Misinformation by Skeptic/SAVN Lobby Group Supporters
I have provided here a list of comments about my research provided in the media by Skeptic/SAVN lobby group supporters. This also includes a comment by a UOW academic speaking outside his area of expertise. This is an example of the false and misleading information that is being provided in the mainstream media and on social media about my research:
- The statements made by Dr.Matthew Berryman in 2012 to the Illawarra Mercury about my research were untruthful statements taken from social media websites. Matthew Berryman’s PhD is in ‘complex systems modelling and analysis’ and he was working in the SMART Infrastructure Facility at UOW. He has no qualifications in vaccination policy, immunology or ethics. Matthew Berryman was a staff member of Wollongong University at the time yet he disparaged myself and a UOW professor (my supervisor) on his blog by using misinformation from Skeptic lobby group websites. Matthew Berryman was not entitled to present his opinions of my research (taken from a blog) using his title of ‘UOW Research Fellow’. This is a misuse of the imprimatur of the university. It misinforms the public about the validity of the comments he was providing.
- I informed the journalist of the misinformation Berryman was providing and she did not publish the the original comments I made to the Australian Human Rights Commission on this topic. The issues raised in my letter were i) anecdotal evidence is not used to make public health policy yet vaccines are being promoted to the public based on anecdotal evidence and ii) the public is entitled to know that parents who are promoting vaccines to the public have been presented with financial awards from the Australian Skeptics lobby groups. This does not mean that these parents are ‘promoting vaccines for the financial awards’ as the Illawarra Mercury’s article suggested.
- The blog that Matthew Berryman used to provide his opinion about my research to the Illawarra Mercury was ‘Reasonablehank’. Here is my reply to the untruthful statements that were provided to the media by Matthew Berryman from this Skeptic’s lobby group blog. It is interesting to note that the Illawarra Mercury article focused on untruthful comments from a blog and not the issue that was presented in my letter to the Human Rights Commission, as as an academic at a university. Peter Tierney is the blogger that writes for the ‘Reasonablehank’ website. He is also a subscriber of the Skeptics. Peter Tierney, Daniel Raffaele, Wendy Wilkinson and Ken McLeod are active leaders of the lobby group ‘Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN)’.
- The SAVN Facebook lobby group won the Skeptics of the Year Award in 2010 for making a complaint against the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) to the NSW Healthcare Complaints Commission (HCCC). In the same year Ken McLeod and Wendy Wilkenson (SAVN activists) were awarded the Skeptic’s Thornett Award of $1000 for the complaint they made against the AVN to the HCCC. The AVN is a consumer group, with many professionals, that is concerned about children’s health. Yet the HCCC, a government body whose role it is to investigate consumer concerns, investigated the complaint made against this consumer group – and not the concerns of these consumers. The complaint made by Ken McLeod and the SAVN lobby group was not upheld in court because it was outside the remit of the HCCC.
- On his blog, Matthew Berryman also presented untruthful information to the public about my referenced article on whooping cough that was published in the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) newsletter in April 2009. He stated that this article was ‘flawed’ and he inferred that it was not peer-reviewed. Whilst there was no formal process of peer-review this referenced article was reviewed by Professor Peter McIntyre, the director of the National Centre for Immunisation and Research Surveillance (NCIRS) and he wrote a reply article that was published in the same newsletter. When I requested the specific references for Professor McIntryre’s article they were not provided. I have not seen a fully referenced version of this article. The validity of these two articles depends upon the provision of references to support the claims that are made.
- Dr. Rachael Dunlop (Research and Communications Officer at the Heart Research Institute) is vice-president of the Australian Skeptics and since 2010 she has contributed to a blog called ‘The Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh’. This blog has been used to discredit the reputations of academics and media who present science against the use of multiple vaccines in infants and adults. Here is the untruthful information provided on blogs/websites by Rachael Dunlop. When I complained to the Australian Consumers Health Forum (CHF) about the misinformation being provided by Rachael Dunlop, in 2011, the CEO Carol Benntt did not reply. This organisation is set up to investigate consumer concerns yet it did not answer my questions about vaccines or investigate the behaviour of lobby groups who are promoting vaccines with anecdotal evidence.
- The Consumer Health Forum (CHF) is composed of members from large associations and industry whose interests would not necessarily represent the interests of consumers on vaccination. Members include Medicines Australia, Merck, Sharp and Dohme (the distributor of HPV vaccine in Australia), Novartis, and other organisations and self-help illness groups. The letter I sent to Carol Bennett (and to no-one else) requesting that she investigate consumer concerns about vaccination was immediately addressed by the vice president of the Australian Skeptics, Rachael Dunlop, with misinformation on her Skeptic’s blog of “pooh pooh”, including disparaging comments and ridicule of myself. This is not demonstrating that the CHF is representing consumers rights on health issues.
- Murdoch University is involved in the Genesiis Campaign which is a collaboration of over 30 industrial partners (including pharmaceutical companies, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Royal Perth Hospital, Fiona Stanley Hospital and biotechnology companies) to build the new International Medical Centre: The Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Further information about this can be found on the Murdoch University website.
- Peter Bowditch, the former president of the Australian Skeptics contributes to a blog titled ratbags.com. Contributors to this blog use edited comments to misrepresent the arguments of academics/professionals and disparage people’s reputations.
- Dr.David Hawkes, Research Officer in molecular virology in neurosciences and mental health (Florey Institute, Melbourne) and an administrator of the SAVN lobby group, informed me in 2012 that he would post his analysis of my published HPV article on Peter Bowditch’s Skeptic blog called ratbags.com – a website known to edit people’s comments and disparage reputations. In 2012 David Hawkes did not have any papers published on the HPV vaccine and his comments on this Skeptic blog focused on criticising the presentation of my HPV article and denigrating the journals that have published my articles. Why not debate the science instead of denigrating the journals, references and journalists who are publishing the information? In 2012 David Hawke’s unreferenced critique of my article that was published on the Skeptic’s blog, provided misinformation about the HPV vaccine to the public. It was clear that David Hawkes had not researched this topic in 2012 when he commented on my paper. David Hawkes has since had a paper published in the Infectious Agents and Cancer Journal (June 2013) titled ‘Answering human papillomavirus concerns; a matter of time and science’ (by Hawkes, Lea and Berryman). All of these authors are active lobbyists for the Skeptic/SAVN lobby groups. This paper makes conclusions that are not supported with evidence in the paper. I have provided an analysis of the Hawkes et al paper here that is also published as Appendix 5 in my PhD thesis. Matthew Berryman, who is a subscriber to Skeptics online, was listed as an author on this paper analysing the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV), even though he is not qualified in public health, infectious diseases or public health policy. He provided a statistical analysis for the Hawkes et al paper that investigated consumer concerns about the benefits and risks of HPV vaccines. By co-incidence, this paper by these lobby group activists supporting industry interests was published at exactly the same time as my own paper in the Infectious Agents and Cancer Journal – June 2013. Their paper made counter claims to my own paper but their claims were not supported by evidence.Yet the journal promoted their paper and not my own that is titled ‘HPV vaccines have not been shown to be cost-effective in countries with comprehensive Pap screening and surgery’
- Paul Gallagher, is an Australian who is a subscriber of the Skeptics but does not have qualifications in immunology, environmental health or vaccination policy. He runs the skeptic blog titled ‘Losing in the Lucky Country’ and presents opinion and comments on vaccination and other health issues. This information is not a scientific comment and analysis but his ‘opinion’ of edited comments that have been made by other people. He uses this blog to disparage people who speak about the health risks of vaccines.
- Chrys Stevenson is a freelance writer, speaker and skeptical activist. She has a background in marketing and public relations not science, vaccination policy, environmental health or health promotion yet she presents her ‘opinions‘ on vaccination (and other health issues) on her blog ‘Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear’. She is also a subscriber to the Skeptics and subscribes to the Skeptic journal. She has presented untruthful information on her blog that disparages the reputation of consumers, academics and universities that are presenting scientific information for debate. She also describes how she used the media to ‘plant a story’ about a vaccination row. Her behaviour is hindering proper scientific debate.
- Rick Morton has written two articles for News Ltd papers that have provided false and misleading information to the public about vaccines and my research. His articles have used comments from social media websites to inform the public on health issues. In 2012 (26 September) he wrote a story in the Australian newspaper titled ‘Uni supports anti-vaccine student’. Rick Morton did not wait for my reply to write this article and the information he provided was false. My reply to this false information is provided here. At the time Morton wrote this article he had only been employed at the Australian newspaper for 3 months. Prior to this he was the editor of the Mamamia blog run by Mia Freedman. On the 28 January 2014 Rick Morton published a second story about my published research that contained false and misleading information about the presentation I gave on the HPV vaccine at the Cancer Science and Therapy Congress in San Fancisco in October 2013. Here is the correct information that Morton had access to but did not provide in his story about my research in the Australian newspaper in January 2014.
- On Christine Bayne’s website ‘Diluted Thinking in Australian HealthCare’ she misinforms that public that I have inappropriately used the Murdoch logo. The university gave permission for this logo to be used for my academic poster when it was presented at the Australian Health Promotion Conference in 2009. Any publication of this poster by other persons requires the university’s permission to use the logo. When Rachael Dunlop, vice-president of the Australian Skeptics, misused this poster in an advocacy campaign she did not get permission to use the Murdoch University logo. This resulted in Murdoch university lawyers asking her to remove the logo from her blog and this information is being misused on Chritine Bayne’s website. Her website is also advertised on Skeptic Bogs such as Peter Bowditch’s ratbags.com which uses abusive language and disinformation about academic researchers to bias public opinion. Peter Bowditch does not have qualifications in health, medicine or public policy yet he is invited to provide information on vaccination on Mia Freedman’s Mamamia blog. [/pane] [/accordion]
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- JUDY WILYMAN