The Australian anti-vaccination movement has been involved in the harassment and vilification of families who have lost babies and children to vaccine preventable diseases for years.
In 2009, incited by Meryl Dorey and the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, anti-vaccination activists went after the family of Dana McCaffery, who died from whooping cough in March 2009. The bile has continued to this day.
The McCafferys went public when Dana died, so as to warn the community about a whooping cough epidemic about which NSW Health had failed to alert them, especially in areas of low immunisation rates like the NSW Northern Rivers, the home of the McCafferys.
The McCafferys had never antagonised the anti-vaccination movement; they had only ever asked for anti-vaccinationists – like Judy Wilyman, of the University of Wollongong; Meryl Dorey of the AVN; and the trolls who took their lead from Dorey and Wilyman – to cease talking about Dana, and to show some common decency. Anti-vaccinationists refused to do this; they continued the attacks and the slurs against the McCafferys. The overwhelming evidence suggests that anti-vaccinationists do not do common decency.
In March 2015, baby Riley Hughes died from whooping cough. The Hughes family immediately set about ensuring that this tragedy did not happen to more families. The Hughes were successful in having the free maternal whooping cough booster rolled out around Australia, gaining Catherine Hughes the well-deserved 2016 WA Young Australian of the Year award. The Hughes have since gone on to establish the Immunisation Foundation of Australia.
Unfortunately, the Hughes family has also been targeted by anti-vaccination activists – incited again by Dorey, the AVN, and Wilyman – in a coordinated campaign of harassment and vilification, including the two-year-long harassment and trolling of the Light for Riley Facebook page, by named and fake-named anti-vaccinationists.
On January 14 2017 at 2117 hours (AWST – WA time) – just two days ago – an anti-vaccination activist – using the fake name, “Jennifer Donaldson” – sent this message to Catherine and Greg Hughes, via the Light for Riley Facebook page:
The fake (or sockpuppet) profile was deleted from Facebook, yesterday morning. This is a screenshot of its profile, taken just before it was deleted:
“Jennifer Donaldson” is an administrator – or was, up until the profile’s deletion – of the Facebook group which was set up by Tanya Hammond and her mother, Lois Vitler, to promote the case of Ben Hammond, of whom it is alleged he suffered an adverse reaction to the whooping cough booster. The group is called: Severe Adverse Reaction to Vaccination – Compensation for Australians. This screenshot of the group’s admins was taken on December 27 2016:
“Jenifer Donaldson” was made an administrator of the Hammond group on December 12 2016, before the then-brand new fake profile had even had time to load a profile picture:
Here is just one interaction from the “Donaldson” profile, in the Hammond group, discussing this blog with Danny Jovica, himself the creator of a conspiracy-ridden, paralegal Facebook group. All of the “Donaldson” posts and comments are since deleted, along with the profile:
So, what on Earth is the Hammond colleague talking about in its vitriolic message, from two days ago?
On January 3 2016, news hit several media outlets that the Hammond family is attempting to sue the WA health minister:
After failing in several appeals for an ex gratia payment from the Government, the Hammonds are pursuing a negligence claim against the WA health minister — litigation they believe could be a watershed for vaccine injury law in Australia.
On the same day, Catherine and Greg Hughes posted in support of Ben Hammond’s fight for compensation, whilst noting that it was hoped that the Hammond’s would steer away from their deep involvement with the Australian anti-vaccination movement, as has been well documented:
I wasn’t sure whether to post this or not, but after a lot of thought I feel I should.
Serious, proven reactions to vaccines can and do (rarely) happen.
Whenever we take panadol, use shampoo or eat food, we are always accepting that there is a small risk we could have a reaction.
However, when we vaccinate, we do so not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of the community. We are encouraged (and rightly so) by doctors, nurses, friends and family to take that (tiny) risk and protect our community.
Therefore, I believe the community should “look after” and compensate those like Ben Hammond who did their bit to protect babies in NICU (who really do need to be protected from deadly respiratory infections like whooping cough).
While it should be noted that there is no compensation for those who have suffered or died from vaccine preventable diseases, I do believe we should have a compensation scheme implemented for these extremely rare cases of vaccine reactions.
I wish Ben’s family all the best and hope they get the compensation they deserve. At the same time, I hope they also re-consider their anti-vaccination activism (which is not reported in this story) – we don’t need more babies dying from whooping cough & other vaccine preventable diseases 😔
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts
Importantly – in relation to the abusive message sent to the Hughes by the Hammond colleague – the Hughes family made no other media statement, nor gave any interviews, either on video or in print, about the Hammond case. None.
Another article did appear on The West Australian website, in which the journalist lifted all of the Hughes’ quotes directly from the Light for Riley Facebook post, without even consulting the page. In this article the support for Ben Hammond’s compensation, from the Hughes family, was even included in the headline:
If the Hammond family would like to provide the real name and contact details of their colleague and fellow group administrator, they can email me at reasonablehank [at] gmail [dot] com, so details can be passed to the appropriate authorities.
Today, the Hughes family appeared in The West Australian, again, for their successful public health advocacy which, if it hasn’t already, will ensure more babies are spared an awful death from whooping cough:
Almost four in five pregnant women in WA had the free whooping cough vaccine last year, one of the highest rates in the world.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that can be fatal in babies too young to be immunised.
The free vaccine passes on immunity of about 90 per cent to the unborn baby, protecting them in the first few weeks of life before they can have their own vaccinations against the potentially fatal disease.
WA Health Department figures show 78 per cent of pregnant women had the vaccine in 2016, up from 70 per cent in 2015. When the free vaccine was introduced in WA in May 2015, two months after the death of four-week-old Perth baby Riley Hughes, fewer than 5 per cent of expectant women received the jab.
Riley’s parents Catherine and Greg Hughes started the Light for Riley campaign to raise awareness of maternal vaccinations.
Riley’s mother, Mrs Hughes, who started the Light for Riley vaccination campaign, welcomed the figures, but said there were still too many mums not getting the free jabs.