Australian Skeptics Respond to AVN Alarmist Press Release

Australian Skeptics today published the following media release:

The AVN – at it again!

Australian Skeptics has warned that the ironically-titled Australian Vaccination Network is taking advantage of the current situation over insurance indemnity for the Swine Flu vaccine in order to spread fear and alarm about vaccinations in general.

“The AVN, despite its title, is actually rabidly anti-vaccination and anti-choice, as its slogan ‘Love them, protect them, never inject them’ indicates”, says Skeptics president, Eran Segev.

On August 28, 2009, it issued a press release regarding the impending distribution of the new H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine. Titled “Swine Flu – If Insurance companies and the AMA are concerned, Why isn’t the Australian Government?”, the release links an issue over medical practitioners’ indemnity with inflated concerns about ingredients and past practices.

This is the same AVN that recently quoted a claim that there is “Startling New Evidence that the ‘Swine Flu’ Pandemic is Man-made” (Living Wisdom, August 3, 2009).

In its recent release, the AVN is demanding “that the government not dismiss known and valid concerns about safety and efficacy but rather, that it take its role seriously as the protector of the Australian people and ensure that any vaccines which are used are shown to be fully safe and effective prior to a license being issued for their distribution”.

The AVN bases its demand on the uncertainty raised by some insurance companies refusing to indemnify doctors who give the vaccine to their patients. True to form, the AVN is using the opportunity to spread fear and alarm by asking that the government disclose “the ingredients, study results and side effects of this new vaccine well before it is used on the Australian people”. They do this in order to insinuate that there is something about the ingredients in vaccines that is problematic, and that study results are hidden from the public.

“Australian Skeptics does not have a view on the efficacy or safety of the new vaccine”, says Segev. “That is properly an issue for those most capable of making informed judgements. But we do have a view on the use of alarmist techniques, allied to misinformation and innuendo, to scare people away from vaccines, a form of propaganda which the AVN has perfected over many years.”

For one, study results relating to vaccines are readily available to the public, as are reports of adverse reactions and information on side effects and risks*. That has always been the case, but the AVN, in its suggestion of cover-ups and misdirection, prefers to ignore this fact. The reference to ingredients follows a long-standing claim by the AVN and its ilk that vaccines contain toxic levels of such ingredients as formaldehyde and antifreeze, which is not true.

The AVN is also being disingenuous in its reliance on the claims by insurance companies – at the same time that it is happy to rely on the reluctance of those companies to accept the new vaccine as evidence that it is unsafe, it does not accept the view of those same companies that other vaccines are safe and pose no problem.

This is typical of the double standards that the AVN applies. It ignores the fact that this is an open debate rather than the back-room conspiracy which it claims vaccine production and distribution to be. It is happy to quote scientists claiming this vaccine is not safe enough, while it usually claims that scientists are silent on the risks of vaccines. It provides publically-available statistics and information on side-effects while at the same time claiming that such information is not available.

This double standard is also shown in the AVN demanding a full scientific investigation of vaccine safety and efficacy while promoting homeopathic treatments that have been scientifically proven to have no efficacy beyond a placebo effect and no effective ingredients whatsoever. It should be no surprise that if and when the scientific community finally agrees that the Swine Flu vaccine is safe enough for general distribution, the AVN would cry foul and claim that a conspiracy to poison the population is on hand.

Australian Skeptics also demands “that the government … take its role seriously as the protector of the Australian people” by putting a stop to the spread of misinformation, fear, uncertainty and doubt by this organisation, which gives seminars, courses and printed material on a purely medical topic yet insists that it is not subject to the restrictions of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993.

“We trust the scientific medicine community to do what they have always done – make the best effort to find out the scientific facts and do what’s best for the public”, says Segev.

* The Australian Government, as a matter of course, issues information on any adverse reactions to vaccinations – http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-aefi-anrep.htm


The Australian Skeptics has several thousand members across Australia, and investigates paranormal and pseudo-scientific claims from a responsible scientific viewpoint.
Further information: Australian Skeptics (www.skeptics.com.au )
Media contacts:
Tim Mendham, executive officer, 0432 713 195;
Eran Segev, president, 0408 434 432