“Oh my god. I cannot believe we did what we did…but we did.”
– Dr. William Thompson
Of all debates—the political, social, and the personal—the subject of vaccine safety is the one I broach the least with friends and colleagues. It’s a conversation that so few, even many of the most informed people I know, want to have.
For many, the subject immediately strikes a sharp chord that begets the reaction of conspiracy!, that maternal reflex of how dare you question what I put into my child’s body, or the classic you’re not a doctor, you don’t know! Nevertheless, the same people and I talk passionately about the transparent greed of Big Pharma, how it is the biggest lobby in Washington, and that it makes billions of dollars a year at the expense of overmedicated adults, the young and the old—yet when it comes to vaccines, the conversations falls to silence.
The new documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is like a shot in the arm (excuse the pun, but here the description is too apt) that turns up the volume on a pretty close to mute conversation.
Directed by the controversial British medical researcher and gastroenterologist Dr. Andrew “Don’t Believe His Wikipedia Page” Wakefield (more on him later), Vaxxed is an impressively concise and affecting 90-minute exposé of the mercenary Medical Establishment. The film is refreshingly replete with fact-based skepticism, intellectual nerve, and yet free of reductive sensationalism and rhetoric—which is a difficult feat given the urgency of the issue.
Vaxxed advances the findings of Wakefield’s 1998 research paper that there was a possible link between the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine causing autism in young children. Unsurprisingly, the 1998 paper was aggressively disputed by vaccine manufacturers and “public health” institutes in the U.K. and United States.
In response, Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Walker-Smith were (wrongly) accused of ethical violations and falsifying data and, in turn, were discredited by the General Medical Council. The study’s publisher, The Lancet, had to retract it; fortunately though, one of the study’s coauthors Dr. John Walker-Smith—and Dr. Wakefield by association, though not officially—were later exonerated by the High Court of all counts of misconduct.
Now vindicated, and in a perfect stroke of irony, Dr. Wakefield lays the same claim against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): falsifying and manipulating data in a 2004 study that tested if there was a prevalence in young black males for developing autism after taking the MMR vaccine. Further, Wakefield asserts that the CDC destroyed documents thereby leading to an obstruction of justice.
How does Vaxxed argue this case? Extremely well via whistleblower accounts and recovered documentation that strongly suggests something shifty went on in this CDC study. The key whistleblower is Dr. William Thompson (quoted above), who was the CDC’s senior scientist of vaccine safety and one of the four doctors that participated in the study. According to Thompson, the study revealed a prevalence but the CDC altered the data.
The CDC then buried the documents, but Thompson kept his copies and stayed silent for nearly ten years. In 2013 he contacted Dr. Brian Hooker, a PhD scientist and long-time critic of the CDC. It was to him whom Dr. Thompson shared his secrets, chief among them being that the CDC study did, in fact, determine an increased risk (3.36 times, to be exact) in black males developing autism when receiving the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months, while male infants were 4 times as likely to develop autism than females.
Considering that 15 years ago only 1 in 10,000 children had autism and now that statistic has increased in terms of odds to 1 in 50, it is amazing more people don’t get angry or even ask why?.
In fact, the opposite happened: two disparate movements emerged, where you have the “pro-vaccine” versus the “anti-vaccine” camps. Similar to the left-versus-right mentality in American politics, a false paradigm has been created out of this issue to shut down productive, truly progressive scientific thinking.
Those who stand by the integrity of modern vaccines dismiss the opposition as “quacks” and “anti-science” and typically pull the “lack of evidence” card (even though this documentary shows that there is some) in attempt to silence opposition.
On the other hand, thinkers like Dr. Wakefield insist they are not anti-vaccine but merely “pro-vaccine safety.” It is incredible how the “anti-vaxxers” seem so alive in their interviews here, whereas the bureaucrat drones like CDC’s Coleen Boyle (shown only in archival footage as they refused to be interviewed) exhibit sunken, soulless expressions and dryly regurgitate rehearsed platitudes.
Vaxxed makes this point repeatedly throughout its duration, while also offering solutions to keep the vaccine industry alive and well. Dr. Wakefield argues that single monovalent vaccines (meaning the ones that contain a single strain of a single antigen) would be a much safer option and avoid the risk of viral interference, but Merck has taken those vaccines off the market. Why not change it? Medical journalist Del Bigtree, featured in the film, explains that Merck would lose the patent.
Like the 2011 documentary The Greater Good, Vaxxed uses anecdotes of families whose children suffered a vaccine injury. Dr. Wakefield smartly begins with this footage to contextualize the issue in juxtaposition with an earlier barrage of news clips that show pundits and billionaires like Bill Gates shucking off claims that today’s vaccines are dangerous (even though the inserts of actual licensed vaccines make plain a list of possible side effects and neurotoxic additives like mercury and aluminum).
Vaxxed has been broadly labelled “anti-vaccine propaganda” by its critics. But any piece of media that seeks to make a social and political point is, to some degree, propagandistic as its aim is—and should be—to influence or question your present ideology. The film may agitate the stubborn-minded because Vaxxed does not equivocate on its position or make needless concessions.
Vaxxed is very clear with its intentions: predicting a 1 in 2 epidemic of autism by 2032, Vaxxed implores the viewer to take action, to write to your local congressperson, and stand up for your informed consent when it comes to vaccinations.
When a documentary like Vaxxed is bullied and banished from a major film festival (Tribeca Film Festival, though its cofounder Robert De Niro stands by the picture), one should have an instinct for knowledge and seek it out. Come away with your own conclusions, question the Medical Establishment and Dr. Wakefield’s narrative, just do your research, then follow the evidence and go with your gut.
Any reasonable person would agree that Big Business and Big Government do not always have the people’s best health and interests in mind, so ask yourself—why should that line of thinking end with vaccines? Is the science truly “settled” or are your own preconceived notions responsible for that settlement?
Agree or disagree with Vaxxed, but this much is true: it thrusts itself forward into the middle of a debate that needs to be happening now.
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is now playing in select theatres. Visit vaxxedthemovie.com to check for local showtimes and to set up a screening in your area.