One for MediaWatch: anti-vaccination nonsense on ABC Science! #StopAVN

Stop The Australian Vaccination NetworkAmong the many successes of Stop The Australian Vaccination Network, the correction of false balance has been one of the most important.

Time was, whenever a big story related to vaccination broke, out would bustle Meryl Dorey of the AVN to offer her opinion in the interests of ‘putting the other side’. But unlike politics, scientific understanding is not a matter of opinion. If you don’t have the evidence, then you don’t have another side. This is why the carpet painted by God is overlooked in astronomical news items.

In recent years, things seem to have got better. The anti-vaccination movement has undergone a thorough credibilectomy. Andrew Wakefield is discredited, Jenny McCarthy has gone quiet and antivax loons are held to much better account.

But now and again, something goes wrong.

Today, ABC Science posted an article by Anna Salleh that got things pretty badly wrong.

Vaccine and cancer experts in Australia have defended criticism of the Australia’s HPV vaccination program.

The criticisms have been raised by Judy Wilyman, who is completing a PhD on the Australian government’s vaccination policy at the University of Wollongong.

Yeah, the wording confused me too. I think it means this:

Vaccine and cancer experts have dismissed unfounded scaremongering about government policy from a postgraduate student

The article goes on to enumerate a long list of half-baked anti-vaccination claims, redressed with only perfunctory attention to actual experts in the subject.

Who is Judy Wilyman?

The student making the claims, Judy Wilyman, is no stranger to #StopAVN. She has appeared on a double-bill of crazy with Meryl Dorey on more than one occasion, credited somewhat dubiously as a ‘PhD researcher at Murdoch University’. She’s even been caught using Murdoch’s logo on marketing materials for the clown shows, to the Uni’s considerable annoyance.

While studying at Murdoch University, her still-unfinished PhD was supervised by one Dr Peter Dingle. That name may also be familiar to you. He is also not an expert in the field of vaccination. He is an environmental toxicologist turned alt. med. guru, whose wife tragically died after she rejected medical treatment for her cancer:

Last year’s coronial inquest into Mrs Dingle’s death found that Dr Dingle, who has no formal medical qualification, was actively involved in isolating his wife from the outside interferences of those recommending conventional medicine.

Now at the University of Wollongong, Judy Wilyman’s PhD work continues, supervised by Dr Brian Martin. Yes, that Brian Martin. He has for some while campaigned for the AVN’s freedom to say whatever they like, untrammelled by criticism (or indeed reality). Brian Martin is (of course!) not an expert in vaccinations or cancer either. His qualifications are in physics and he teaches social sciences.

Oh, and there’s yet another familiar name among the list of PhD students supervised by Brian Martin.

Anna Salleh.

WTF, ABC Science?

A poor choice

ABC Science have published a dangerously misleading article. In indulging the inexpert claims of a known anti-vaccination crank it goes against the grain of all sound medical advice, and its author’s undisclosed connections are worrying.

The ABC Science ‘Editor’s choice’ was ill-advised.

Over to you, Mr Holmes.

 

28 Comments

  1. Posted October 13, 2011 at 22:39 | Permalink

    This is awesome. Snaps to you Dave. *bows*

  2. Andy
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 22:45 | Permalink

    So Wilyman was published by the British Society for Ecological Medicine eh?

  3. Posted October 13, 2011 at 22:56 | Permalink

    Bwahaha!

    I note that (awww!) their journal was shut down. Can’t think why…

  4. Nonayo
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 03:02 | Permalink

    It’s funny how you guys pretending to be science minded people cannot present one SINGLE scientific argument in this article justifying if only it’s title. Just silly first grader name calling and parroting of vaccines manufacturers’ unfounded propaganda. It is obvious that you are the loons without any solid arguments, just happy (or unaware) with the ostrich approach taken by the manufacturers and the medical community at large regarding the side effects of vaccines. Have you ever even read a vaccine package insert to see with your own eyes the science (or lack thereof) that is behind it?

    The safety of vaccines is based on some believed magical powers that vaccines hold de facto since it is the «greatest success» of modern medicine, and if there are no adverse effects after a few weeks then for sure they can have no long-term ones after that. It is all the opposite of science to systematically deny any link between an effect and a vaccine, and yet this is how any vaccine’s long-term «safety» is «monitored.»

    But the side-effects of the gardasil and cervarix are so bad and frequent, I hope the denials and cover-ups will not be possible this time, it is more than time that the sh*t hits the proverbial fan and the big vaccine myth can finally be shattered so that immunology science can at last fully enter the 21st century. In case you didn’t know, the controversy over vaccines, the cover-ups of experiments gone bad, the conflicting science, the conflicts of interests, etc., started two centuries ago and it won’t stop until the hoax is exposed.

    It would be just pathetic if only it did not kill and cripple people, mostly children, then, it becomes criminal. But not to worry for the Pharmas, bribing brought them legal protection, in most countries, from liability suits for all those damned defective children that cannot process vaccines’ neuro-toxins without extreme consequences. So governments have put up for them vaccine “courts” in which it’s the un-consenting guinea pigs of this vast uncontrolled experiment that has to collectively pay for the damages they do.

    Frankly, as much as I try, I cannot think of a more evil fraud than that. And one day you will be forced to take your head out of the sand and really look at this with a truly scientific mind.

  5. GrahamT
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 08:44 | Permalink

    Nonayo
    There are several mangle assertions in Salleh’s article, such as

    “HPV is a necessary factor but it’s not an ‘independent’ factor in development of cervical cancer” – the term “independent factor” is special pleading for some special new undefined Wilyman-concept.

    “HPV infection with any strain is not sufficient on its own to induce cervical cancer” is true; but it is what is *Not said* that is important – strains 16 & 18 account for 70% of cervical cancers. Hence, the selecting of two strains for Cervarix(R) – strains 16 & 18 – and four strains for Gardisal(R) – 6, 11, 16 & 18.

    Hence, then saying “90 per cent of women infected with any strain of HPV do not develop cervical cancer” side-steps important information, so is extremely misleading!

    If “the side-effects of the gardasil and cervarix are so bad and frequent” it is appropriate you provide real relevant data, or stop mouthing off.

  6. GrahamT
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 08:49 | Permalink

    Even wikipedia provides comprehensive information, including about safety and adverse reactions [Dave, can you hyperlink these??]..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cervarix

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardasil

  7. Posted October 14, 2011 at 09:00 | Permalink

    Thanks for your comment, Nonayo.

    This was an post demonstrating the failure of any kind of quality control on the part of ABC Science’s editor in prominently publishing the opinions of an unqualified, known antivax crank. It was not necessary to Fisk the minutiae of Wilyman’s rubbish in order to do so.

    And yet I did, in fact, state the scientific fact that matters more than any other here:

    Unlike politics, scientific understanding is not a matter of opinion. If you don’t have the evidence, then you don’t have another side.

    The ABC Science article (and this post, unusually for my blog!) has caused a fair bit of interest. I’m sure Anna Salleh’s piece will be thoroughly criticised elsewhere, and when it is I will be sure to blog about it. You should subscribe to my RSS feed. In the unlikely event that the science bloggers fail to step up to the plate, I will happily do it myself.

    It’s clearly ridiculous. What are they going to do, hook it on to the carpet?

  8. Posted October 14, 2011 at 09:01 | Permalink

    Nonayo,

    You’re missing the point of Dave’s article.

    The substance isn’t about the presumed “debate” about efficacy of vaccination. It’s about editorial standards, relating to accuracy of content in publishing. In this case, the content under the banner of ABC Science should quite rightly have “science minded people” outraged.

    Australians have a right to expect not to be hoodwinked by authors including content from lobbyists with a predetermined agenda when reading ABC Science.

    A cursory look at Wilyman’s history of trying to sabotage the vaccine schedule should have sufficed.

    In addition there is a demonstrable academic thread connecting all persons mentioned to the highly subjective post modernist pseudoscientific suggestion that truth is relative.

    And that just ‘aint science.

  9. Quangle Wangle Quee
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 10:48 | Permalink

    Nice.

  10. Ishai
    Posted October 14, 2011 at 11:31 | Permalink

    Dave, aside from posting here, did you actually send this to media watch?

  11. Posted October 14, 2011 at 13:10 | Permalink

    Yes, Ishai, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. The link is at the end of my post. And here.

  12. Nonayo
    Posted October 20, 2011 at 04:59 | Permalink

    Thanks for your polite response:

    «And yet I did, in fact, state the scientific fact that matters more than any other here:

    “Unlike politics, scientific understanding is not a matter of opinion. If you don’t have the evidence, then you don’t have another side.”»

    I beg to differ, it may be true in some aspects of science (like the incontestable effects of gravity) but in the light of “grey” results like that of most vaccine or drug studies, scientists do understand the results according to other beliefs or interests they hold and are forced to express an opinion and draw conclusions. I do agree with the second part though, as it was exactly my point, and in this particular vaccine, we don’t even have the hard evidence of the first side to begin with, never mind the “other” side. The actual real world data on efficiency of this HPV vaccine (does it really provide protection against HPV during the time needed for cancer to develop) does not exist yet, nor that of it’s safety since no systematic clinical study of them have been made… Heck most vaccines’ package inserts state one or the other of: This vaccine has NOT been tested for carcinogenicity, or mutagenicity… And yet it is presumed safe and beneficial to pump up ever more known neurotoxins, untested recombinant DNA fragments, known carcinogenics, etc. into children, on the basis of wishful thinking and greed.

    Science has no opinions but scientists clearly do, and they do understand certain facts in the light of their own beliefs or interests.

    When there is no data about the long term safety of a vaccine or drug, one can say:
    « the safety has not been evaluated»
    or:
    « there are no proofs that the vaccine is dangerous.»

    Both statements are true yet the first one is more so than the second one, clearly misleading the reader to believe the safety has actually been evaluated. It so happens that the vaccines publicity flyers are just packed with those misleading statements and unfounded conclusions. And most doctors don’t even read the actual “hard evidence” underlying the claims of the sales reps and just repeat their extrapolations and marketing slogans. But you already know all these marketing tricks don’t you?

    @Paul LMAO… Lobbyists, agenda… sabotage… yeah «these people» clearly stand to make trillions in profits for “sabotaging the vaccine schedule”…. talk about pointing the speck not seeing the proverbial log :)

    @Graham T: Enlighten me then and show me your long term safety data on HPV vaccines and I’ll gladly stop “mouthing off” and line up my daughter to receive this vaccine. My whole point was that the affirmation “there is no proof that vaccines are the cause of so and so side-effects” is based not on systematic study of effects but rather on systematic denial of links because there is an absence of studies that actually look for them. An adverse effects reporting system that is by design scientifically useless to draw any causation conclusions one way or the other and systematic denial of even the possibility of any link should satisfy me as «proofs» of long-term safety? Where exactly did you study science?

    Well, you are either very naive to believe that science is absolute, speaks with one voice, cannot be corrupted and knows everything vaccines’ ingredients do to the immune system, or you benefit from those lies. But I understand your brains not being able to conceive that what you have learned to be the “biggest success of modern medicine” could actually not be that great in the long run, your own foundations would crumble under your feet.

    “Undermining the vaccination schedule” is hardly a scientific offence per se, as is should be undermined if the vaccines aren’t necessary nor safe. When just questioning the rush to market of a not enough tested vaccine is touted as «dangerous» is when you know that real science has been evacuated from the discussion.

    There is no consensus among the scientific community that the HPV viruses actually cause cancer or if cancerous cells are more prone to become infected with viruses. 21th century immunology is barely discovering how the immune system truly works yet all of you parrot the same non science-based affirmations like religious mantras: “vaccines are safe and their benefits far outweigh the risks”, when the full range of risks is as of yet unknown. The very fact that they are all considered a single entity shows the blind non fact-based attitude towards them. No one would make the same affirmation for “drugs” at large, but vaccines get this wishful thinking benefit of the doubts on risks. No long-term studies needed to prove any of it, the mere fact that only one in a million dies within minutes of receiving it seems to be “proof” enough that these are the «only very rare side-effects». As I said, the struthio camelus approach.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20928-we-need-to-talk-about-hpv-vaccination–seriously.html

  13. Posted October 20, 2011 at 13:59 | Permalink

    Thanks Nonayo,

    Bit lost. I didn’t mention profits so can’t follow your laughing at making trillions of dollars. Might have jumped to a conclusion there.

    As for sabotaging the schedule, please read Wilyman’s writings on exactly that topic. A brief read of the ABC article confirms she is “completing a PhD on the Federal Government’s vaccination policy”.

    Yet writes in dissonance to the government policy and consensus amongst public health advisors :)

    Take for example June 5th 2010:

    “In the interests of community health I request that you publish the following scientific information”. Then

    “She goes on to claim that the childhood vaccination schedule is “not based on science”. Vaccines contain toxins. Vaccines are not monitored by doctors. Vaccines are a “known cause of allergies, anaphylaxis and autoimmune diseases”. “There is no proof for the theory of herd immunity”. “Infectious diseases declined by 1950 in Australia due to improvements in sanitation, hygiene and nutrition.”

    http://thesecondsight.blogspot.com/2010/06/judy-wilyman-had-letter-published-in.html

    That is hardly government policy. Yet under her guise I maintain sabotage is indeed accurate

    Thank you for your considered, albeit erroneous reply :)

  14. Ros
    Posted November 22, 2011 at 19:23 | Permalink

    I am a bit disappointed with the ABC!

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6 Trackbacks

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  2. [...] Several weeks ago, I submitted a  complaint to ABCudience & Consumer Affairs regarding a story that ABC Science had run on the HPV vaccine. The story concerned a study in progress from well known anti-vaxer Judy Wilyman (for more background see Dave the Happy Singer’s blog post). [...]

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