicken Pox Party

Here’s a selection of the discussion I recently obtained from this closed group:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This next one is hugely worrying. Not only are they planning on trying to get a 5 month old infant infected with chicken pox (recall: one of the high risk categories for complications), they are also planning on giving said 5 month old chiropractic treatment to help manage the disease. Not only do they quote the disproven (and nonsensical) vitalistic theory behind false chiropractic claims; there is no evidence that any chiropractic treatment is of value in children and carries with it the risk of spinal injuries (which can lead to death).

Dr Pappas said he was concerned the decision was an endorsement of chiropractic treatment for infants when there was no scientific evidence to support it.

”I think they have put the chiropractor’s interests before the interests of the public,” Dr Pappas said. ”[Treating infants] is inappropriate and it carries a very small but real risk of causing damage, and in some cases, devastating damage.”

A review published in the Pediatrics journal in 2007 also found serious adverse events relating to spinal manipulations in children, including a brain haemorrhage and paraplegia.

12 13 14 15

There are some group members also interested in infecting their kids with measles:

and, despite warnings in the group description and from members (who seem more concerned by the illegality than the public health hazards), those who still seem keen on sending chicken pox via the frigging postal system and provide strategies on minimising detection (presumably the US post are on the lookout for licked lollipops alone):
Cp in the mail

Also noteworthy is this discussion, bearing in mind the extra risks to pregnant mothers and unborn children from chicken pox. At least the mothers have naturally acquired immunity (unless for some reason they didn’t—these cases do occur).

CP in pregnancy

Even if you disagree with me that the above is child abuse, there is still no clear category to report child abuse discussion on Facebook:

reporting options

and Facebook thus decide that the Chicken Pox Party group meets their “community standards”:

CP group Ok by FB

And just in case you think this is a US phenomena, behold parts of this discussion (in the following images) I found on public pages between Australian Facebook users:
chicken pox6

Come on Facebook, lift your game.

Stop the AVN

Tomorrow (and possibly Friday) there is an appeal hearing before the New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal to decide on whether the Australian Vaccination Network’s name is misleading. To illustrate their stance, I note their book on vaccination, recently released for free, contains 27 references to the word “poison” (they are not poisonous), close to 100 mentions of vaccination being ineffective, over 50 on the word danger / dangerous, etc. If that doesn’t illustrate the anti-vaccination stance of the AVN I don’t know what would.

The research shows that up to 53% of Australians have concerns about vaccination. It is important that these parents get their information from a credible source. People need to know that Australian Vaccination Network is a fringe group of hard core vaccine refusers. Their name deliberately seems amibigous in order to present themselves as presenting serious research on both sides. They merely present non-scientific information on the anti-vaccination side. Your doctor is often your best choice when you have questions concerning your health.

I note the comments by New South Wales Fair Trading’s Principal Solicitor in his decision that is being appealed:

All in all, the available information shows, in my opinion, that the AVN is mostly concerned with opposing vaccination and mandatory immunisation. When issues have two sides, it takes just one of them.

One would expect that an organisation with the name ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ would provide comprehensive and credible information on vaccinations in Australia, and a balanced view on what is involved in the processes and benefits and risks involved, as well perhaps on where and how such treatment can be obtained. The AVN does not do this. Its views are anti-vaccination, and it advises against being vaccinated or taking part in immunisation programs. Complaints received by NSW Fair Trading support this view of the AVN. Parents of young children may be particularly interested in learning about issues concerning vaccination and may easily come across the name Australian Vaccination Network in an Internet search, only to find its issue is opposing vaccination. The name does not suggest that it is anti-vaccination.

The issue here is not with the nature, objects or functions of the AVN or what it espouses, but rather with its name. It can adopt another that is not unacceptable. Free speech is not the issue.

I find:

  • The Australian Vaccination Network Inc’s message is anti-vaccination.
  • Its name does not reflect that message or its true nature, objects or functions.
  • Its name is likely to mislead the public

As such, the name is unacceptable for registration as a name under the Associations Incorporation Act 2009.

The Queer Pakistani Reader

After reading this story on the serious challenges faced by LGBTI people in Pakistan, I wanted to help out. Luckily my friend Rabayl (@baylinveil) is in contact with a group setting up the Queer Pakistani Reader:

The Queer Pakistani Reader

The Queer Pakistani Reader is a short, approximately 40-page book, that provides a brief and easy-to-read introduction to questions of sexuality and gender within a South Asian (and more specifically, Pakistani) context. It will define different sexuality and gender-related terms and relate a brief history of the LGBT & Queer Movement in order to offer a context for how different terminology came about and consequently gained popularity.

The QP Reader will also discuss what it means to create a “safe space” for people who identify with the queer spectrum, as well as the role and importance of “straight allies” to LGBT and Queer communities. Moreover, it will highlight the intersection of other identities – such as race, ethnicity, nationality, class and disability – with sexuality. Through a series of personal narratives, the QP Reader will further explore the specificities of what it means to be a Pakistani who identifies with non-normative sexualities and/or forms of gender expression. The work of queer artists will also be featured.

Finally, the QP Reader will provide information about local resources for queer Pakistanis, their families, their partners and their allies, so as to leave people better equipped and informed.

If you’d like to help, either send money via Western Union to Rabayl (details below), or if you’re in Australia, email me for my bank details and I’ll collect money to send to Rabayl. Either way we’ll provide you with a receipt. All money goes direct to getting this to print.

For Western Union, all you need is a name (Rabayl Manzoor) and address:

Rabayl Manzoor
64/2 8th Commercial Street
Phase 4, Defense Housing Authority
Karachi, 75500

The sender has to provide all the details and you will get a MTCN number which you can e-mail to me and I’ll pass the number along to Rabayl so she can collect the money and in return I’ll send you a receipt.