Anti-vaccine group a threat
Dana McCaffery ... died from whooping cough aged four weeks.
When their four-week-old baby daughter Dana died from whooping cough Toni and David McCaffery sought love and healing to ease their grief.
Instead, they say they were subjected to a campaign of harassment and abuse at the hands of anti-vaccination campaigners, a group who were yesterday labelled a serious threat to the public's health and safety.
The Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning against the Australian Vaccination Network after it refused to display a disclaimer on its website to inform readers its information should not be taken as medical advice.
Earlier this month the commission investigated the network, run out of Bangalow on the north coast by Meryl Dorey, and found its website presented incorrect and misleading information that was solely anti-vaccination and quoted selectively from research suggesting that vaccination may be dangerous.
Its investigation was sparked by two complaints, one from Toni and David McCaffery, whose four-week-old daughter Dana died from whooping cough last year.
The couple, from Lennox Head, allege they were subjected to months of harassment and abuse by Ms Dorey and anti-vaccination campaigners, accusing them of lying about the cause of their daughter's death. They received anonymous letters and emails that said whooping cough was not fatal and vaccinations were not needed.
Mrs McCaffery, whose daughter was too young to be vaccinated when she caught whooping cough, said Ms Dorey also tried to get her baby's medical records from the hospital without permission. ''Instead of love and healing in the weeks after Dana's death, we got ugliness … it has been terrible,'' she said.
Mrs McCaffery also complained that Ms Dorey had quoted misleading statistics, spread misinformation through seminars and the internet, and gave poor telephone advice.
The second complaint against the network was made by Ken McLeod, a member of a group called Stop the AVN.
He said Ms Dorey had claimed that meningococcal disease was harmless and ''hardly kills anybody''; that vaccination was being used to spread AIDS in Third World countries; and homeopathy could take the place of vaccination.
His group now wants the state government to apply for a court injunction against the network and have it closed down. The group's website says Ms Dorey believes ''vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips into every man, woman and child and that the 'illuminati' plan a mass cull of humans''.
Ms Dorey did not return calls yesterday but issued a statement on her website which said the HCCC's recommendation was ''laughable'' and she was seeking legal advice.
''Nobody would expect nuclear safety advocates to issue statements on the benefits of nuclear power; Greenpeace to make films on the pleasures of killing and eating whales … Why then should we be expected to make statements we don't believe are factual and that are not supported by the medical literature?
''If the AVN is expected to show both sides of this issue, why aren't the medical community and the government likewise cited for their lack of disclosure on the risks and ineffectiveness of vaccines?"
A spokesman for the HCCC said it could take no further action but it was disappointing the network was refusing to make its position clear.