Please note: I have been informed that the name of this show was actually Father Knows Best – not Doctor Knows Best – my apologies for the error.
When I was growing up in the 1960s, I remember a show on television called Doctor Knows Best. Starring a slightly greying but still very handsome Robert Young, it portrayed the life of a doctor who seemed able to cure just about any ill he was confronted with and be kind, caring and generous at the same time. You could not possible show this person a disease he hadn’t already seen or read about and he always knew exactly what to do. Life was so much simpler back then! And doctor shows were and still are good watching. Marcus Welby, MD; Dr Kildare (my first movie star crush!) and when I moved to Australia, I became hooked on the ABC programme, GP.
Good viewing, good entertainment, but not really true to life. Because doctors are not the superhuman individuals they have been portrayed as on television. They aren’t even the jokers that we’ve seen on such shows as Scrubs. They are people – just like you and me. Able to make mistakes, get angry, do things out of spite and just plain be bastards – just like you and me. They are also able to be incredibly intelligent, kind, compassionate and resourceful – just like you and me.
The problem is that they are held up as the paragons of humanity – as people who are so intelligent and knowledgable, mere humans can’t and should not question anything they say. The Pope is considered to be God’s messenger on Earth. Doctors, on the other hand, are considered to be Gods.
Why do I bring this up? Well, I’m about to crash a golden idol that was set on his pedestal by none other than Tracey Spicer from Sydney radio station, 2UE. Tracey has tried several times to get her head around the whole vaccination issue and has failed miserably. She has not allowed a debate to take place on her show but has discussed it several times and even once started to interview me. After about 30 seconds, she hung up the phone and then went off onto a rampage about how dangerous I am and how everything I say is wrong. Not good journalism. Not even good radio.
But I digress.
Below is the transcript of a programme Tracey Spicer presented a few days ago along with her co-host Prue (I’m not sure what her last name is). Please read through it – my comments are interspersed amongst the transcript of the talk. (I apologise if I am not attributing the right statements to the right presenter – I had trouble distinguishing between Tracey and Prue at times)
Tracey: Well you would know one of my hobby horses is this dreadful organisation, the so called Australian Vaccination Network which is actually an anti-vaccination network. They keep propagating this myth that the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine brings on autism. It’s a link that has been roundly and convincingly discredited. The British Medical Council found Doctor Andrew Wakefield guilty of dishonesty and fraud and yet Meryl Dorey, this head of this Australian Vaccination Network, keeps getting publicity. As I mentioned before, her latest appearance will be at the famous Woodford Folk Festival next week in an area where there’s an epidemic of whooping cough because people will not vaccinate their children. And her appearance is being funded by both the local council and the state government.
What Tracey obviously doesn’t realise is that Australia’s rate of whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination is at an all time high of over 95%. She is also unaware that this epidemic of pertussis is occurring around the world – wherever mass vaccination against whooping cough exists. The reasons being given for the outbreak are lack of effectiveness of the vaccine (which lasts – at most – for 3 years) and mutations in the pertussis bacteria – possibly induced by the vaccination – leading to a far more virulent strain. In other words – vaccination levels have nothing to do with the outbreak but lack of effective vaccines may.
Prue: Totally illogical, isn’t it? Now, i know a lot of listeners will want to join the argument on this because some people have religious and cultural issues to contend with, but the fact remains we’re now seeing more and more measles even polio I heard about and of course people who are coming from other countries, some of these countries that are not used to vaccinations are bringing in some diseases that we thought Australia wasn’t going to ever face before. So I know that’s slightly separate, you know I absolutely support the idea of vaccinating your children but maybe we need to extend it as well to those newcomers to the country.
Onya Prue! It’s those dirty furreners who are bringing in diseases from their dirty, stinking furren countries. Let’s keep them out! Australia for Australians, right?
Of course, there has only been one case of polio in Australia between 1991 and 2011 and that was a case in someone who was fully vaccinated against polio – but never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And most developing countries vaccinate against polio at least as much as Australia does – maybe even more. For instance, in India, they seem to give the polio vaccine every time a child opens his or her mouth to yawn or take food. Despite that, they still have paralytic disease. And if those in foreign countries can infect us just by coming here and breathing on us even though we are vaccinated – do we blame the foreigners or do we start to ask why those vaccines aren’t protecting us? Hmmmmmm. I wonder…
Tracey: Well the thing is the government is trying programs to get people to vaccinate their children, they’ve just announced a carrot and stick approach, families refusing vaccinations might lose thousands of dollars in benefits for each child and children must be immunised for parents to get the part A end of year supplement of the family tax benefit. But the problem is, even under this regime, parents can turn around and say they are conscientious objectors and therefore they don’t have to be bound by this, it’s just absolute rubbish. Joining us now is the Queensland president of the AMA, Doctor Richard Kid. Richard, what are your thoughts on all this?
Right. So even though it’s legal in Australia to choose not to vaccinate and even though there is no evidence that the healthy unvaccinated are able to infect the fully vaccinated (think about this for a minute – go ahead – I’ll give you time), Tracey and Prue are pissed off because there is a loophole for parents who have done their research and decided that for their own families, the risks of vaccination outweigh any potential benefits. That doesn’t sound too logical to me, to be honest.
Richard: Hi, I think you put it better than I can. Vaccination is a really excellent way to protect children, and adults for that matter, against a range of diseases that kill and maim and generally they’re very, very safe.
Prue: It seems amazing to me that we are seeing diseases that we really, in my lifetime and I’m a hundred years old, you know I thought were eradicated. you must be seeing this and be having it reported to you Doctor.
Richard: Yes, we are. You are quite right. And it’s tragic because the people who at least choose not to vaccinate their children are playing Russian roulette with their children and everybody else’s children.
Again, if you are vaccinated and I am not, how can that possibly affect you unless the vaccines don’t work? And if the vaccines don’t work, why are we having this conversation in the first place?
Tracey: Richard, how bad are the outbreaks at the moment of, say, whooping cough in the hot spot areas around Australia.
Richard: Well it’s very sad, there’s been one or two babies who have died, so that’s just tragic.
The babies who died (and there are more than two of them in the last 2 years) were either partially vaccinated or too young to be vaccinated. Our vaccination rate has gone from about 71% in 1991 to over 95% in 2008 and in fact, in 2005, we introduced an adult vaccine which never even existed before. Despite this huge increase in the vaccination rate, we have had a greater than 10,000% increase in the incidence of the disease. And they are blaming the unvaccinated? Something here does not compute.
In fact, from the last time the Australian government bothered to look (it was actually the state government in SA), 87% of those who got whooping cough for whom vaccination status was available were fully and appropriately vaccinated. Yet most times, when a case of ‘vaccine-preventable’ diseases is reported, there is no inquiry as to whether or not the person was vaccinated – it is just blamed on the unvaccinated. Why? Because they can?
Any child’s death is tragic, but pointing the finger of blame for the deaths of these babies at the unvaccinated when the vaccinated can both get whooping cough and transmit it even if they don’t have symptoms is a bit like medical vilification, don’t you think?
Prue: And what other illnesses or diseases are we now looking at?
Richard: well we’re seeing the measles every now and again. There was one little girl that sort of traipsed through the outback of Queensland delivering measles here, there and everywhere.
Great mental image there, Richard. Picture Shirley Temple, dressed in a postie’s uniform, ringing your doorbell and delivering a package with fine white powder only instead of anthrax, it contains measles. Again, our vaccination rate against measles is very high – well above the level required for what the medical community likes to refer to as ‘herd immunity’. So when the doorbell rang and the little girl showed up, you should have been able to say thanks, but no thanks. But of course, since the vaccinated can get measles just like the unvaccinated can, you were definitely welcoming her inside to ‘traipse’ through your home and possessions.
And we are talking about measles here! Not typhoid. Not cholera. Not tetanus. Measles! The same disease which a medical encyclopaedia in the early 1980s described as an acute infection, the only long-term side effects of which were life-long immunity to further infection. Anyone who is over 45 years of age will know what I’m talking about, right?
We’re also seeing, I’ve just gone blank, there’s measles there’s been a bit of an increase in the hepititis B and certainly, as you’ve said, we have heard of one or two cases of polio.
Now there goes polio raising its ugly head again. As I said, according to the NNDSS, there has been a grand total of 1 case of polio in Australia in the last 20 years. So when Richard says that there have been one or two cases of polio, is he inferring that this was in Australia or somewhere else?
And Heptatis B? Remember, this is the head of the AMA in Queensland – a man with a powerful job and access to all of the latest information on health. So when he says that “there’s been a bit of an increase in the hepatitis B”, you would think he wouldn’t make that statement unless he had the evidence to back it up.
Perhaps he does? Perhaps he knows more than the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System whose latest table on Hep B shows that there has been no increase in reports in Australia. In fact, we currently have the lowest number of cases reported – 167 new cases Australia – wide – since the first year we started keeping recording with the NNDSS. So perhaps that increase in Hep B took place in the same country where that other case of polio was reported? I wish he would have told us the name of that country – some people might have cancelled their travel plans?
Richard: I’ve heard of one case of tetanus in a older person about 8 months ago. The thing is these are all entirely, well, very much preventable by having vaccination.
Indeed. The majority of those in Australia who get tetanus infections are elderly. Most of them are vaccinated. Many of them are diabetics (who lose sensation in their extremities due to the disease and do not care for wounds because they don’t feel them and end up getting tetanus or even gangrene as a result.) Just because someone got tetanus doesn’t mean that this is due to lack of vaccination – especially when many of them, as I said, would have been vaccinated. At least Richard moderated his statement that these were entirely preventable because of course, they are not.
Tracey: This is it. Does it frustrate you that in the case of the Woodford Folk Festival, both the local council of the Morton Shire and the Queensland State Government are funding this festival where they are advertising this anti-vaccination advocate as saying, you know, she lifts the cover on vaccinations and the dangers that they can cause. I mean, that’s incredibly frustrating.
Firstly, the sponsors are sponsoring the Festival – they are not sponsoring the AVN nor are they sponsoring me. Secondly, I have not made that statement that was attributed to me. But this was a good excuse for a diatribe, I guess. And yes, it IS incredibly frustrating Tracey!
Richard: It’s very frustrating. in general practice we have the immunisation schedule handbook that outlines exactly the range of adverse effects that people can experience with vaccinations which generally are very, very mild. You know, a slight fever, maybe a little bit off your food for a day or two.
I don’t want to repeat myself, but this is the head of the QLD AMA for goodness sake! He is saying that the handbook (which is called the Australian Childhood Immunisation Handbook – he couldn’t seem to get that part right) outlines EXACTLY (and he emphasised that word) the range of adverse effects that people can experience. Well, that is not true. And this is why doctors are sometimes so ill-informed about vaccine safety and why sometimes, doctors don’t actually know best.
Below is the list of side effects associated with the Gardasil (HPV) vaccine according to the Australian Childhood Immunisation Handbook:
infection site reaction (pain, swelling, erythema)
Immediately following this comprehensive list of 3 (count ’em, THREE) reactions, it states:
Variations from product information
As you will see in a moment, this is a great big pork pie!
Because when you look at the manufacturer’s information for Gardasil (and remember, neither our government nor our medical community have investigated or studied this vaccine – only the manufacturer has), here is the list of reactions you will see:
- Abdominal pain, upper
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
- GI upset
- Guillain-barre syndrome
- Hypersensitivity including anaphylactoid reactions, Bronchospasm and urticaria
- Injection site reaction (pain, swelling, erythema, pruritus)
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- Pain in extremity
- Syncope tonic clonic movement
- Upper respiratory tract infection
The American package insert for Gardasil – same vaccine, same manufacturer – has even more reactions listed. But obviously – and this is only one shot – when Dr Kidd said that the Immunisation Handbook which doctors rely upon for complete information on vaccination told exactly the range of adverse reactions to vaccines, he was very, very wrong.
Richard: in the case of the chickenpox virus you can actually get a few little blisters that are very weak and because that’s the live vaccine but we also have there the effects of the diseases and how many children per thousand die and how many end up with terrible brain damage and terrible lung damage and losing arms and legs.
OK – perhaps he was confusing chicken pox with septicaemia, pneumonia or encephalitis – which you don’t generally get from chicken pox? It’s an easy mistake to make. Any doctor could do it.
Richard: You know, people who are just pushing anti-vaccination are ignoring all of the evidence and the experience of people.
Doctor Kidd, do you mean the experience of people who say that their children have been killed or injured by vaccines? Do you mean the experiences that your brethren refer to as anecdotal? I believe that if there is any ignoring going on, the medical fraternity is the one that’s doing it.
Richard: You know these diseases we know they kill and they maim and they just turn a blind eye to that and do other really insane things. You’ve probably heard about the poxed lollipops where they get some kids with chickenpox to lick these lollipops and then they mail them interstate and to other countries supposedly to give kids chickenpox and somehow they think that’s safer than giving them a vaccination.
Now the AVN is not involved in this activity – not on our Facebook page – not anywhere. We never have been and we never will be. So why does he bring this up? Is it just to try and make people think that our organisation is filled with crazy people who want to make their children sick? Hey! I think that might be it! Got it in one! But of course, that sort of tactic doesn’t work and in fact, it demonstrates only how desperate the medical community can be to regain their ascendancy and infallibility in the eyes of the public. Sorry doc – it’s not working.
Richard: it’s crazy!
Prue: Who is doing this, Doctor?
Richard: it’s in America. So these kids with chickenpox supposedly lick these lollipops and through facebook you can order these poxed pops and give them to your kids. but of course those poxed pops are probably got other things on them like hepatitis B, Rotavirus, Norovirus, a whole lot of other really horrible diseases. Where the vaccine is purified, is safe, you know exactly what you’re giving to a person. There are some crazy things happening out in the community.
Where do I begin? Hepatitis B is found in very low levels in human saliva. In fact, despite French kissing, CPR, sharing toothbrushes (except where there is gum disease which involves blood) and other methods of sharing spit, there has never been ONE verified case of transmission of Hepatitis B via the oral route.
Next, notice the mention of norovirus? Ever heard of it before? Don’t be ashamed to admit you hadn’t because most people have never heard of it. It used to be called Norwalk virus but that name wasn’t sexy enough so it consulted with its publicists and decided that a change in profile was required. Viruses can’t have nose jobs, so this must be the next best thing.
Norovirus is the next vaccine to come out of the puppy mill. Norovirus kills nobody – not in Australia anyway (though it is stated that it may kill the frail elderly…a bad cold can also kill the frail elderly). It has been associated with gastro symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea but it is not deadly (neither is Rotavirus which we currently vaccinate against – though the government claims that ‘up to’ one child a year will die from it. Up to one. What is less than up to one?). But it’s pretty slick the way that word got slipped in there, you have to admit.
As for the vaccine being “purified and safe” and you knowing exactly what you’re giving to a person, uh-uh, I’m afraid that’s not true either.
Vaccines are filled with carcinogens, toxins, bacterial and viral contaminants, heavy metals, substances which can affect fertility and your ability to fight off disease. They are far from “purified and safe” unless you think that mercury, aluminium, animal and human viral contaminants and formaldehyde (to name just a few) are safe? Please click here
to read a bit more about vaccine ingredients and remember that there are loopholes which allow drug companies to leave certain ingredients off of the package inserts so even this information may not be complete.
Tracey: Now Doctor, you mentioned some of the side effects when you are immunised. Now there are some people who are no doubt listening to us who are going to say “well look, you know my experience is that my child got very, very ill” or in fact in some cases and I’ve actually seen this on you know, A Current Affair or Today Tonight, you know instances where children who have been vaccinated suddenly have a terrible intolerance to it and in fact have been paralysed or had some really radical health issue as a result. What do you say to those people?
Richard: Most children who get a reaction, it’s very, very mild. The serious reactions are very rare and are much, much, much more rare than the terrible things that the diseases do so, you know, these diseases kill and maim as I said. The serious reactions do happen very rarely and when they do happen very, very, very rarely they can be disastrous just like someone who’s got a peanut allergy, that can be disastrous or someone who’s got a strawberry allergy, that can be disastrous. Unfortunately, some people do develop these really bad allergic reactions and there isn’t often a way of picking who that’s going to be. But, you know, unfortunately everything we do in life has risks. Every time you cross the road there’s a risk, so you know if you follow the traffic lights you minimise the risk but some crazy person might still come through and break your legs or kill you and the vaccinations are greatly outweighed by the benefits. So many children are protected from these terrible diseases.
At least he is admitting that there is a risk. But what about the information that only about 1% of adverse reactions to drugs and vaccines are ever reported? If we had full reporting – or even only 50% reporting – would that change the benefits:risks ratio? We may never know. But it seems strange to be so confident about vaccine safety when our information is so incomplete.
Tracey: Doctor Richard Kidd, thank you so much for your wise words.
Richard: Thank you
Tracey: The AMA Queensland President there looked at the disparity it’s absurd, Prue. I’m just looking at some advertisements for the Woodford Folk Festival. It says this woman, Meryl Dorey, is Australia’s leading expert in vaccination and offers her unbiased views and yet the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission has said “The vaccination network’s failure to include a notice on its website of the nature recommended by the commission may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate and poses a risk to public health and safety. So I ask the question, why the government supporting this?
Sorry Tracey, you are reading this directly off of the Skeptics or Stop the AVN’s website or one of their blogs and what you are reading is not true. The advertisement for the Woodford Folk Festival says:
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 benefits of vaccines don’t always outweigh the risks. Her information is sourced from medical data and is necessary for anyone who has a family or is thinking about being vaccinated.
There you go – nothing about being an expert. And remember I already told you, Tracey (well, I would have if you would speak with me and not hang up when I said hello….) – the government is not supporting me or the AVN – they are supporting the Woodford Folk Festival which consists of more than 400 performers and over 130,000 visitors. But thanks for the free publicity for my talk. Much appreciated!
Prue: Well it’s craziness. But we’d like to ask you, do you believe in vaccinations? Have you vaccinated your children? Or are you worried about this slight issue of Russian roulette with their health? But of course, the implications are that if you don’t vaccinate then there’s a very, very strong chance of that they could contract something that could be very damaging to their long term health.
I’m continually told that, not being a doctor myself, I am not fit to comment on or discuss the issue of vaccination. In fact, Tracey was one of the people who has said that. Often. And she has also called me a fear monger because I want people to know both sides of this issue.
Yet here she is, virtually saying that if you make a decision not to vaccinate, your child is going to be very sick, implying that they may even die. What is she basing this upon? And how did the human race ever survive before vaccines were introduced?
Of course, much of what I’ve written here is very much tongue in cheek. I felt that there needed to be a little bit of humour when it is really so sad that someone in such an exalted position as the Head of the AMA QLD can make so many incorrect statements and when someone who claims to be a journalist can be so blind to the bias that she displays every time she opens her mouth on this subject.
Oh, and speaking of bias, here is a transcript for a short update to her interview which followed the next day:
Tracey: I just want to follow up on a story we did yesterday about a prominent anti-vaccination campaigner spreading her lies at a folk festival. A folk festival which is being sponsored and supported by the Queensland government and the Morton Bay regional council.
Now, the council yesterday said they were very upset about our story. They wouldn’t go on air but they complained on the phone and they’ve just issued a press release saying “The council is a committed supporter of the Immunise Australia program. We’ve immunised 13,000 people against a host of preventable diseases, free of charge.”, and the press release explicitly says, “The council is not a sponsor of Meryl Dorey, as claimed on Sydney radio, and is not associated in any way with this festival”. But I got onto the festival’s website and I’m looking at a list of sponsors in front of me and there it is, the Morton Bay regional council, so all I can say is “liar, liar pants on fire”.
Did she really say liar, liar pants on fire? That would be cute if she were 12, but at her age…
Prue: Yeah, I mean we just don’t cop it. they’re all running for cover, they’ve made a big mistake and they need to really, I think, front up and accept that they have.
Tracey: That’s right but what’s even worse is that Queensland Health which we called for a comment, do you know what they said? They said put the questions in writing, we’ll get back to you in three or four days time. I thought we lived in a democracy – obviously not.
The irony here is just too sweet, too rich. I just want to sit back and enjoy it for a few minutes. You keep on reading, OK?
Tracey: Well, we know how competent the Queensland Health Department is when they couldn’t even trace how many 16 million dollars that went missing. So, you know, we take them with a grain of salt.
And there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s comic interlude. And the next time someone says that Australia is a democracy, you can answer them in two words: