As many of you will recall, last week, this blog highlighted a situation where a member of an anti-choice organisation, Ken McLeod, contacted Child Protection (CPS) in West Australia to report the fact that a woman had put up a post on Facebook to say she had exposed her child to Chicken Pox so he would get natural immunity to the disease. A newspaper in WA, the Cambridge Post, wrote an article about this situation which allowed Mr McLeod an unopposed platform to defame the AVN by calling us a “rabid anti-vaccination group” – a claim which is both libellous and untrue. He also claimed that exposing your child to a common, generally benign disease of childhood could be called assault and should be treated as a crime. You can read the original article by clicking here and also view the original blog post here.

On Monday morning, I called the Cambridge Post and spoke with the author of this article, Mr David Cohen. I told him that I felt his article was very one-sided and that I believed the AVN had been defamed by his paper. He suggested that the best course of action for me to carry out would be to write a letter to the editor and submit it. He informed me that the deadline for submissions was Wednesday morning so I agreed to do that. I asked him if my letter could be 400 words and he told me that normally, the limit was 300 words but that he would speak with the Editor of the letters page about giving me extra space.

I wrote and submitted my letter and on Wednesday morning, I called and spoke with the Editor of the letters page, a Mr David Huddleston. I asked Mr Huddleston if he had received my letter to the editor and he confirmed that he had. I reminded him that on my submission, I had specifically requested that the letter not be shortened or changed in any way and he assured me that it would not be. I asked for his assurance that the letter would go into this week’s paper and he said he could not promise anything because they had received a lot of letters on this article (many of them from AVN members though he did not mention this) but that he would do his best.

It was a big surprise then to download the Cambridge Post yesterday evening and see that not only had my letter been cut by more than half – from 380 words down to 170 – far less than the original 300 I was told was acceptable on the letters page! But in addition, part of it had been re-written (I had asked to be informed if any changes were to be made – please see the original letter below) and as a result of this re-writing, there were several errors in my letter. For instance, the letter now reads that Stop the AVN is the AVN – funny one that!

In addition, there was a second letter in the paper – on the same page as mine – from Bill Bibb – an American pseudo-skeptic who states that he supports Stop the AVN. So my response to a one-sided article was met by an evisceration of my original letter – despite promises that this would not be done – and a further response from another person who supports Stop the AVN. That doesn’t seem much like a provision of balance to me.

The titles for the letters, chosen by the paper, were further evidence of the bias involved. My letter was entitled “Anti-vaxxers reply on chickenpox”, laughable since one of the reasons I complained to the paper was because McLeod continues to call the AVN anti-vaccine when we’re not. While the anti-choice letter was entitled “Vaccinations Save Lives”. I think the paper is wearing its newsprint heart on its sleeve, don’t you?

Below is my original letter to the paper as well as the introduction where I requested no changes. Below that is my final letter as it went into the newspaper.

If you wrote a letter into the Cambridge post about this article and are not satisfied that it was not printed (they had 3 pages of letters in this edition of the paper), please contact the Editor, Brett Christian, on any of the following contacts – email mailbox@postnewspapers.com.au | p : +61 (08) 9381 3088 | f : +61 (08) 9388 2258. And if you haven’t yet submitted a letter but would like to do so, please do and send a copy to me at meryl@avn.org.au.

Attn: Letters Editor,

Below, please find the response of the Australian Vaccination Network to the article in your last edition entitled, Chicken Pox Response ‘Inadequate’.  I had spoken with David Cohen, the journalist, a couple of days ago regarding this article and he suggested that I send through a letter. I also asked if I could go up to 400 words and he said he would speak with you about this since the AVN was referred to in a very negative manner in your article without an opportunity being given to us to provide a balanced opinion. Please let me know if you feel you have to cut this letter or change it in any way prior to publication.
Kind regards,
Meryl Dorey
Word count – 398
References available on request
WA government persecutes mother

Ken McLeod is a representative of the hate group, Stop the AVN. He has reported a mother in WA to Child Protection services (CPS) for doing what our mothers and grandmothers did – exposing her child to a benign disease of childhood so they would get natural immunity – a benefit vaccines cannot provide.

The actions of Mr McLeod are typical of the cyberbullying his organization indulges in – preying on innocent people who simply want to do the best for their children. The response of CPS and the state opposition are the real concern. Instead of laughing it off, the government used this poor woman’s situation to try and once again attack the AVN, a public health safety watchdog that has provided medically-sourced information to Australian parents for over 18 years. It is because of the AVN that unvaccinated families are still able to access all government payments and send their children to school preschool and childcare centres whether they are vaccinated or not.

It might interest CPS and the WA government to know that prior to the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine, the death rate from this illness was .0025% and hospitalisation affected only .232%, making chicken pox one of the most benign of the childhood diseases.

When Japan introduced the vaccine in 1988, they found that vaccinated people still got chicken pox but they contracted it later in life, leading to an increase in deaths and hospitalisations. They also found that for the first time, infants were getting shingles (a disease caused by the same virus as chicken pox which normally only affects the elderly) – a painful and potentially disfiguring condition which used to require previous infection with the chicken pox virus but now can be caused simply by chicken pox vaccination.

In fact, there was much resistance in the medical community towards the chicken pox vaccine because the disease was considered to be so mild. It was introduced to save money by keeping mothers at work rather than at home taking care of sick children.

The kicker is that according to the NNDSS, since the vaccine was introduced in Australia, the rates of chicken pox have been steadily increasing.

If child protection can be called in because this mother tried to protect her child through natural immunity, what is next? Will they take children off of parents who eat McDonalds, or smoke, or homeschool?

 

Letter from Meryl to the Cambridge Post - severely edited and changed.