A Documentary About Vaccine Safety Makes People in High Places Uncomfortable
By Julie Akins, Special to JenniferMargulis.net
June 14, 2016—Ashland, Oregon
Standing outside the quaint and collegial Varsity Theater in Ashland, Oregon with a group of mothers discussing their child’s vaccination schedule did not seem like any sort of revolutionary or heretical act. As a woman long past the time of needing such considerations, it actually seemed a bit uninteresting. However, I quickly learned that this semicircle of women, some of whom preferred not to have their names noted so as not to appear as “anti vaxxers,” were involved in a line of questioning which seems to make people in high places uncomfortable.
The women were discussing “VaxXed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe,” a documentary film produced by Emmy-award-winning television journalist Del Bigtree and directed by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. The film is now on its way to Portland after an extended schedule in Ashland. “Vaxxed” looks at the Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine administered to children less than two years old and its possible links to profound health impacts including autism. It suggests that either giving the vaccines separately or at an older age (after age three) would be safer. It goes one step further with the recorded statements of a senior scientist who still works for the Centers for Disease Control Doctor, Dr. William Thompson, Ph.D. In these recordings Thompson explains that the tests which cleared the MMR and its timetable of a causatory role in autism were deliberately manipulated by himself and his colleagues at the CDC. Brian Hooker, Ph.D., the researcher and autism father whom William Thompson contacted, says in the film that Thompson wants Congress to depose him, which has yet to happen.
While the movie itself suggests a high level of corruption at the CDC, the smaller idea of waiting a little longer or maybe taking the vaccines some time apart does not seems as if it would illicit strong feelings.
Yet it does.
So strong in fact, Dr. Jim Shames of the Jackson County Health Department suggested in an opinion piece published in the Ashland Daily Tidings that no one see the film. It’s too dangerous.
“Not to believe the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and countless others is to accept a gigantic level of conspiracy to delude the public. Some of us have worked with the CDC and WHO and can assure you they are dedicated public servants whose motivation is to seek the truth, not to get rich and deceive all of us,” Shames wrote.
The top doctor in the rural county on the California border went on to disparage theater owners for allowing the movie to play in there: “To bring this inflammatory film into our community and legitimize the falsehood that MMR vaccine causes autism is nothing short of irresponsible. Rather than peddling thoroughly discredited information to vulnerable parents, we should be strengthening public health, promoting this effective vaccine and reducing the risk to children and the immune-compromised.”
Here’s the thing: I don’t know if the MMR vaccine would be better taken in three separate doses or later in a child’s life, as the filmmakers suggest, based on a reanalysis of the CDC data. Certainly many parents chose to do it this way. In fact entire countries do, such as Japan.
My issue comes in saying that theaters should not show this film and parents should not have the ability to weigh the information on their own.
“They weren’t saying don’t take it. They were saying let’s just look at the safety of this thing,” a mother told me shaking her head. “It’s unbelievable that we can’t even look at it.” She was referring to the failure of health organizations such as the CDC to re-open the study that CDC scientist William Thompson claims is based on fraudulent data.
I am not intending to wade into waters over my head. I do not know what causes autism but I do know what causes the decay of a free society. Being ridiculed, sued and denied an education because you or your parents want to ask questions puts us well on the way. California recently passed a law eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccines for children in both public and private schools.
It is not irresponsible to see a documentary nor is it “inflammatory” for a movie theater owner to allow an interesting movie, which raises legitimate questions, to be shown at his theater. If we’re going to be worked up about what’s responsible I might suggest trying to suppress a private business owner from showing a film is irresponsible and “anti- American.”
So is silencing someone who disagrees with you. These mothers worry about anyone knowing their position on vaccinations for fear of retaliation against their families. The taxpayer-funded public health official calls out those who see the film and show it. Many news organizations don’t want to touch it.
Yet, we’re still all over “creationism” as a legitimate theory and global warming as something controversial—shouldn’t that be more worrisome?
Parents need to question the vaccines, medicines, food, and even clothes they bring around their children. That’s their job. Parents can assess the information and make decisions. Some will get it right, some will not. But that’s how all this works in a free country. You get to be wrong but you also get to have access to information and make decisions—however they come out.
Parents do not need information fed to them like baby food by public health officials or anyone else. They certainly don’t need it on their dime and time.
Asking questions, presenting those questions too, is the hallmark of a free society. When that becomes revolutionary we are no longer what we perceive ourselves to be.
Julie Akins is an award-winning television and print journalist based in Southern Oregon.
Editor’s note: This is the first of a 3-part series on #VaxXed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Part II will be a summary of the main points of the film. Part III will be a summary of the community panel discussion held in Ashland, Oregon.
The trailer and a list of cities where VaxXed is showing can be found on VaxxedTheMovie.Com
5 Ways To learn More About Vaccine Safety and #Vaxxed:
1. Read William Thompson’s press release:
My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.
I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.
2. Read Dr. Deborah Gordon, M.D.’s opinion piece in the Medford Mail Tribune:
I would like to thank the Varsity Theater for its decision to screen the movie, “Vaxxed.” I would suggest that in reading about the movie, your readers pay attention to whether or not a particular spokesperson has actually seen the documentary.
Quite contrary to the guest opinion featured in your newspaper, the movie does nothing to denigrate, criticize or attribute harm to the measles vaccine. In fact, the movie goes out of its way to suggest that the measles vaccine is safe, effective, necessary and valuable to a healthy child and healthy community.
The distinction missed by your guest’s opinion is between the measles vaccine and its unfortunate replacement, the combined vaccine directed against measles, mumps and rubella in one fell swoop. Previously booted out of Canada and the UK for an associated risk of meningitis, the combined vaccine has been adopted and mandated in the United States for decades. The movie suggests we go back to the three separate vaccines.
The main issue at hand in the movie is the reliability of the CDC. We learn of the existence of a CDC whistleblower, a member of the original team studying the safety of the MMR, who has divulged previously unavailable information about the study — information that contradicts the stated official conclusions of that study. Congress has been asked, as protectors of the health of US children, to solicit the testimony of the whistleblower. So far, no public body nor news organization has expressed an interest in hearing his testimony. Without a hearing, we don’t know if he’s delusional or brave, imaginative or brilliant, pitiable or heroic.
3. Pre-order The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health, From Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years.
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an investigative journalist and book author. She earned her B.A. from Cornell University, her M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Emory. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. She is also a frequent contributor to Jefferson Public Radio.