by Meryl Dorey
There is one side of the vaccination issue supported by those who believe parents should be able to access a broad range of information from many different sources. This side is not afraid of scrutiny and in fact, has been asking for better, more transparent research for decades. That side is represented by the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network (AVN) and the other pro-information, pro-choice groups in Australia and overseas.
In opposition to this open and democratic viewpoint on scientific issues, there are organisations and individuals whose raison d’étre seems to be to prevent parents from accessing information freely and to threaten, harass and abuse anyone whose viewpoint on medical issues is not in accord with their own beliefs. That side is represented by the pro-vaccine lobby: the Australian Skeptics, Stop the AVN, certain members of both State and Federal Parliaments and some sections of the medical community.
In May of this year, I am going to be speaking at an event on the Sunshine Coast called the Healthy Lifestyles Expo.
The organisers originally contacted me in October last year to see if I would be interested in participating in a live debate on the subject of vaccination. Both sides would be presented and the moderator would ensure that equal time was given to each speaker with ample time allowed for questions from the audience.
Since this is something that both the AVN and I have been wanting to facilitate for some time, I was quick to agree.
The organisers were having a very hard time finding someone from the medical community to debate me, however.
They contacted Queensland Health, their Medical Local, a large number of doctors and even Stop the AVN and the Australian Skeptics. None of them would agree to defend vaccinations publicly.
The reasons given for the refusal to participate in a debate were:
a. There is no debate – there is only one side to this issue.
b. If people have questions, they should see their GP.
c. Fliers would be provided so a debate was unnecessary.
After a few weeks of trying, the debate was called off and instead, the AVN booked a stall at the Expo. As stall-holders, we were entitled to present a seminar which we were happy to do though we still would have preferred a debate.
At this point, the organisers posted an advertisement for my talk on their website at this page.
Almost immediately after this information was posted, the Expo’s website was attacked – twice. The organiser’s were signed up for many pornographic email lists (something that regularly happens to my own email address) and they found themselves targeted by a stream of hate messages on social media from people using the tag #stopavn.
They also received an angry post from Matthew Berryman, an SAVN member who works at the University of Wollongong.
Here is what one of the organisers of this event stated on their blog about Mr Berryman and the whole campaign to stop this debate from taking place:
“…the first comment by Matthew Berryman who has [a] PhD in complex systems modelling and analysis, yet tends to resort to name calling if he is rebutted, a very grown up response.
Mr Berryman sent the organisers of this event a letter accusing them of paying me to speak (in 20 years of public speaking on this issue, I have never taken payment for any of my talks though that is usually offered) and saying that the event was ‘unbalanced’ because they didn’t have a speaker from the anti-choice side!
The organisers offered Mr Berryman the opportunity to either debate me or, if he preferred, to get a stall and speak on the stage himself, just as the AVN was doing. He declined, stating that he was not qualified to speak on this issue.
Where we stand today
At this point in time, there is a possibility that Dr Rachael Dunlop from Stop the AVN and the NSW Skeptics may be debating me (please note – I have just heard from the organisers this morning. Dr Dunlop has said she will not debate me). For those who don’t know her, here is one of the Twitter posts she wrote about myself and others who have made an informed choice not to vaccinate:
The organisers have stated that, regretfully, if someone from the other side does not come forward by the 9th of May, the debate will be cancelled and we will go back to just me speaking on the issue with no opposing viewpoint which would be a shame.
We need a conversation and a debate
The AVN wants parents everywhere to be able to hear both sides of this issue. We want them to be able to ask questions, discuss this subject openly without fear or favour and, in the end, to make the choices they think are best for their family. Without the participation of the pro-vaccine lobbyists – those same people who have been trying for years to make vaccination compulsory – it becomes almost impossible to provide parents with that balance.
We ask anyone who is reading this – whether they be a medical doctor, specialist, health official or from another area of the field of science – who would like to debate the subject in a respectful manner, to contact the Expo organisers via their website contact page.
We also ask that those who believe in free choice on health issues write a quick note to Wayne and Annie, the Expo organisers, to thank them for their strength and commitment to freedom of speech and scientific debate.
I’d love to see you at the Expo!
If you are going to be on the Sunshine Coast on the 24th to the 25th of May, 2014, I would love to see you at the Expo. Please do drop by the AVN’s stand and say hi.
One last note:
QLD Health has been given a free table next to the AVN stand on which to display flyers and other information about vaccination. When asked if they would also be sending someone who would be able to answer questions or discuss this issue with the parents in attendance, they said they would not and that anyone who had questions should be contacting their GP.
It is this sort of unresponsive behaviour; this running away from those whom they are supposed to be serving, that has many QLD parents questioning the commitment of their health authorities to the protection of the children of that State.
The AVN will always be there to support our members and to answer their questions. We will always be there to help members who are being discriminated against or harassed in some way because of their vaccination decision. We believe strongly in everyone’s right to make informed choices and wish that our elected representatives would take their responsibility seriously in regards to this issue as well. Citizens and residents of a democratic nation should not be living in fear that their government will take away their inalienable rights to read, discuss and decide about health issues as they see best.
Please note: Blog posts are opinion pieces which represent the views of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the AVN National Committee. The AVN is a forum, support and information organisation and outlet for discussion about the relative benefits and risks of vaccinations in particular – and medical procedures in general. We do not provide medical advice but believe that everyone has the opportunity and the obligation to do their own research before making decisions for their families. The information we provide (including your personal review of the references we cite) should be taken in conjunction with a range of other data, including that obtained from government, your health care provider and/or other medical source material to assist you in developing the knowledge required to make informed health choices.