Woodford Folk Festival Risks Children’s Lives*

A baby with whooping cough - whooping cough can cause broken ribs, brain damage or death - but it is preventable.

It is not too strong a statement to say that, in booking Meryl Dorey of the Australian [anti] Vaccination Network to speak at the Woodford Folk Festival, organisers are potentially putting the lives of thousands of Australian children at risk.

* I acknowledge that this may be inadvertent, but it makes the matter no less serious and their immediate attention all the more urgent.

Ms Dorey’s organisation was, this year, the subject of a public health warning from the Health Care Complaints Commission.


26 July 2010

by the Health Care Complaints Commission under section 94A of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993The Health Care Complaints Commission has investigated two complaints about the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), a non-profit organisation registered in New South Wales that provides information about vaccination. The complaints alleged that the AVN provides incorrect and misleading information about vaccination.The Commission’s investigation of the complaints focussed on the material presented by the AVN on its website www.avn.org.au.The Commission’s investigation established that the AVN website:

  • provides information that is solely anti-vaccination
  • contains information that is incorrect and misleading
  • quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous.

Is this really the kind of ‘health’ information the Woodford Folk Festival wants to disseminate to its patrons? Doesn’t it have a duty of care to do some basic research on participants booked to give health advice?

Apparently not.  Because Ms Dorey is listed on the Festival’s website as follows:

Investigate before you vaccinate is the motto of the AVN. Having collected reports of thousands of Australian families whose children have been killed or injured by these shots, Meryl knows that the benefit of vaccines don’t always outweigh the risks. Her information is sourced from medical data and is necessary for anyone who is thinking about being vaccinated.

It does not mention that Ms Dorey has no medical or scientific qualifications. It does not mention that she has been found to quote ‘selectively’ from medical data or that she has been found to provide false and misleading information on her website.

Nor does it mention that when asked to place a warning on her website in the interests of public health, Ms Dorey refused.

This is not a case of the Festival organisers providing an ‘alternative view point’. Ms Dorey’s assertions about vaccine safety and links with autism are not based on medical evidence or scientific research.  They are based on conspiracy theories, bias and a pitifully poor  understanding of the data.

As Dr Rachel Dunlop reports:

” In August 2011, an exhaustive review of the scientific literature by the Institute of Medicine in the US concluded that overall “few health problems are caused by or clearly associated with vaccines”. And when I say “exhaustive review”, I mean 12,000 peer-reviewed articles, covering eight different vaccines were pored over by a committee of 18 experts in the largest review of adverse events associated with vaccines since 1994. It was a thorough and herculean effort concluding that there is no causal relationship between vaccines and autism.”

Millions of children are vaccinated every day and every day many children fall ill for all sorts of reasons. It is not surprising then, that some children get sick after having a vaccination. But, it does not follow that the vaccination caused the illness.

Claims that vaccines contain dangerous amounts of mercury are also untrue.  Dr Dunlop continues:

“Mercury was removed from all routine childhood vaccines in Australia in the year 2000 (with the exception of one type of HepB vaccine which contains trace amounts) and it was never in the MMR vaccine. Prior to 2000, thimerosal, an organomercury compound, was used in the manufacturing process of vaccines as a preservative. The process left only trace amounts in the finished product – you ingest more mercury when you eat a can of tuna than you would ever get from a vaccine. Also there are two types of mercury – methyl mercury is the scary environmental toxin that “bioaccumulates” in your body, and ethyl mercury the type found in thimerosal, which does not bioaccumulate.

If thimerosal was implicated in autism, you would expect a significant drop in cases after its removal. Instead the opposite is true – autism rates continue to rise.”

Ms Dorey compalins that vaccines have not been properly tested.  Dr Dunlop explains why vaccines cannot be tested to suit Ms Dorey’s demands:

“When people claim that vaccines have “never been tested” they usually mean that they have not undergone randomized placebo controlled trials (RCTs). To do an RCT of a vaccine you would need to take two groups of kids, give one group the vaccine, and the other a placebo, then expose both groups to the disease to see which ones survive. Raise your hand if you can see the problem here…

Not only would such an experiment be unethical, it’s unnecessary. We have extensive evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccines; the eradication of smallpox and the near-eradication of polio from the world are just two examples.”

The medical community is not hiding information about vaccinations and, of course, parents should ask questions from an informed and reliable source – ie. someone with a medical degree – before vaccinating their child.  Doctors freely acknowledge that vaccines are not 100 per cent safe – no medical intervention is without risk.  But the chance of your child being harmed by a vaccine is infinitesimal when compared with the risk of an unvaccinated child contracting (or passing on) a potentially deadly disease.  

People like Meryl Dorey do not make it easier for parents to make an informed decision – they make it harder.  They muddy the waters with half-truths, conspiracy theories and anecdotal evidence. They also endanger children’s health and safety.

In September this year, the Sunshine Coast Daily reported on a local outbreak of whooping cough which effected 700 children.

Public health physician for Queensland Health, Dr Margaret Young said the outbreak was due to the percentage of vaccinated children dropping below the state average.  As Ms Dorey is the most vocal opponent of anti-vaccination in this country, at least some of those cases can almost certainly be attributed to her efforts.

All of this information is readily available on the internet and the Woodford Folk Festival could have checked before booking Ms Dorey – but they didn’t. If the Woodford Folk Festival doesn’t have the resources to check on the credentials of those it books for its health forums, perhaps it should stick to what it knows and leave the health advice to doctors.

Again, this isn’t about someone having an ‘opinion’ about whether about whether organic food is better for you than supermarket food, about whether meditation is helpful or not, about whether you should use a crystal instead of commercial deodorant.  This is a matter of life and death for children and it warranted some basic research on the part of the organisers.

I have spoken to someone from the Woodford Folk Festival this afternoon and I’m assured they are ‘looking into it’.  When I hear that they have ‘looked into it’ and uninvited Ms Dorey I will happily remove this blog and write another one congratulating them for taking positive action in favour of children’s health and safety.

Until then, I suggest you contact the Festival organisers yourself on: (07) 5496 1066

You can tweet them at:  @WoodfordFF

Their email is:  qff@woodfordfolkfestival.com

You can also contact their sponsors.  Reasonable Hank has a list with links on his website.

You can tweet some of the sponsors at the following addresses:

ABC Sunshine Coast FM – @abcsunshine

Triple J – @triplej

Brisbane Marketing (a subsidiary of the Brisbane City Council) – @brismarketing

Chrys Stevenson

NB: I am reliably informed that the Woodford Folk Festival organisers were not entirely unaware of Ms Dorey’s reputation. They had been warned about her prior to her last appearance at the Woodford Folk Festival in 2009 but ignored the advice.  Peter Bowditch has the information here.

Meryl Dorey - putting a face to the name

7 thoughts on “Woodford Folk Festival Risks Children’s Lives*

  1. cushla geary

    I am old enough to remember an era when vaccination for ordinary childhood diseases was unavailable – I was about five when a number of my classmates from our tiny 110 pupil rural school caught polio – and didn’t all come back to school. My mother all but stormed the gates of the medical clinic to make sure we got the Sabin vaccine the moment it was available.
    I’ve had most of those “simple” childhood diseases, like measles, whooping cough, chicken pox – all made me very sick, for a very long time. Measles left me with permanent damage to my eyes. And I’m not alone: the list of things that any of those three can do by way of permanent damage is alarming – every new epidemic leaves its list of dead and damaged.
    I seriously doubt that all the vaccination damage that has ever occured comes close to equalling the numbers of children with brain or lung damage, or defective hearing or eyesight, resulting from measles and chicken pox alone.
    Not to mention the hideous deaths from tetanus, diphtheria or scarlet fever.

    I’ve said this before, and I suppose I’ll keep on saying it: those people who adamanty oppose vaccination have no comprehension of the alternative. Had they lived through a pre-vaccination pandemic they would none of them ever again dare to claim that vaccinations don’t work – or to refuse them on the tenuous grounds that they might, just maybe, cause some kind of damage. Damage which we know to be a mental condition that was around long before vaccinations were available!

    Sorry – just rambling crossly on here: but it’s difficult for me to be coolly objective about this woman and her campaign for the promotion of ignorance!

  2. Pingback: Wot I done on my summer vacation … (with love to Meryl Dorey) « Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

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