A sickening book that celebrates the joy of measles – yes, the potentially fatal and brain damaging disease – was dumped by Australia’s biggest online bookstore last week.

I always wanted a rashie! Pic: Supplied

That’s the good news. The bad news is that more parents are falling for the sort of twisted fearmongering that this dangerously ridiculous book uses.

The children’s picture book, Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, is just another tendril of the insidious anti-vaccination movement, a movement that should be crippled by removing parents’ ability to be ‘conscientious objectors’ to immunisation.

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  • Nathan says:

    06:55pm | 15/01/13

    If you choose not to vaccinate then you do not get family benefits. No exemptions. If your children are not vaccinated then they are not to be aloud into daycare or schools, no exceptions. The protection of everyone else should be the priority, not some morons who are just putting… Read more »

  • Seano says:

    06:35pm | 15/01/13

    Unreferenced lunacy masquerading as scientific fact. Read more »


Hey angry people, don’t lash out at the silly mum who thought that homeopathy would protect her child.

Free homeopathic treatments for everyone! Pic: Anthony Dennis

She obviously genuinely thought that living a “simple and healthy way of life”, avoiding ‘toxins’ and eating organic food was an actual alternative to scientifically proven vaccinations.

(The father of the girl is probably justified in a little righteous rage, though; it’s his child, after all. )

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  • marley says:

    06:06pm | 29/11/12

    Here’s something I ran across -from an American website: “According to FDA analysis in 2005, tuna fish contains 0.64 micrograms of mercury for each gram of tuna. A 60 gram portion (about two ounces) would contain 38.4 micrograms of mercury. By contrast, vaccine manufacturers using thimerosal (a mercury containing compound)… Read more »

  • St. Michael says:

    05:32pm | 29/11/12

    “I am not saying tuna is benign,” Well, I am.  Tuna is the One God, and Allah Jesus Tuna is his prophet. Read more »


A few years ago the second man to walk on the moon, octogenarian scientist and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, was confronted by a man who believes the moon landing was a hoax.

Conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel called Aldrin a “coward and a liar” and demanded he explain why he was complicit in duping the planet about the apparent fiction of the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin didn’t say anything. He just stood there and sized up Sibrel, some thirty years his junior, and punched him square in the face.

While I would not usually condone violence there was something delightful about seeing Aldrin, one of the few hard men of science, going in to bat so passionately for the forces of reason.

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  • LC says:

    06:56pm | 27/11/12

    @ K^2 It’s not just informed consent, it’s informed consent from a rational mind. A mental patient cannot refuse treatment for his condition, and an Alzheimer’s patient cannot refuse treatment, usually the consent has to come from a relative, usually the son/daughter. If we look at the infamous MMR vaccine… Read more »

  • SD says:

    06:50pm | 27/11/12

    People often don’t realise this - the big money for drug companies isn’t in vaccines - it’s in drugs that people take for years on end. Vaccines are very cheap and most people only get a few of each at most. Things like blood pressure medications, Viagra, anti-depressants, etc -… Read more »


The internet is a parallel dimension inhabited by deranged monsters and marvellous heroes, all scattered like stars across cyberspace with immense stretches of banal nothingness, dull worthiness and LOL cats in between.

One of the cuter creatures from the deep. Pic: Supplied

Like in a bad horror film, sometimes the crazies – or their ideas - creep over into real life.

At The Punch, we often witness a fascinating phenomenon.

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  • Richard says:

    06:48pm | 27/11/12

    It’s cruel to tease the mouth-breathers like this, Tory. Play nice And for Dibbler and pals (unless that’s you just being wicked, Tory), here’s a primer You might particularly enjoy the escalator graph and the discussions on “most used climate myths and what the science really says”. Bon appetit!… Read more »

  • Achmed says:

    06:35pm | 27/11/12

    The only smoking gun is the one Abbott and his supporters have used to shoot themselves in the foot Read more »


The anti-vaccination lobby is wrong, dead wrong. The truth is that vaccines are undoubtedly history’s most cost-effective public health tool. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure and vaccination proves that in spades. In industrialised countries we have virtually vanquished most epidemic diseases and it’s largely due to vaccines.

This'll only hurt a bit. Pic: Alex Coppel
What is particularly ironic is that resistance to childhood vaccination is largely a phenomenon of developed nations. Those who lobby against it are able to do so because of the very success of vaccination. Because we don’t have diphtheria epidemics, because whooping cough epidemics are rare, because we don’t see tetanus and smallpox any more Australians don’t have first hand experience of how devastating such diseases can be.

That means the alleged side effects of vaccines may seem more frightening than the diseases they prevent.

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  • marley says:

    06:56pm | 26/11/12

    @Bane - the final demise of smallpox is an interesting example.  Widespread vaccination eliminated it in the western world by the 1960s. lt lingered on in Asia and Africa, and the medical world started “ring fencing” outbreaks by vaccinating anyone who was anywhere near a smallpox victim.  Vaccinating for smallpox… Read more »

  • Fiona says:

    06:48pm | 26/11/12

    Umm, actually Keith the schedule for the 2 (not 3) month vaccination has been brought forward because of the rise in whooping cough cases. Babies can now start their schedule (ignoring the hep b at birth) at 6 weeks of age. They are still vulnerable until they’ve had the 3… Read more »


If you want to know what health authorities are up against regarding misinformation about vaccinating children you just need to look at the Federal Health Department’s document entitled “Myths and concerns about immunisation.

Do you think this kid's parents would conscientiously object if given the chance… doubtful. Picture: AP

Someone in the Department has calmly addressed, with footnotes and everything, a range of theories about immunisation that is so long and so wild that if it wasn’t so serious it would be funny. I think the loopiest one is that vaccines “cause Mad Cow Disease”. Just to put your mind at ease: “Despite many millions of doses of vaccines being administered worldwide, there have been no reported cases of vCJD associated with vaccines.”

But the other indicator of just what rational, medically-trained, experts are up against, is that if you Google “vaccination”, the second highest link is to the Australian Vaccination Network, which is not as its name suggests a helpful organisation giving useful advice to parents. It is an extreme, non-scientifically-based, organisation that has dragged the vaccination debate in this country back into the dark ages. The Government’s own Immunise Australia website comes third on Google’s list.

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  • Peter says:

    08:03pm | 09/08/12

    The Australian Vaccination Network is an ignorant group that spreads dangerous false information. The wiki page gives a good account of their dangerous ideas. Read more »

  • LC says:

    10:28am | 07/08/12

    While I can feel for the people who’ve been affected by freak reactions to vaccines, most anti-vaxxers are consripacy little different to concerning 9/11 truthers, the moon landing doubters, fluoridated water skeptics etc. They decieve and misinform otherwise innocent parents out of vaccinating their kids. They think they know better… Read more »


A frightened woman claims five babies have died in five days, all in Bunbury, WA. She wants to know if there’s a connection with immunisations. And the ever-zealous Australian Vaccination Network – which claims to be pro-choice, rather than anti-vaccination, but disproves that with everything they do – respond.

Life before a polio vaccine. Pic: Graham Crouch

AVN head Meryl Dorey seems to suggest she knock on the recently bereaved parents’ door and ask if their dead baby had just been immunised. She dismisses SIDS as a “garbage can diagnosis”. She says maybe their baby “died for the greater good”, and says ambulance officers are forbidden to ask about vaccinations when they arrive at a home where a baby has died.

I asked Ms Dorey about what seemed to be a suggested death door knock. She says no, she just said “the only thing you can do is to try and contact the families involved to find out if the children were vaccinated before their death”, but points out that she wrote further down it would not be “an easy thing to do”. She asks me to do a “fair job” reporting.

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The Australian Vaccination Network stuck its head over the parapet again this week, and almost immediately copped one between the eyes. American Airlines pulled the group’s anti-vaccination ad from its flights before it even aired.

It’s the latest in a series of setbacks for the controversial organisation, which is increasingly struggling for air in the Australian media.

The media has been exemplary on this topic, refusing to indulge a group that is full of rhetoric but light on evidence. Most famously, Tracey Spicer demolished the AVN’s president, Meryl Dorey, on 2UE. The well-researched Spicer gave Dorey short shrift, eventually hanging up on her.

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  • Poptech says:

    08:53pm | 11/05/12

    Kay, the Exxon smear was debunked here, Are Skeptical Scientists funded by ExxonMobil? In an article titled, “Analysing the ‘900 papers supporting climate scepticism’: 9 out of top 10 authors linked to ExxonMobil” from the environmental activist website The Carbon Brief, former Greenpeace “researcher” Christian Hunt failed to do… Read more »

  • Serenity Ship says:

    03:34pm | 01/05/12

    Baz you forget, or do not realise, that a price mechanism is formed by a market interaction of buyers and sellers. Price-fixing by central authorities is by definition, NOT a market solution. Any price on emissions is artificially induced by government legislation and is not the result of voluntary interactions… Read more »


Every 20 seconds, a baby or toddler will die from a disease that can be prevented by a simple vaccine. Most of these deaths happen in developing countries because children go without the immunisations and lack access to other health services that parents in wealthy nations take for granted.

It is seriously this simple to stop a child getting polio.

As usual, it is the poorest children in the poorest countries who are least likely to be immunised, and it is those same children who are at the greatest risk of being exposed to life-threatening, preventable diseases like tetanus, polio and measles.

This week, April 21-28, is World Immunisation Week, and around the world we acknowledge that all children have the right to life and health, no matter where they live.

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  • RyaN says:

    12:39pm | 06/05/12

    @Caedrel: Yet they still use “$2 a day” crap disrespecting the people. Read more »

  • Alan says:

    03:29pm | 28/04/12

    10 years living in West Africa is where I got my “statistic” from. It’s real and if any of the NGO’s tell you otherwise they are lying. Read more »


There’s a steaming pile of rubbish out there about health. There’s plenty of money to be made from offering too-good-to-be-true remedies.

It's everywhere. Pic: AP

Yesterday I was writing a couple of news stories about ways in which people get bamboozled by health-related information and then I started firing up a Punch piece on them. Then I realised I’d written it all before. Bullshit is everywhere, and it’s a billion-dollar industry and people want magic pills.

So rather than repeat myself I thought I’d just list five of the stories that have crossed my desk recently and made me want to tear out my hair and run screaming into the street. And if you know of others, let me know. It’s not that we ever run short of subjects for The Punch’s regular I Call Bullshit column, but there’s a sadistic pleasure in seeing that particular cup runneth over.

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  • buy oem software says:

    11:04am | 19/08/12

    wZ3RTK Major thankies for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Cool. Read more »

  • TracyS says:

    09:36pm | 01/03/12

    Are walking and running really the only exercise options??? The best advice I’ve ever heard is for people to do the exercise that they enjoy so that they are more likely to stick with it - whatever type of exercise it is will be better than doing none. For the… Read more »


Welcome to this week’s I Call Bullshit, a regular column that looks at pseudoscience and magical thinking. Unsurprisingly, vaccination pops up quite a bit.

It's for your own good… Pic: AP

The Australian reports today that the Government has renewed CSL’s contract to supply Fluvax the vaccine found to trigger febrile convulsions in children and subsequently banned.

Fluvax also has a “modestly higher” risk of side effects in adults – it is more likely to cause headaches, fatigue, vomiting and injection site pain.

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  • BaSH PR0MPT says:

    08:57am | 01/03/12

    Why would you even provide a link to those sociopathic muppets? The Australian Skeptic Society and Dick Smith took out a full page advert in The Australian debunking and slamming these derps, and the entire internet has a field day with them. But their insane old crone leader is a… Read more »

  • St. Michael says:

    05:29pm | 20/02/12

    Oh, you’re that Chris. If the point’s to encourage greater education on vaccines and why they work, I could totally get behind that. I tend to keep harping on the measles example because it’s one of the most prominent examples of a disease that gets blown away by vaccines in… Read more »


The Government has hoisted up a large and slightly unwieldy carrot to boost immunisation rates. Families could miss out on around $2100 if the kids don’t get their jabs. The announcement comes in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak, and at a time when clusters of non-vaccinators are allowing preventable diseases to incubate.

Andrew Wakefield's supporters say he was scapegoated. Pic:

The Government’s changes, which will mean those who don’t immunise will not be eligible for three payments of $729 under Family Tax Benefit A, is well intentioned, if clumsy. Under the current system families get an immunisation allowance – even if they are “conscientious objectors” – but this will now be scrapped, while more immunisations will be added to the schedule.

Here’s the likely outcome.

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  • Sarah says:

    02:29pm | 03/12/11

    The Gardasil vaccine is also used to protect from the 2 most common types of HPV that cause the STD genital warts. It impacts more than just your own health if you are not vaccinated Read more »

  • RyaN says:

    12:55pm | 02/12/11

    @Fiona: Oh and YOU are wrong Fiona, here you go. Sound medical advice from doctors, follow it! Read more »


It’s an anxious moment for many parents; rolling up the sleeve of your precious baby and presenting that perfect skin to the doctor’s needle.

It better be a bloody big lollipop. Pic: Lyndon Mechielsen

And the sting is the least of your worries; we may be rational and sensible enough to know vaccinating our kids against potentially fatal diseases is right, for them and the community, but that cocktail of antigens going into their arm is a discomforting sight.

What if we’re the one in a million whose baby has an adverse reaction or gets the rarest side-effects?

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    01:35pm | 15/12/12

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  • Lynx says:

    02:18am | 03/04/12

    CDC estimates that 1 in 88 children in the US has been identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Mmmmm Hmmmmmm. Read more »


One day the Government may need to stage an intervention in Sydney’s plushest suburbs, Byron Bay’s glorious expanse, and the genteel landscape of the Adelaide Hills.

Nothing to be afraid of, son. Illustration: John Tiedemann

These are the places where some children’s lives are at risk because parents have entirely lost trust in governments, and are turning to some dodgy alternative sources of health information.

Studies by the Federal health department, CSIRO and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance have shown that while overall Australia’s uptake of vaccination is good – mostly around 90 per cent for children - in certain regions the levels of conscientious objectors have soared, resulting in clusters of deadly diseases.

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  • LC says:

    10:19pm | 28/07/11

    Yes you’re free to do what you want that involves putting risks putting the health of other on the line. That is, you’re free to do it if and only if you and your family are living on your own in a shack in the middle of the outback, at… Read more »

  • David says:

    11:55pm | 25/07/11

    Acotrel, my mum and grandfather had cancer, followed our medical system through to the end, they are dead now too. Read more »


The final in a three-part series exposing the fraudulent link between autism and vaccination is out today.

A word cloud from Wordle

Read about the first part here, and the second part here.

The three authors of a British Medical Journal editorial accompanying the final part argue that science is “our best way of knowing”, despite the numerous people and systems at fault for perpetuating the myth that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination is linked to autism in children.

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  • LC says:

    06:37pm | 02/02/11

    Damnit, not again. “The “no mandatory vaccinations under the age of 5” is to buy time to determine if there is any actaul reason that they should be vaccinated.” That should read “if there is any actual reason that they should NOT be vaccinated”. Read more »

  • LC says:

    03:30pm | 02/02/11

    @Syl “Whats the point of giving the choice before the age of 5 but forcing them to vaccinate after?  We should be protecting them from preventable dieases from the get go, afterall, under this scheme, they are going to be vaccinated eventually (extenuating circumstances aside)” The “no mandatory vaccinations under… Read more »


The link between autism and vaccines is dead, and should be buried.

Andrew Wakefield and his wife, Carmel. Pic: AFP

However, that destructive little idea received a couple of good, hard kicks last week - the violence of which may have given the illusion that some life was left in the debate.

Many have been blamed for keeping the myth going, and now an author and expert is also blaming the media, who he says perpetuated the myths through a mistaken sense that they were being balanced.

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  • Adelaide Dad says:

    01:11pm | 23/09/11

    So where is this double blind power study (10,000 kids - independent of any pharmaceutical co.) that suggests vaccines don’t cause autism or is it still anecedotal evidence by doctors protecting their agency? or would it not be proper to vaccinate 5000 kids to save 1:100 from getting this debilitating… Read more »

  • rb says:

    03:01pm | 22/01/11

    @ St M. I have no idea what the % are. When I was discussing the vacc schedule with a doctor I said I felt better with oral vaccs as I felt that the immune response in the mouth was part of the normal defence vs putting it straight into… Read more »


The British Medical Journal has devoted an editorial to stating that an article published in popular medical journal The Lancet in 1998 linking childhood vaccination with autism “was in fact an elaborate fraud.”

Who needs medical science when you have Jenny McCarthy? Picture: AP

The Lancet had already retracted the article by Andrew Wakefield early last year, but BMJ now sought to totally discredit the “study”, which led to a decline in the triple vaccination of measles, mumps and rubella in Britain as well as in the United States and Australia.

Sadly, despite the strength of the BMJ articles - brought on by the work of Sunday Times investigative journalist Brian Deer - there will still be people who will not only ignore it but view it as further evidence of the conspiracy.

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Not long ago Lateline did an excellent job of taking apart the Australian Vaccination Network, a group (group being a strong word) of anti-vaccination zealots posing as an information service. In the US the debate has a much more Hollywood vibe, with the most public faces of the don’t jab your kids movement being mega-star Jim Carey and his ex Jenny McCarthy.

McCarthy has made a career out of warning people vaccination is linked to Autism - a claim that’s been widely and profoundly discredited. But elsewhere in Hollywood someone is fighting back. Check out this video, which was posted on YouTube last month.

West Wing tragics will know the comedians Penn and Teller, who have a show in the US called “Bullshit!”. They’ve called Bullshit! on the anti-vaccination brigade in a short and powerful sketch. It’s worth a watch (*strong language warning).

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  • LC says:

    06:43pm | 31/03/11

    Maybe, for the sake of balance, you’ll share their -correct- views on conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11, the Moon Landing and the JFK assassination, alien abductions, ESP, young-earth creationism, the death penalty, video game violence and the goings-on at Area 51? Furthermore, climate skepticism is backed up by thousands of scientists… Read more »

  • Seano says:

    05:35pm | 03/09/10

    I don’t count conspiracy theoriests and their theories as sensible argument. Read more »


THE onset of the dreaded winter flu season is bringing with it a needling dilemma for many parents.

One small jab for man… Picture: AP

No one wants to see their child fighting off a soaring temperature accompanied by bouts of coughing and sneezing.

After last year’s pandemic, the offer of a combined vaccination against swine flu as well as influenza A and B seemed like an attractive option for many parents wanting to safeguard their little ones. That was until reports started trickling in of some children suffering adverse effects such as high fever and convulsions from the jab.

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  • Viviana says:

    03:20pm | 07/02/12

    foreign lvinig beingsMMR isn’t a “live” vaccine and the live things in the few that are live vaccine aren’t “lvinig beings” but weakened viruses.without doing serious personal rese[a]rchVaccine development involves a *lot* research well before they get used. Read more »

  • MelD says:

    11:42am | 05/05/10

    I for one am very grateful for Big Pharma, I am asthmatic, and before they introduced Ventolin (or similar), Seretide (or similar) and Prednisone people with asthma in history had no chance at all. Epilepsy sufferes, no more Polio in developed countries, small pox, all these things and more held… Read more »


One year ago this weekend, the World Health Organisation issued its first Disease Outbreak Notice on swine flu, confirming the infection of a number of people in Mexico and the US. A few weeks later the previously unknown virus had Australia holding its breath when the first cases hit our shores.

The Australian's Peter Nicholson, a year ago

The World Health Organisation went on to declare their first pandemic in more than 40 years and the media went into overdrive. A year on you could argue the hype was all a bit excessive and that experts keen to get their names up in lights were crying wolf and playing into the hands of news editors who think the biggest numbers make the best headlines.

But ultimately if a new virus was to emerge again this flu season, should we react differently? Probably not. The reality is most viruses don’t mutate into deadly killers; but it has happened before and it will happen again.

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  • Glad to be a Grandma says:

    02:25pm | 19/01/11

    There has to be some public registry of un vaccinated children, so we know which kids are at risk for diseases. The information would be useful for expectant mothers who have to keep their newborns safe. Personally I wouldnt want to be a pregnant teacher looking after a roomful of… Read more »

  • CS says:

    04:00pm | 27/04/10

    Well - I’m not an MD, but I am a qualified immunologist in the field of newborn immunity.  From my point of view, this is an excellent article that sums up the sensible approach of the authorities to last year’s outbreak.  It isn’t controversial, hence the lack of comments. The… Read more »


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