Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network lies about deceased baby, attacks her parents

On Sunday August 13 2017, the Australian government launched a campaign aimed at increasing immunisation coverage whilst combatting anti-vaccination misinformation. Called Get the Facts, the campaign features two families who have both lost babies to whooping cough: the McCaffery and Hughes families. Here is the ad:

Toni McCaffery: 93% of Aussie Kids are fully vaccinated.

But it’s not high enough. We need to do more to protect all our kids.

Our baby Dana died from whooping cough. She was only one month old and too young to be vaccinated.

David McCaffery: We lived in an area that had low immunisation rates.

Greg Hughes: Our baby son Riley died from a vaccine-preventable disease. Nothing can bring him back.

Catherine Hughes: But together we can all help to prevent this tragedy from happening to other families.

Back in March 2017, we showed how the disgraced anti-vaccination pressure group, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, lied about the McCaffery family, joining in with other anti-vaccination groups in inciting the abuse and vilification of the McCafferys and the Hughes, whilst inciting death threats against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and abuse against his wife and members of  his government.

Back in March, the AVN shared this misleading image from anti-Semitic, anti-vaccination liar, Ian Hastings:

As was demonstrated, in March, the quote-mining from Hastings and the AVN was egregiously dishonest. This is what was really said by the McCafferys, who had been consistent from day one. From our earlier post:

The attack on Toni McCaffery is a lie. From The Sunday Telegraph, on May 26 2013:

TONI McCaffery suspects a daycare centre was the most likely point where her daughter Dana contracted whooping cough in 2009.

Dana was just six days old when Mrs McCaffery took her inside the centre while dropping off her four-year-old daughter Aisling.

Just over three weeks later, Dana was dead, her tiny body ravaged by whooping cough.

After Dana died, Mrs McCaffery set up a spreadsheet to track her movements and pinpoint where her baby had been exposed to the disease, narrowing the potential places down to the shopping centre, the school and the childcare centre.

Then six cases of whooping cough were confirmed at Aisling’s childcare centre.

Indeed, the McCafferys themselves have been consistent regarding the source of Dana’s infection from the beginning.

NSW Health pamphlet featuring Dana’s story was released in 2011. The text is from NSW Health, but, this shows the McCafferys’ consistency:

On the fifth day, the whooping cough toxins caused her organs to shut down and Dana had a cardiac arrest. She was only 32 days old when she died.

Nobody knows where Dana was infected with whooping cough. It may have been at her sibling’s school or preschool. A loving relative or friend, or a complete stranger may have unknowingly passed the infection on.

Of note, as early as 2010, Toni McCaffery is on the record regarding the likely source of Dana’s whooping cough, describing events in the week following Dana’s funeral, in 2009:

…a week later we found out that there were 6 positive notifications at my older daughter’s childcare centre, where I had taken Dana on one day, and numerous notifications at my son’s school. He started kindergarten. That’s right. On one day, I took Dana out because I need to drop my son to school and daughter to preschool and there was whooping cough everywhere– and I live with that every day. If I had known Whooping Cough was around, I would not have stepped foot inside these places with Dana. I am gutted. We also held a review with NSW Health – and there were no cases of whooping cough in the maternity ward of Lismore Base Hospital. We have never stated that Dana was infected by an unvaccinated child. That is a complete lie and Mrs Dorey should retract it.

This is nothing new. The AVN and Meryl Dorey have been lying about and inciting abuse against the McCafferys for years. It also set the groundwork for the abuse and vilification of the Hughes family, from 2015 onward.

Back in 2010, Toni McCaffery was forced to make a statement correcting lies made about Dana and the McCafferys, by Meryl Dorey and her followers (full statement included in appendix):

I am so distressed I have to do this. But Mrs Dorey from the AVN has just published another terrible article about us…

Enough is enough. We just simply ask the AVN and Mrs Dorey to stop spreading false information about our daughter. She caught whooping cough. She died a torturous death. Leave her in peace and stop misleading the public.

Whooping cough is dangerous; and it is deadly for 1 in 200 babies…

Mrs Dorey and the AVN…please leave my family alone.

In 2012, David McCaffery was forced to make another public plea for Meryl Dorey and her antivax network to stop lying about Dana:

Stop lying about us and our family. We have had enough of your absolute callousness and disregard for others that don’t promote your misleading ideology…

Leave us alone, again!

And just two months ago, Catherine Hughes was forced to issue a statement in response to anti-vaccination lies about her deceased baby, and her family.

The anti-vaccination cult will never change.

Yesterday, August 14 2017, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network lied about Dana McCaffery and attacked her family, several times:

Here is how your foregone childcare rebates are being spent – propaganda fronted by well-known mandatory vaccinationists. I wonder if the Health Minister knows that the McCafferys were selective vaccinators in that Dana was not vaccinated against Hepatitis B at birth, which was recommended and funded under the National Immunisation Program in 2009. In other words, “do as I say, but not as I do”. Outrageous. VC

This fact is not even up for debate: Dana McCaffery had the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine.

Toni McCaffery has never stated that Dana did not receive the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine.

The AVN continued its lies, then, used its lies so as to provoke its members into contacting politicians, with these lies:

The AVN’s members stated that the deaths of Dana, Riley and others are “propaganda”:

Olivier Vles (Bernie Smith) argued that the McCafferys’ story is a government psy-op:

The AVN continued its lies about Dana and the McCafferys:

The chances are – according to Dana’s doctor – she contracted whooping cough while in hospital (because her symptoms started so early). So all this crap about living on the North Coast and being exposed to whooping cough because so many in that community don’t vaccination is just that – crap! The most likely scenario is that their daughter was exposed to whooping cough from a fully-vaccinated person in hospital and, since we know that the vaccinated are many times more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of pertussis or parapertussis, all of this is just more superstitious pseudo-science being pushed by the ignorant to influence the gullible. We see through it though.


More AVN members accused the McCafferys of being part of a corrupt, big pharma cover-up, or “fear propaganda”:

How much abuse and vilification do bereaved families have to endure before those who orchestrate such vitriol are held criminally responsible?

Why isn’t  Meryl Dorey in prison?


Toni McCaffery Response to AVN article A grieving family and baseless accusations

[Published on Facebook, July 31 2010]

I am so distressed I have to do this. But Mrs Dorey from the AVN has just published another terrible article about us at

It was a very difficult decision to make a formal complaint to the HCCC. It took us until December 2009 to decide, because we knew it would put us back in the public spotlight. We did not make our complaint public, for fear of further harassment, which has continued unabated. This article demonstrates there is no protection for complainants in this whole process

The subject of our complaint was that many articles published by Meryl Dorey, like this one, contain false information about Dana. This article demonstrates why we made our complaint – and yes, this is distressing and a form of harassment as it is full of false information about our daughter.

In response:


We have never blamed any person for Dana’s death. See our letter – we are all innocent victims in this. The ‘victim of ignorance’ is our quote that appeared in the Northern Star. It refers to the fact that despite record levels of Pertussis notifications, no-one knew that this area was in the grip of an epidemic, we did not receive one warning, a warning sticker on Dana’s Blue Book and adults did not know they needed a booster. We have been nothing but respectful throughout this. We do not know where Dana caught whooping cough from – all we know is that it was everywhere we had been.


“Dana had presented to doctors several times before being diagnosed. Her mother said that her only symptoms were a runny nose and possible breathing problems.” – Meryl Dorey

Yes, we stated this. This is how whooping cough starts as per NSW Health Fact Sheet


“She was admitted to hospital with a simple runny nose and only became seriously ill after her admission”. – MD

No. This is dangerously misleading and I plead with any parent, do not delay in taking your child to hospital – 10 minutes later and I would have been resuscitating my daughter on the side of the road. After a positive diagnosis of Pertussis, we went straight to hospital. We have stated in media that she started having little coughs. On the way to hospital she ‘bubbled mucous’ in the car. I was in the back seat. We were not worried at this stage. Once we walked into the ward, 10 minutes within arriving, Dana had her first coughing paroxysm in my arms. She stopped breathing, went blue and needed oxygen. Oxygen was her first form of treatment. She then coughed like that and kept having apnoea attacks up to 10 times every hour throughout the night. It was pure hell.


“She was diagnosed with whooping cough within a day or two of when she was admitted to hospital when a whooping cough diagnosis generally takes 10-14 days to produce a positive result.” – MD

Dana had the PCR test. My doctor called with the positive diagnosis and we drove straight to hospital. Thank goodness this test is so quick and reliable as it means quick treatment, and means people can be treated earlier with antibiotics so they don’t infect others. This statement tears my heart out and is so offensive. My daughter did not survive another 10 days!

Fact: Dana had Pertussis – end of story and no-one should be stating otherwise. She had blood tests every half hour in hospital for goodness sake, so yes we have toxicology results to prove she had Whooping Cough. It satisfied the Coroner; that should be enough for anyone.


“The media and her family reported that her treatments had included blood transfusions;” – MD

Yes. As per latest medical articles, when Pertussis turns fatal, doctors cannot ventilate a child’s lungs because they become like concrete, and the blood becomes so thick. This means blood cannot be pumped to vital organs. The blood transfusions are a last resort to remove the toxin and give them a chance. The other option is a heart/lung bypass machine – with very low chances of success. I was alone, sat down with all the specialists and given two options that I had to make then and there. Dave was driving up and I had not told him of how serious it was as I did not want him to have a car crash. There I was being told my daughter would die and given two choices, that specialists had consulted experts all around the world. I chose the blood transfusion, and you know what, she nearly made it. If you mean to hurt me by implying that I made a wrong choice, you have been successful.


“her heart was twice its normal size” – MD

We have never stated this and it is completely false. We stated on Sunday Night, aired on 26 April 2009, that Dana’s body was swollen. This is called oedema, a sign of multi-organ failure. Dana suffered myocardial dysfunction that means her heart muscle died and she had cardiac arrest due to the strain of the Pertussis. If Dana had made it, and God I wish she had, we were facing future transplants, dialysis and brain damage.


“She had a systemic infection” – MD

She had Pertussis – an infectious disease. What does systemic infection mean? We have evidence of Yahoo forums where Mrs Dorey has made a statement that Dana died of septicaemia. This is completely false and I do not know where Mrs Dorey got this information from. But, many babies that do get Pertussis and develop pneumonia are at risk of septicaemia. Anyone that develops pneumonia is. Doctors take blood cultures every half hour to monitor oxygen and C02 levels. That is why babies are ventilated, because they cannot breathe on their own. If C02 levels are too high, people can suffer toxic shock and die. However, Dana did not have septicaemia.


“none of which are normal with whooping cough” – MD

Actually – these are all complications of whooping cough. As are broken ribs, pneumonia and brain damage. Parents need to know these are risks of the disease. 60% of young babies that catch whooping cough need to be hospitalised. 1 in 200 babies can die. These are facts.


Re: Dana’s medical records.

We stated that Mrs Dorey rang Mr Paul Corben the morning of 12 March 2009 seeking information on Dana – this is her health record. She rang him after seeing the Northern Star article on the morning of 12 March 2009. Mr Paul Corben confirmed in an email to us, which we initiated:

“As discussed on 8 May, when Ms Dorey called me on 12 March seeking details of your daughter’s illness and death, I advised her that while there was laboratory confirmation of Dana’s pertussis diagnosis, I would not be providing to her any details in addition to those provided in the media release as this would be, as she was aware, in contravention of privacy legislation and NSW Health policies. Ms Dorey contended that I had mislead [sic] the public in attributing your daughter’s death to pertussis and in so doing had put all associated information into the public domain. I advised Ms Dorey that she should put any further questions in writing to the Area Health Service’s Chief Executive to be considered under a Freedom of Information request. No request has been forthcoming. I will advise you if I receive such a request.”

We had not made any other statements about Dana’s reported symptoms or treatments – we did not appear on Sunday Night until 6 weeks afterwards. No-one has the right to ask these questions. Come to us and ask permission. This beggars belief, particularly when your husband saw the grief of our family that same day. The public would not have known about Dana’s death only that we allowed it to be confirmed anonymously in a NSW Health media release.


“The NCAHS told me that Dana’s death was determined by using a ‘quick test’. At that time, I was unfamiliar with this type of test but subsequent research has shown me that this is a test which gives false positives up to 100% of the time.” – MD

NCAHS said they confirmed the diagnosis was by laboratory diagnosis. Dana had both PCR and blood culture. Again, there is no debate here. Dana had Pertussis.

Mrs Dorey, in a discussion on your Yahoo forum in May 2009 you stated the following false information:

“I don’t know how or why, but she developed septicaemia – blood poisoning. That is what may have caused the swelling though it’s always possible that steroids were used – that is a common ‘treatment’ for Pertussis and it can cause massive swelling. I would love to get a look at this poor little one’s medical records. But that will never happen.”


“I have been accused of harassing this grieving family by making this call. It is my assertion however that the official from the NCAHS has not only committed a serious breach of confidentiality by informing a third party that I had contacted him; he in fact, has harassed the McCafferys by calling a grieving family to tell them that I had asked for confirmation of Dana’s diagnosis. What possible reason could he have had for taking this action?” – MD

This is false. We met with Paul Corben, Dr Kerry Chant and Chris Crawford on 8 May 2009. We showed them the letters and emails we had received, including the AVN brochure. We expressed our concern at the harassment and fears that people were trying to spin the facts on Dana’s death. We asked a direct question of Mr Corben, and he confirmed that Mrs Dorey had contacted him on 12 March 2009.

He then provided a written email to us on 19 May 2009. I had googled Dana’s name one night, and found the discussion on Yahoo where Mrs Dorey and AVN members were discussing Dana’s death. I emailed him in disbelief and he confirmed the phone call in response.


“I have never phoned them, written them a letter by post, email or contacted them in any other way except for the once which I will describe below.” – MD

This is correct. However, your members and participants have sent mail to our home and emails. We received this email from a regular participant on your Facebook and Yahoo Forums on 19 April 2009:

“Dear Dana’s family, I am so sorry to read of your daughter’s passing. It must be tragic to lose a daughter and I wish you all sympathy and trust that God delivers unto you. We believe that God chose Dana for a reason, perhaps she had passed a test and has been elevated awaiting you. God made us all equal and gave us amazing unique bodies to live in.

We find it amazing that some people firmly believe that God was not perfect. Apparently, according to these people, God forgot to add the heavy toxic metals, pig cells, chicken cells etc that are found in vaccines. I choose this subject because your whole website seems to be pointing the finger at vaccines, or lack thereof for your daughter’s tragic death. How can you be so sure ? Do you have so much faith in the financially pressured drug companies to outstrip God that you do not doubt them at all ? Have you done any research into vaccines and seen the reason why so many people will not tolerate injecting their families with toxic muck. Do you have justifiable logic to discredit all their fears ?

I am sorry, but I believe Dana passed away because of different reasons than you claim. All the same, please accept my sympathy for your tragic loss.”

However, the basis of our complaint is the false information you yourself have published about Dana: An initial e-newsletter that one of your members emailed to my sister-in-law soon after Dana’s death; The Fear Factor article; Numerous online discussions on your Yahoo forum where you have made false statements about her treatment and cause of death and referring to Dana as the ‘baby that supposedly died of Pertussis’ – including at seminars confirmed by attendees.

We have also seen terrible letters sent to Internet forums and to media outlets from your members and participants of your Facebook group. These are a sample:

“Dana did not die from Whooping Cough but of complications from. Why weren’t all the details of her death told in the story, like what treatment was she given, was her temperature suppressed so that her immune [sic] could not function as nature intended etc”

“Why don’t you look at the big picture and look at more reasons why this child died. One question you could ask is, what poisons had already been injected into Dana’s little body, which possibly compromised her immune system…What did the toxicology report say, was there one performed?”

“Toni, you seem quite indignant that anyone is daring to question your beliefs in the religion of vaccinology. I would have thought that it is incumbent on you or anyone else who is seeking a very costly heightened “awareness campaign” about the dangers of pertussis to provide evidence of vaccination efficacy and safety. In other words put up or shut up! It is irrelevant to me whether or not Dana died from pertussis or something else, it’s simply not relevant to the debate surrounding vaccine safety and efficacy, except to say that, the Hepatitis B vaccine and other vaccines are well known to cause immune suppression, making recipients of the vaccine more susceptible to circulating infectious disease. Given you are so ardently in favour of the governments vaccine schedule I am assuming that Dana was administered the Hep B vax at birth, per the current schedule. To have any credibility you need to state publicly whether or not Dana received the Hep b vaccine, because if she did, it muddies the waters somewhat, in terms of causation of death. Was an autopsy conducted, was it rigorous, these are the questions that you and your husband need to answer publicly.”

Mrs Dorey also published a dreadful article in The Inside Edition, and this latest one. They all contain false information about Dana, and us, and we ask you to stop. We have seen much worse statements from the beginning of this year, with terrible statements made about us on your Facebook site that Mrs Dorey allowed to remain up there. Statements such as that I “speak with a forked tongue”, and from your own administrators that we are not “honouring [our] daughter’s death with the truth”, and are “milking her death”.


“The McCafferys claimed that I had provided incorrect information to the ABC, but the final outcome of the ABC’s investigation of this issue stated that the journalist had actually made a mistake when she was speaking – the error was not mine.” – MD

No. I have the recording. The journalist asked a question of our paediatrician citing statistics of vaccination and Pertussis. Our paediatrician asked the journalist where she got the data from, and she said the AVN.

The letter from the ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs says:

“We have investigated the statistics used by Ms Quigley (the presenter) in her question and determined that their presentation was in breach of the ABC’s editorial requirements for accuracy and context in factual content. The statistics compared a vaccination rate from 2001 for children aged 0 to 6, with a vaccination rate from 2008 for children born during a particular three month window who had been vaccinated by the age of two. The two statistics are drawn from different data sets and relate to different groups of children. Accordingly, comparing the two statistics was inappropriate. Furthermore, the first vaccination rate statistics was for the year 2001 but was presented as a vaccination rate for 1991…In this case, whilst each individual statistic was in and of itself accurate and drawn from a verifiable Government source, the comparative manner in which they were presented was misleading.”

This was not the journalist’s mistake. She read out statistics provided by the AVN.


“Ken and I were both aware that a Lennox Head child had died from whooping cough – it was in all the media – but this was the first time that either of us knew who that child was.” “Neither Ken nor I were aware that Dana was the child involved; her name was not published in the papers until one or two days after Ken’s visit and her funeral was even later then that.” – MD

Ken Dorey visited my mother-in-law Carmel on the early afternoon of 12 March 2009. Dana’s funeral was on 13 March 2009, also published in the funeral notices of the paper. As we have stated, Ken and Carmel do know each other through the environment group. While Ken claims to not have known about Dana, Meryl did. She was interviewed for the Daily Telegraph the day before (11 March) about the death, then Dana was on the front page of the Northern Star newspaper on that morning of 12 March 2009, and Meryl admits she saw this article and then rang Paul Corben from NCAHS that morning. This all occurred before Ken visited Carmel. Whatever reasons for Ken being there, he saw a grandmother in grief. He probably was shocked and provided his condolences. However, when most people send cards and food, what did Meryl do? Start to spread lies about our daughter. It beggars belief and continues distress us.


“At the end of the conversation, Ken remembers Carmel saying to him that the doctors told Toni and David that it was most likely that Dana had caught whooping cough from an unvaccinated child in the hospital.” – MD

This is so disgusting. A private conversation from a grieving grandmother and Mrs Dorey twists it and uses this in e-newsletters and The Fear Factor. What a betrayal of trust. Carmel would never have used those words. Dana could have caught it in the hospital, but a week later we found out that there were 6 positive notifications at my older daughter’s childcare centre, where I had taken Dana on one day, and numerous notifications at my son’s school. He started kindergarten. That’s right. On one day, I took Dana out because I need to drop my son to school and daughter to preschool and there was whooping cough everywhere– and I live with that every day. If I had known Whooping Cough was around, I would not have stepped foot inside these places with Dana. I am gutted. We also held a review with NSW Health – and there were no cases of whooping cough in the maternity ward of Lismore Base Hospital. We have never stated that Dana was infected by an unvaccinated child. That is a complete lie and Mrs Dorey should retract it.

Enough is enough. We just simply ask the AVN and Mrs Dorey to stop spreading false information about our daughter. She caught whooping cough. She died a torturous death. Leave her in peace and stop misleading the public.

Whooping cough is dangerous; and it is deadly for 1 in 200 babies.

Now after having to deal with these lies, I have to take my children to a birthday party and try to be normal.

Mrs Dorey and the AVN…please leave my family alone.

[Reprinted with kind permission]


About reasonable hank

I'm reasonable, mostly.
This entry was posted in abuse, anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination dishonesty, Anti-vaccine thugs, australian vaccination network, AVN, Judy Wilyman, meryl dorey, mobbing, public health, Public mobbing, skeptic, stop the australian vaccination network, Tasha David and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network lies about deceased baby, attacks her parents

  1. Pingback: Anti-vaccination activists linked to Manly-Warringah Rugby League Club | reasonable hank

Leave a Reply