Antivaccine nonsense Medicine

Schadenfreude is…

…is seeing the Australian campaign group Australian Vaccination Network have its charitable license removed by the Australian government.

Read the official revocation of Meryl Dorey’s charitable status and smile.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

48 replies on “Schadenfreude is…”

Schadenfreude. If that’s a celebratory brand of German beer, then, we’re drinking it.

Win all round. A great example of what grass roots skepticism can accomplish.
And an example of following the common antivaxxer/alt-medder/woo-meister advice:
“Follow the money…”

It won’t get rid of the AVN, nor alter the mind-set of the true believers, but by jeebus it puts a dent in the fundraising and the credibility. Just last year Meryl Dorey was the ‘go to’ person for the media to get the false balance on the issue of vaccination.

Now the same media is referring to the AVN as the “Antivaccination Network” They are finally being recognised for what they truly are, and the “pro-choice” cover has been taken away.

Sharing celebratory drinks with Hank and Deb 🙂



I’m still laughing at the pic they chose to use of her whilst they took comments from her over the phone.
My mum chuckled so much she accidently bumped her arm and hit the spot where she had her dTpa vaccine yesterday ;D

This calls for a drinking song!!!

When I went to Australia, to meet my favorite friend
I heard about ol’ Meryl, and her madness with no end
She said that all vaccines were poisonous and bad
She threw at us some papers, all bunched up in a wad…

(Someone else keep it going a la “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”)

It’s at times like these where I almost wished I did drink so I could join the others. Ahh well, I’ll just bathe in the schadenfreude for now.

Does the loss of charity status in Oz mean the concurrent loss of tax exempt status as it does here in the US? That would be grand.

I don’t think this will impact their status as a non-profit group, so they’ll likely stay tax exempt. But it could/should(?) mean that donors can’t claim a charitable tax deduction on donations. This might impact on funding from homeopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors and other business supporters.

This is my layman’s guess.

Excellent! I’m hoping that this story will be covered by the US media**: it might perhaps stir the dormant vestiges of sense and reality-attunement residing in fence-sitters and cause a few rampant anti-vaxxers to quake in their boots ( or stillettos, as the case may be).** I’ll see if anything turns up on the financial/news channels I regularly check.

Oh, ai dee dai dee dai dee dai, dee dai dee dai dee dai!

Ms. Dorey went a bit too far, overstepped her bounds
The authorities were on her crew like a pack of hounds
They said “You can’t mislead the public!” and anti-vaxers gnashed and howled
It’s sad but true, they just refuse to throw in the goddamn towel

I love the last reason; It is in the public interest.

Another small step away from fear, lies and woo-based nonsense.

A small step, but, possibly an irrelevant one.

You should pay a lot more attention to Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Docket No. 09-152, U.S. Supreme Court. Oral argument was held October 12th. Copies of the briefs are available on-line at
An excellent, short review of the importance of the case was published by the NYT on-line. Supreme Court to Consider Vaccine Case, by Barry Meier (Oct. 11, 2010)

The pertinent facts are that plaintiffs allege that their child suffered a severe reaction, leading to developmental disabilities, after receiving a DPT vaccine manufactured by Wyeth. Suit was filed in the Vaccine Court. As her injuries did not qualify as a schedule injury, plaintiffs had to prove that the injuries were caused by the vaccine, under the Vaccine Court’s lenient causation standard. They lost. They then filed suit in district court, alleging a products liability (which is a type of strict liability) claim, alleging that there was a safer DPT vaccine available, which Wyeth should have manufactured, instead, so that the DPT vaccine it manufactured was unreasonably defective. The lower courts have held that Congress, in passing the Vaccine Act, intended to bar lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers based on so-called design defect claims. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the Vaccine Act, as federal law, preempts state law based products liability suits.

If plaintiffs win, a likely result is that all vaccine manufacturers will leave the US, becausee whatever the outcome in cases before the Vaccine Court, they will have to bear the costs of defending products liability suits throughout the US alleging design defects whenever someone may have suffered an adverse reaction. Defense of each suit will be in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Further, since many of the cases will involve injury to children (who are especially sympathetic plaintiffs) tried to juries and turn on laypersons understanding complex expert opinions based on whatever “science” the judge allows as evidence, a significant number of large judgments will result.

Whether foreign manufacturers of vaccines will be willing subject themselves to suit in the US by exporting vaccines here is, also, questionable.

I suppose that you could consider this a type of greening our vaccines, since no vaccination is the most natural way of forcing people to develop immunities to diseases. (After all, death is completely natural.)


A question occurs to me that I haven’t had time yet to check out. If, indeed, a safer version of the DPT were on the market, was it still covered by patent, thereby rendering Wyeth unable to produce it in any event?

Another question: if the Bruesewitzes win, would this set any manner of precedent for other product fields? For example, could a similar schema be tried with the auto industry? Certain models are safer than others. Should the less safe makers then be required to make the same models as their competitors?


Poking through the CHARITABLE FUNDRAISING ACT 1991 , it actually has some nasty implications for the AVN. Mainly from sections 5.1 and 5.2. for their financial status.

(1) For the purposes of this Act, the soliciting or receiving by any person of any money, property or other benefit constitutes a fundraising appeal if, before or in the course of any such soliciting or receiving, the person represents:

(a) that the purpose of that soliciting or receiving, or
(b) that the purpose of an activity or enterprise of which that soliciting or receiving is a part,

(2) It does not matter whether the money or benefit concerned is solicited or received:

(a) in person or by other means (such as by post, telephone or facsimile transmission), or

(b) as a donation or otherwise (such as by participation in a lottery, art union or competition; by sponsorship in connection with a walkathon, telethon or other similar event; in connection with the supply of food, entertainment or other goods or services; or in connection with any other commercial undertaking).

Boiling it down, they can’t solicit donations and can not recieve any donations from the general public for any reason (even a donate button would zap them), but they can still exist as a nonprofit organisation.

If they do solicit funding they are up for a $50,000 dollar fine (and/or 6 mths jail time), and if they try getting around it by false representation (this charity drive isn’t for AVN, its for um…the save the Cabaret Frog Fund…yeah thats it) the same penalties apply.

So in other words, they are likely to go broke pretty fast.

@ Todd:
“If, indeed, a safer version of the DPT were on the market, was it still covered by patent, thereby rendering Wyeth unable to produce it in any event?”

That is a very interesting intellectual property question — not only involving the effect of a US patent, but, also as to foreign patents. However, I am not a patent attorney. Sometimes I wish I was. They get paid mega bucks to answer such questions and probably are worth every penny. I had a friend who was a patent attorney who specialized in biological patents. But, I haven’t seen him since he bought a Swiss Villa and retired over 10 years ago.

” Another question: if the Bruesewitzes win, would this set any manner of precedent for other product fields?”

Not directly. The Supreme Court’s decision will be binding precedent only as to the Vaccine Act. However, it will be persuasive authority as to other federal statutes that may preempt state law. The closer the language of the statutes are, the more persuasive the decision will be.

Where the decision could have major effect is on distributors and sellers, as they can also be liable under most states’ products liability laws. If a product they handle/sell may be unreasonably dangerous for its intended purpose, a warning must be provided. This is why products are accompanied by small libraries of warnings. (I really like this one that accompanied an alarm clock: “Warning: This alarm will wake you up.” ). While I’ve never seen a case in which is was argued that someone had to warn that a competing product was safer, . . .

The skeptics here in Australia have been bubbling over with exitment since the decision came in it will give them all the more to talk about at TAM Australia next month

Oh, ai dee dai dee dai dee dai, dee dai dee dai dee dai!

Dorey will likely call fowl, and postulate to her pals
Sadly this will not be the end, these folks they do not like to bend
But people far and wide take heed, the sceptics will be there at need
To take them all down a peg, and again share round the keg

Hurrah for OZ.

We get something right occasionally.

The next big threat to science-based medicine is the scheduled visit by Oprah – all the Doreys in this country will come out in force.

I’m at a conference in Wyoming right now, and despite being exhausted from 4 days (so far) of in depth scientific discussion, I am bloody over the moon. As someone mentioned earlier, although this may not mean they close down overnight, the impact of this campaign has been wide reaching and made a considerable impact. The most important I think is that they are now always referred to as anti-vax and the mainstream media now knows they are a bunch of crack pots so does not use them for false balance. This is something we always wanted to achieve and by chipping away slowing from many angles, I think we may have finally achieved that. And for this, I couldn’t be happier.

Link to NSW does not work now

The official notice of revocation of the AVN’s charitable status is in the NSW Government Gazette 15 Oct 2010, p5253 (don’t worry, it’s not that long, 5253 is the first page of the body of the Gazette).

However, that link, even though it’s the one from the NSW Govt’s page for the 2010 Gazette, now doesn’t work, either! It did a few minutes ago.

Probably best to try through the 2010 Gazette page, and maybe they’ll fix it sometime!

Hopefully this excellent news will hit them where it hurts: their pockets and their pr.

While on the surface it does appear that the Dorey has sprung a leak, just how costly it’ll be to her group’s antivax efforts is open to question.

How much dough have they been taking in from contributions, and how expensive is it to spread misinformation on a website and/or via “news” events? There will also be added cachet in joining the AVN for those who see the charitable status revocation as another example of a conspiracy by the Man/Big Pharma/Evil Physicians.


On the other hand, if any of the copyright holders decide to sue for infringement…

You have a bit of a point, though, that among the fringe there could be some cache in joining the AVN. Then again, their finances may be the subject of a bit more scrutiny now.

The funny thing is the AVN could so easily have avoided this. The previous order to put up a disclaimer may have stung (no longer being able to claim they were offering impartial advice) but it would hardly have been the end of the world. Now they’ve lost their charity status which must have pretty severe consequences, especially on their funds and receipt of donations. Still, being kooks I expect all of this will be folded into the big pharma conspiracy against them. At no point will anyone involved with the AVN concede that this was in any way self-inflicted.

@LC (#22): Reading what you posted, I think I understand that the AVN can’t solicit donations nor can they be given anything considered a donation.

However, is there anything that would prevent their faithful from giving them “gifts” of money?

Here, Meryl, I want you to have $100 because you are such a nice person. (eewwwww…now I feel dirty).

While the donor couldn’t claim a tax deduction for the gift, they could still want to give her money to support her work. Does the law require she refuse all types of gifts, also?

The Australians have raised the bar high, haven’t they. The following US organizations have 501(c)3 designations:

National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC)
Generation Rescue

I’m sure I’m overlooking a few.

@Ender, #9:

You know that the comments to most blogs are nofollow-tagged, meaning they aren’t indexed, right? Keeps them from being abused by spammers.

@Todd W: IANAL, but in the US doesn’t the “gift” has to be over 10K (?) in a year (or a single gift of 10K/over) to be considered taxable income? Otherwise, if the rule is any gift over $100, I’m in big trouble with birthdays and holidays!

@MI Dawn

I forget what the actual threshold is. Suffice to say, if Dorey receive “gifts” of that nature to keep her afloat, it may be viewed as taxable income.

I am not a tax attorney, but in the US, gift taxes are generally paid by the giver, not the receiver.

So if I give you $15,000, your taxes are not affected. Mine may be, depending on how I structured it. (I think the yearly exclusion is now $13K per donor-donee pair, and there are lifetime exclusions as well.)

The cite LC posted @22 makes it seem like she can’t get any money at all, which is definitely more severe than just not being able to receive money tax-free. But you shouldn’t trust me on this.

@Dan Weber

From what I understand, the AVN can still get money via memberships. However, they cannot solicit or engage in fundraising activities. That’s my reading of it, anyway.

And now that you mention it, the giver-receiver thing makes sense. I was thinking of situations where we deal with gifts that are sometimes made out to an individual, who then signs the check over to us. That second individual (person B), rather than the person whose name is on the check (person A), has to report the funds as income and person B gets the tax receipt from us.

For the people trying to follow the NSW link, this is what it says:

Instrument of Revocation
Australian Vaccination Network Inc

I, the Hon. KEVIN GREENE, M.P., the responsible Minister for the purposes of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991, do hereby revoke the authority to fundraise issued to Australian Vaccination Network Inc on the following grounds as set out in section 31 (1) of that Act:

(a) fundraising appeals have not been conducted in good faith for charitable purposes.

(c) fundraising appeals have been improperly administered.

(f) it is in the public interest.

Minister for Gaming and Racing,
Minister for Major Events
and Minister for Sport and Recreation

I think the bigger victory was changing the media’s perception of Meryl Doreys from “Go-To Vaccination Expert for (False) Balance” to “Anti-Vaccination Crank”. Excellent work Richard, Rachie, Kylie et al.

Re: patentability of vaccines – I don’t think they get patented at all. Things like adjuvants might be, and I suppose processes like inactivating viruses could be, but (my assumption, anyway) measles is measles, nothing to patent. There are different strains, but I get the impression they’re a public domain kind of thing.


Vaccines can certainly be patented. It is the particular composition and method of administration that is patented, not the bacterium or virus itself that is patented.

Also, once a product is approved by FDA, they typically have market exclusivity for a certain period. During that time, no competing product can be approved. This allows the first developer of a drug or device to recoup some of the discovery and production costs.

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