Australian Vaccination Network

Australian Vaccination Network
Australian Vaccination Network
Abbreviation AVN
Formation 1994
Type Pressure group
Purpose/focus anti-vaccination campaigning[1]
Headquarters Bangalow, New South Wales
Membership 1870+
President Meryl Dorey

The Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), formerly known as the Vaccination Awareness Network, is an Australian anti-vaccination lobby group[2] registered in New South Wales. It is dedicated to the idea that one's health can be maintained without the use of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. The organisation has lobbied against a variety of vaccination-related programs, downplayed the danger of childhood diseases such as measles and pertussis, championed the cause of alleged vaccination victims, and promoted the use of alternative medicine such as homeopathy and chiropractic.

The AVN has been described as a provider of "misleading, inaccurate and deceptive" vaccination information by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission[2] and has been heavily criticised by doctors and other experts on immunisation.[3] The group has been called the "stronghold of the anti-vaccination movement" in Australia and is subject to widespread criticism from medical professionals, scientists and other proponents of vaccination.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

In a July 2010 ruling by the Health Care Complaints Commission analysing AVNs claims and activities stated that AVN "should include an appropriate statement in a prominent position on its website which states:"

the Australian Vaccination Network's purpose is to provide information against vaccination in order to balance what it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere;
the information should not be read as medical advice and;
the decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.

HCCC findings as advised to complainant Ken McLeod of

On 14 October 2010, the organisation's right to fundraise was stripped from it by the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, stating that its appeals had "not been conducted in good faith for charitable purposes".[14][15]



The Australian Vaccination Network was formed in 1994 as the Vaccination Awareness Network by a "group of parents and health professionals concerned about protecting the rights of Australians to make free and informed health choices." The group's mission statement says it "is dedicated to the idea that health can be achieved and maintained without the use of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines" and that it seeks to enable people to make informed health choices.[16]

AVN is headed by Meryl Dorey who has been with the organisation since its founding, saying she got involved after her eldest son was allegedly adversely affected by DPT and MMR vaccines administered when he was a child. She announced in February 2010 she was resigning "and moving on to the next stage of my own personal development as mother, wife, activist and researcher", but still holds the position in July 2010.[17]

The AVN is strongly against any form of compulsory vaccination,[18] but Dorey disputes that the AVN is an anti-vaccine organisation. "We don't believe we have the right to tell people whether or not to vaccinate", says Dorey who adds, "but neither does the government."[19] She says AVN is just trying to fill "the information void" created by a pro-vaccine government and medical community that ignores negative information.[20] Dorey considers herself, "pro-information and pro-choice".[21]

In 2009, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation described the AVN as the "stronghold of the anti-vaccination movement" in Australia.[22] The NSW Northern Rivers region, where the AVN is located, has a childhood vaccination rate of only 70% compared to the national average of over 90%.[23]

The AVN is a privately funded organisation. Until October 2010, they were the holders of a charitable fundraising authority in NSW, however their authority to fundraise was revoked by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing after an audit of the organisation.[14][15] The AVN's attempts to obtain tax-deductible charity status have been repeatedly refused by the Australian Taxation Office.[24] In July 2009, the AVN claimed it had more than 3500 members,[19] however in a Constitutional change voting Proxy form published in March 2010, the AVN revealed the actual membership is considerably lower, at around 1867 financial members.[25] The AVN is headquartered in Bangalow, New South Wales.


In addition to its website and associated blog AVN publishes a quarterly magazine called Informed Voice, and a bimonthly digital magazine called Living Wisdom. The AVN's paid-for memberships also include a quarterly insert called Inside Edition which contains "12 pages of current news from around the world regarding vaccination".


The Australian Vaccination Network believes that vaccines contain a variety of toxic ingredients that have no place in the human body.[22] The group argues that these toxins can cause autism, ADHD, brain damage, and cancer, among other serious side effects.[20] In response to medical and scientific research that shows few side effects to most vaccines, Dorey argues that doctors are very hesitant to report adverse reactions and thus the data is highly skewed.[23] Vaccination expert Professor Robert Booy counters these claims. He notes that while minor side effects such as soreness, swelling, and fever are not uncommon, no large scale scientific study has found evidence of more serious reactions.[26]

AVN president Meryl Dorey claims that most doctors are not fully informed about vaccination research and that the medical community as a whole relies on "selective evidence" to back its argument.[22][27] She says there is a "very, very strong effort" by the government and mainstream medical community to suppress any information that may cause parents to question the safety of vaccines.[19] Consequently, Dorey argues, doctors often don't adequately warn patients of potential vaccination risks.[22] Several critics have pointed out that AVN itself is guilty of ignoring evidence not favourable to the anti-vaccination point of view[20][22][27] and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) found that the AVN routinely ignore information that is not favourable to its anti-vaccination position. The HCCC accused the AVN of deceptively removing selected parts of stories when they report on them, and the misrepresentation of the conclusions of reliable studies. Dorey countered that she was not guilty of selective reporting, and that she "simply quoted the sections that [she] felt were important".[2]

The AVN has also questioned the effectiveness of vaccines. While admitting that infection rates dropped dramatically in the twentieth century, they argue that the change is due in large part to improved hygiene and living conditions.[28] Dorey has argued that infection rates were already on the decline before vaccines were invented[28] and that effectiveness has "never been scientifically tested."[19] She has stated that the "vast majority" of people who contract disease have previously been vaccinated.[18] Infectious disease specialist Paul Goldwater acknowledged a few vaccines are not completely effective, but said others were nearly 100% effective. In all cases, he said, "the benefits certainly outweigh any risks."[18] AVN has also expressed doubts about the cost-benefit ratio and effectiveness of flu vaccines.[29]

Dorey has written that "passing through a measles infection is sometimes required, for whatever reason, to strengthen some part of a person's vital force",[30] and that diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox are benign conditions that do not kill children in industrialized countries.[28] During a studio debate on Channel 7's Sunday Night current affairs program covering the death of a four-week old baby from whooping cough, Dorey claimed that no one ever dies from the disease,[31] and described her own children's case of the disease as a "storm in a teacup" that was easily handled with natural remedies.[19] The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission criticised the AVN's position, saying that it "ignores the risks of exposure to, and the adverse effects of childhood illnesses".[2]

Infectious disease specialist Professor Peter McIntyre has accused the AVN of manipulating research and statistics in order to make its case. "It's been a real characteristic of the anti-vaccine movement ... [to claim] to be looking very extensively at the scientific evidence," says McIntyre, "[but their conclusions are] really a complete misinterpretation."[22] Paediatrician Chris Ingall says that the AVN's efforts are "negative, destructive and [have] no scientific basis."[22] Australian Medical Association SA state president Andrew Lavender states that groups like the AVN "[act] on very little information and ... [pose] a risk to others."[32]

Dorey argues that scientific studies cannot be trusted because they are usually funded, she claims, by biomedicine and pharmaceutical companies that develop and manufacture vaccine products, and that doctors have "financial incentives" to push vaccines.[19]


The Australian Vaccination Network has regularly spoken out against vaccine-related positions adopted by the Australian government and defended controversial and discredited research. AVN also distributes literature, sponsors seminars, and collects adverse reaction reports.

In a 1996 editorial, AVN spoke out against a proposal to add vaccination centres to some shopping centres. Writing on behalf of AVN, Susan Lindberg called the idea "downright dangerous," asking "what if a baby has a fit or major reaction?" She also added that parents are under enough pressure to vaccinate already.[33]

In response to a 2002 proposal to extend free vaccination programs, AVN president Meryl Dorey argued that the Australian government should first do independent tests of the new vaccines. She said that she had doubts about the accuracy of the existing studies that were "funded ... by the pharmaceutical companies."[34] A member of the government's immunisation advisory group countered that they always assess all available scientific data.[34]

In August 2004, AVN spoke out against combination vaccines being considered by health authorities. The organisation claimed that there were too many untested variables and that it was irresponsible to keep combining vaccines without knowing the effects.[35] In 2006, Meryl Dorey continued the attack on combined vaccines, claiming it was un-natural, as "It is a fact that [humans] will only ever contract one disease at a time".[30] According to the British Medical Journal combined vaccines have actually shown reduced side effects,[35] and it is quite common for humans to suffer simultaneously from several infections.[36]

Adverse Reaction Reports

In December 1996, AVN presented Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge with reports on 150 cases of children suspected of being injured by vaccines. Dating back to 1991, Dorey claimed that the collection of previously unreported reactions represented the largest single collection ever presented to the Australian Government.[37] Dorey states that many of the parents involved had previously tried to have their cases looked at, but had been told by health authorities their cases couldn't proceed because the parents lacked necessary documentation.[37] Gavin Frost, a government vaccination adviser, said he supported increased medical reporting of vaccine side effects but doubted claims of permanent damaged caused by vaccines.[37] AVN has continued to collect adverse reaction reports and claimed to have more than 800 documented cases of severe reactions as of March 2006, equating to an average of six reports every month.[38] However, a published government report shows that over the 33-month period from 1 January 2000 to 30 September 2002, the AVN made a total of 11 unspecified adverse event reports, which equates to approximately one report every three months.[39]

In July 2010, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission criticised the AVN's adverse event reporting system as being "anecdotal and misleading".[2]

Views on vaccination incentives

In May 2000, Meryl Dorey spoke out against a government initiative that cut child care payments for 9000 families who failed to get their children vaccinated. She called the legislation a type of "civil conscription" and said the program was likely in violation of the Constitution.[40] Wooldridge responded that the claim was "nonsense" because the requirement was "simply a condition on government financial assistance" and that families had the choice to accept it or not.[41]

In July 2007, AVN spoke out against the government's practice of giving pediatricians bonus incentives for immunising their patients. Dorey argued that the practice was unethical and led to doctors making decisions based on their pocket book rather than their conscience.[28] She would later liken the payment to a bribe noting that doctors aren't paid extra for prescribing antibiotics, for example.[42] Dorey further argued that the government began the practice in order to meet World Health Organisation mandates on vaccination percentages and thus was more interested in playing a numbers game rather than doing what was right for the nation's children.[28] The payment was discontinued in October 2008.[42]

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission criticised the AVN for casting medical practitioners in a negative light as "unethical and untrustworthy" without providing any cogent reasons or evidence for making such an assertion"[2]

Defense of Andrew Wakefield

In February 2004, AVN defended Andrew Wakefield's 1998 study that suggested a possible link between autism and MMR vaccinations, implying that Wakefield had been treated unfairly and that he lost his job for "[refusing] to lie."[43] Less than a month later, ten of the twelve scientists associated with the study retracted their conclusions.[44] In February 2010, The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield's original 1998 article following an independent investigation that concluded Dr. Wakefield had been "dishonest, violated basic research ethics rules and showed a 'callous disregard' for the suffering of children involved in his research".[45]

On 24 May 2010, immediately following the striking-off of Mr. Wakefield by the British General Medical Council for "gross misconduct" and "bringing the medical profession into disrepute", the AVN continued to support him, issuing the following statement: "Dr Wakefield knows that he has the love and respect of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of parents around the world. Whether or not the GMC which is stacked with corrupt influences strikes him off is of no consequence. He will continue his work and autistic families everywhere will benefit as a result".[46] In a statement following the ruling, Wakefield said "I never made the claim at the time, nor do I still make the claim that MMR is a cause of autism".[47]

Criticism of NSW Health policy

In April 2007, Meryl Dorey compared a NSW Health policy change requiring immunisation for its workers to concentration camps saying "these are the sorts of [immunisation] tactics you would expect in concentration camps, not the sort of tactics you would expect in the Australian health-care system."[48] The policy was also opposed by some civil libertarian and health-care groups,[48] but the NSW Nurses' Association noted that "vaccinations have always been compulsory for health workers" and that the change was only a minimal update to the existing policy.[49]

Actions against the Australian Measles Control Campaign

Prior to the commencement of the 1998 Australian Measles Control Campaign, the AVN initiated a campaign against it, asking their members to "Do anything and everything you can to ensure that this vaccination campaign does not take place".[50] Beginning on 9 July 1998, they issued media releases accusing the Federal Government of using bullying tactics, overstating the effectiveness of the vaccine and understating the potential side effects. The release included statements that the vaccine was not safe nor effective and that the campaign could result in over 300,000 adverse reactions.[51] Later that month, the AVN issued another release stating that they were instigating a Federal Court injunction against the campaign,[52] however the injunction never proceeded. The AVN’s statements prompted the Federal Minister for Health to describe the group as "deceitful crackpots",[12] while the results of the campaign showed there were just 89 adverse reactions, and that the campaign resulted in a large increase of measles and rubella immunity levels.[53][54]

At a Perth anti-vaccination seminar on 1 June 2010, Dorey was critical of the Government's introduction of the measles vaccine to Australia in 1970, saying "We introduced a vaccine for a disease which was killing almost nobody and one has to ask, why?".[55] Mortality data shows that during the decade 1966 to 1975, there were 146 certified deaths from measles in Australia[56] while in the decade 1996 to 2005, there were zero deaths directly attributed to measles, and one death due to the measles complication SSPE.[57] The decline in mortality is attributed to Australia's high measles vaccination rates achieving the elimination of endemic measles transmission in Australia.[56]

Campaign against the Meningococcal vaccine

The AVN campaigned against the introduction of a Meningococcal vaccine to Australia in 2002. Meryl Dorey accused the Government of wasting $41M on the vaccination program, stated that the vaccine had shown a large number of adverse reactions in the United Kingdom and had never been tested for effectiveness. However the vice-president of the AMA, Dr Trevor Mudge, refuted her claims, pointing out that Meningococcal disease is extremely dangerous and that "Vaccination really is the only strategy for this condition that is likely to work". He said the vaccine had been extensively tested and contrary to Dorey's claims had been found to be safe and highly effective in the UK.[21][58][59] During an online debate covering meningococcal vaccination in 2005, Australian infectious disease specialist Professor Peter McIntyre warned parents "not to be fooled by the limited and biased information from [the] AVN website".[60]

The rate of invasive Meningococcal disease in Australia fell by more than 60% between 2002 (When vaccination commenced) and 2009, after doubling during the previous decade.[61][62] Mortality data from the UK shows that Meningococcal deaths decreased from 67 to 5 in the two years following implementation of the vaccine. The NSW HCCC criticised the AVN for selectively using information to support its position, when there is no evidence to support their claims, and that the evidence suggests that the most effective meningococcal strategy is to widely vaccinate.[2]

Campaign against the Pertussis (Whooping Cough) vaccine

Following the death of four-week-old Dana McCaffery from Pertussis (Whooping Cough) in March 2009, and the subsequent Government campaigns to improve pertussis immunisation, the AVN launched a campaign against the pertussis vaccine.

The day after Dana's death was reported in a local newspaper, the AVN's Meryl Dorey contacted the Director of Public Health for the NSW North Coast, Mr Paul Corben, disputing that Dana had died from Pertussis and demanding he provide confidential details of her death, including personal medical records and the results of diagnosing tests. Corben refused to release the information, citing privacy legislation. He later wrote to the McCafferys that the AVN's "callousness and disregard for you and your family is chilling indeed".[63] In response, Dorey admitted contacting Corben, but disputed his account of their conversations. Dorey has never acknowledged the cause of the infant's death, instead stating she had "supposedly" died from pertussis. The parents have accused the AVN of conducting a constant campaign of harassment since Dana's death.[3]

AVN members continued to harass the McCafferys through to July 2010 by sending emails, letters and AVN brochures to the family. AVN president Meryl Dorey wrote another blog disputing the McCafferys' version of events, the treatments and effects Dana suffered and the diagnosis of Pertussis. Dana's mother was forced to publicly defend the facts of the case again, pleading to be left alone by Meryl and other AVN members.[64] In a subsequent television interview for ABC Lateline, Dorey admitted she had accused the McCafferys of "turning their daughter into a martyr because she supposedly died of whooping cough".[3]

The AVN's public campaign against the Pertussis vaccine began with an article in the May 2009 issue of Living Wisdom written by Meryl Dorey, which questioned the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and the dangers of Whooping Cough itself. Critics pointed out that Dorey's article contained numerous errors of fact and omission.[13] While the article correctly stated that Sweden had previously withdrawn Pertussis vaccination in 1979 due to research showing it was ineffective, she failed to reveal that the vaccine then used in Sweden was different to the effective vaccine used in other countries such as Australia,[65] nor did she reveal that Sweden reintroduced Pertussis vaccination in 1996 and this had resulted in huge incidence reduction, with cases falling by 80-90% within 3 years.[66] In the article, Dorey claims that "Whooping Cough is not a vaccine-preventable disease". Critics point out that evidence has shown that the acellular vaccine is 84% efficacious,[67] and prevents 99.8% of infant hospital admissions after a completing a full course of three doses of the vaccine.[68]

Their campaign against the vaccine continued during two Channel 7 Sunday Night television programs, where Dorey made the claim that "no-one ever dies of Whooping Cough".[31] During the debates, the facts surrounding the death of Dana McCaffery from whooping cough were disputed by Dorey and other AVN members, and it was alleged that the infant's parents had received hatemail from AVN supporters for their public pro-vaccination stance following the death of their daughter. The filming of this program was the catalyst for the formation of the Stop the AVN[dead link] group.[69]

In February 2010, the AVN re-published a previous Living Wisdom article on pertussis vaccination and incentives. In the article, Meryl attacked Nobel Prize laureate, Professor Peter Doherty and accused the Federal Government of "manufacturing a Whooping Cough epidemic" in 1997. Meryl stated that there was only one case of whooping cough in NSW between 1 Nov 1996 and 1 Jan 1997.[70] However a review of the actual statistics showed a total of 348 cases in NSW during this period[71]

Campaign against swine flu vaccine

In September 2009, AVN campaigned against the swine flu vaccine, calling it "madness" to use a vaccine "laden with toxic mercury."[72] Meryl Dorey further argued that more testing was needed on the vaccine before it was offered to the public and that it could prove to be more dangerous than the flu itself.[73] She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the swine flu should be treated no differently than the seasonal flu and that the government was wasting money by spending over a hundred million dollars on the vaccine.[73] Dorey's claims were rejected by the Australian Medical Association and other medical experts.[74]

Throughout March and April 2010, the AVN repeatedly made claims that the Australian Swine Flu vaccine (CSL Panvax H1N1) was being administered after its use-by date.[75][76] However, critics pointed out that the vaccine has a shelf life of 1-year,[77] trials did not begin until June 2009,[78] approval did not take place until September 2009,[79] and therefore even the first batches of the vaccine were many months from their "use-by" date at the time of the AVN's claims.

Anti-Vaccination Seminars

In May 2010 the AVN announced that they would be hosting a seminar in Perth, Western Australia, to be held at the Uniting Church In The City (UCIC) on 14 May. However following a campaign by members of the Church, the medical community and members of the Stop the AVN group, the Church announced that they would not allow the AVN to use their premises for the seminar, as they were "concerned that there may be a public perception that the UCIC does not support childhood vaccinations due to the AVN seminar being held at UCIC's rooms".[80] The AVN rescheduled and relocated the event for 1 June at the State Library of WA. The decision by the Library to allow the AVN to use their premises was widely criticised by the medical community and politicians, with the president of the Australian Medical Association saying he "was worried the use of the venue could give the group credibility"[81] and the Shadow Arts Minister, John Hyde, saying "Why should a group that endangers the lives of WA children be allowed to speak and promote their cause at a taxpayer-funded venue dedicated to learning?".[81] The seminar went ahead and was attended by about 200 people.[82] Two days after the event, Professor Fiona Stanley AC was interviewed by Perth Radio about the seminar, describing the views presented by the AVN as "bizarre", and "so misinformed that it is scary".[83]

Complaints, Investigations and Criticisms

The AVN has been the subject of several complaints to (and investigations by) Government departments and medical authorities. Medical professionals, Scientists and other proponents of vaccination are highly critical of the AVN.

NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC)

In August 2009, Ken McLeod filed a complaint against AVN with the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission.[20] The complaint, which was supported by the group Australian Skeptics, said that the organisation was in breach of the Health Care Complaints Act because it made "unsubstantiated health claims based on 'conspiracy theories', pseudo-scientific evidence and debunked research." The complaint was also supported by Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith.[84]

In response to the complaint, the AVN submitted a 27-page document which argued that they are not actively providing health care service and therefore are not under the jurisdiction of the Health Care Complaints Commission.[85] The submission also listed extensive references they claimed supported their views on adverse events and links between vaccination and various disorders, which they state is "sourced from peer-reviewed medical journals".[86] Dorey called the complaint vexatious and a nuisance tactic.[87]

Tom Sidwell, a Monash University Immunology student, conducted a review of the sources and information provided in the AVN's HCCC reply. He submitted to the HCCC that all of the sources quoted by Dorey in the reply were either not from peer-reviewed journals as Dorey had claimed, or did not actually support the conclusions she was attributing to them.[88][89][90][91] In an article published in the Journal of the Australian Skeptics, Sidwell wrote:

"The collection of references is, on the whole, laughable. At best she hasn’t read the papers she cites and includes them out of ignorance, and at worst she is being deliberately deceptive."'[92]

HCCC Ruling

The HCCC concluded their investigation into the AVN in July 2010. The Commission determined that "the health education service provided by the Australian Vaccination Network on its website provides misleading and inaccurate information on the subject of vaccination".[2]

In addition, the Commission found that the AVN "misleads readers by using reliable and peer-reviewed research, but quoting selectively from it, often in contradiction to the conclusions or findings of the studies themselves".[2]

The Commission ordered the AVN to permanently place the following information in a prominent place on their website within 14 days:

  • The Australian Vaccination Network’s purpose is to provide information against vaccination in order to balance what it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere;
  • The information provided should not be read as medical advice; and
  • The decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.[2]

Following the AVN's refusal to display the notice, on 26 July 2010 the HCCC issued a public warning about the group stating

"The AVN’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 therefore poses a risk to public health and safety."[93]

The NSW HCCC's ruling was further supported by the Chief Medical Officer of Victoria, who agreed that the AVN "should make it clear what their views are and if it's an extreme view about a certain topic it should be clear that it is their view and that they're not speaking on behalf of for example the medical profession".[94]

Dorey disputes that the HCCC has jurisdiction over her or the AVN, and stated that she will be "seeking legal advice on the matter".[3]

NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing investigation

Following complaints that the AVN had been illegally fundraising without authority between 2 July 2007 and 2 June 2009, and a previous warning relating to the AVN being in breach of its fundraising authority conditions (as it did not have a "mechanism to properly and effectively deal with complaints relating to fundraising"), the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) announced in February 2010 that they would conduct a full audit of the groups fundraising activities.[95]

OLGR Ruling

On 4 August 2010, the OLGR announced that their audit of the AVN had "detected a number of breaches of charity fund-raising laws", including:

  • Fundraising without authority;
  • Unauthorised expenditure;
  • Failure to keep proper records of income and expenditure;
  • Possible breaches of the Charitable Trust Act, 1993, which would be referred to the Department of Justice and the Attorney General.

The AVN was given 28 days to respond to the findings. President Meryl Dorey declined to comment on the issue.[96]

Revocation of Authority to Fundraise

On 14 October 2010, the Hon. Kevin Greene, M.P. revoked the AVN's authority to fundraise, meaning they are no longer permitted to conduct appeals or receive donations from members of the public.[14][15] Reasons for the revocation were given as breaches of sections 31 (1) a, b and f of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991:

  • Their fundraising appeals have not been conducted in good faith for charitable purposes;
  • Their fundraising appeals have been improperly administered;
  • Their fundraising activities are not in the public interest.

In response to the revocation, the AVN issued a media release criticising the OLGR's decision as being politically motivated, and difficult to understand given that the "revocation was based entirely upon the questionable decision by the HCCC", rather than upon "the simple errors" detected by the OLGR during their audit of the organisation. Dorey appealed for the public to make donations to the AVN before the revocation took effect on 20 October 2010.[97]

Apology to the Australian Medical Association

In March 2007, the AVN made certain erroneous comments on their website, including claims that the AMA received funding from pharmaceutical companies and actively censored information provided to its members. These claims were factually incorrect, and the AMA took legal action against the AVN. The AVN withdrew the claims and issued a public apology on 21 March 2007. The apology read:

"It has been brought to the attention of the Australian Vaccination Network that the comments published not only contained a number of factual errors but were felt to be offensive and embarassing [sic] to AMA (NSW), its officers and employees.
"In particular it has been brought to the attention of the Australian Vaccination Network, the the [sic] Australian Vaccination Network accepts, that:
1- AMA (NSW) does not obtain any of its funding from pharmaceutical companies;
2- AMA (NSW) has not published any advertisement or advertorial for a pharmaceutical company in the NSW Doctor for a perios of at least four years, and at no time has the advertising in NSW Doctor been almost exclusively that of pharmaceutical companies;
3- AMA (NSW) does not actively censor information made available to its members.
"The Australian Vaccination Network unreservedly apologises for any offence or embarassment the publication may have caused AMA (NSW), its officers and employees." (sic.) [98]

Australian Doctor Top 50 Medical Scandals

In 2011, the Australian Vaccination Network's advice against vaccination, and their refusal to display the HCCC safety warning on their website, was included in Australian Doctor Magazine's Top 50 Medical Scandals of the past 50 years.[99]

Australian Skeptics Bent Spoon Award

The Australian Skeptics awarded their Bent Spoon Award, "presented annually to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle", to Meryl Dorey and the AVN in 2009, stating that the award had been earned through their "scaremongering and misinformation about childhood vaccination". In response, Dorey stated that winning the award meant she was "on the right track".[100]

Copyright complaints

In September 2010, the AVN was accused of numerous copyright breaches relating to their sale of information packs containing photocopies of selected parts of old medical journal articles, newspaper reports and cartoons. After receiving complaints from authors and copyright holders, the AVN withdrew the packs from sale on their website. Several authors stated that they had not given permission for the AVN to reproduce the material and would seek payment for their past use. They also criticised the AVN's use of the articles as they were "old and not based on current information". Meryl Dorey stated that she was unaware that selling the articles was a breach of copyright.[101]


In 2002 while speaking about low vaccination rates in the NSW Northern Rivers region, the Hon Dr Brian Pezzutti criticised Meryl Dorey in the NSW Legislative Council:

"only 60 per cent of children in the Byron Bay area in the 12 to 15 month age group—the very young and most vulnerable— are immunised. That is mainly because of the activities of a woman called Meryl Dorey, who lives in Byron Bay and who has decided not to immunise her children and who regularly claims that immunisation is not necessary. She campaigns against immunisation." [102]

Following the AVN's public objections to the Australian Government's 1998 Australian Measles Control Campaign, the then Federal Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge issued a media release which was highly critical of the group, writing:

"I am deeply concerned that media organisations risk giving credibility to the crackpot views of the AVN by publishing, without question, their untrue and deceitful claims. Ultimately, young children who are particularly vulnerable to measles could suffer if their parents were influenced by the anti-science, irrational views of the AVN."[12]

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith, who had previously run a national ad in The Australian asking parents to ignore AVN's claims, has been highly critical of the organisation, stating:

"They are actually anti-vaccination, and they should put on every bit of their material that they are anti-vaccination in great big words. They have every right for that belief but they should communicate it clearly so people are not misled." and
"I think they're choosing not to vaccinate because they don't understand risk management - they are told that there is a risk with vaccination - now everything in life has a risk. There's a minute risk but it's been proved all over the world that the advantages far outweigh the risk." [4][84]

Following the AVN's decision to hold an anti-vaccination seminar at the Western Australian State Library, the Shadow Arts Minister John Hyde criticised the state Government for allowing the group to "push its anti-vaccine message", saying:

"Why should a group that endangers the lives of WA children be allowed to speak and promote their cause at a taxpayer-funded venue dedicated to learning? Their dangerous propaganda which is putting children at risk of polio, smallpox, cholera and other preventable diseases should not be able to gain respectability by using the good name of the State Library".[81]

During an interview on ABC Lateline in July 2010, the 1997 Australian of the Year and 1996 Nobel Prize for Medicine laureate, immunologist Professor Peter Doherty described the AVN's attempts to reduce the child immunisation rate as a "Crime against Humanity".[3]

Stop the Australian Vaccination Network group

In May 2009, immediately after the filming of the second Sunday Night television program covering the Pertussis death of Dana McCaffery, the Stop the AVN group was formed to "challenge the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN)".[69][103] Members of the group began investigating the information provided by the AVN, and submitted complaints to the HCCC and OLGR.[20][95] The AVN's Meryl Dorey accused the group of "attacking the AVN unfairly". In November 2010, the Australian Skeptics collectively presented the 2700 members of the SAVN group with the Skeptic of the Year award, and SAVN members Ken McLeod and Wendy Wilkinson with the Thornett Award For the Promotion Of Reason.[103]


  1. ^ "Anti-vaccination campaigners slapped with safety warning". ABC News. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
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