Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for Vaxxed, the movie

Image: Vaxxed--From Cover-Up To Catastrophe, the movie poster

Note added on April 28, 2017: This post is part of a month-long series on conspiracy theories for the A to Z blog challenge.

The question of whether vaccines, in particular the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine, cause autism was answered, right? A CDC study published in 2004 showed no connection. In 2010, Andrew Wakefield's 1998 paper that did suggest a connection was redacted by The Lancet and his medical license was revoked. Ding, dong the witch is dead! Go ahead lads and lassies, get your shots, worry-free.

Fast forward to 2016 and there's a new independent film about MMR and autism, Vaxxed, that was kicked out of the Tribeca Film Festival. Interviews with Robert Di Niro show a man in conflict. He has a son with autism. He wanted the film to start a conversation, but it wasn't to be.



Sparked by curiosity, Vaxxed is shown to audiences willing to band together and rent theater space. A DVD is put on Amazon, and a pirate copy ends up on YouTube. It's kicked out of more film festivals. What is in this movie that has people so excited?

The film centers on two men: Brian Hooker and William Thompson. Dr. Hooker, a bioengineer at Simpson University, has an autistic son and wanted data from the CDC to try and prove vaccines were responsible. He was frustrated for 10 years before receiving phone calls from CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson. Thompson was one of the co-authors from the CDC's 2004 paper that discredited the autism/vaccine connection.

Thompson thought the statistical data did show a link between autism and African American boys who were developing normally until they got their MMR vaccine around 12 to 15 months. Thompson made sure Hooker got the data. Hooker started recording their phone calls without Thompson's knowledge. The movie Vaxxed centers on bits of these phone conversations, parents' stories of their children who developed autism after their MMR shot, and a revelation that the CDC "threw out" data to hide the link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

If such fraud is true, this would be huge! Imagine if the CDC knew that there was a risk of giving kids autism with a vaccine and decided not to say anything for over ten years as the rates of autism spiraled ever upward. And that's not all! The results from this 2004 study were used to refuse compensation to parents with autistic kids trying to sue the government in vaccine court. Massive fraud in all directions. Republican congressman Bill Posey called for a congressional investigation. President Obama granted Thompson whistleblower status. (Source) Wow, why wasn't the media all over this incredible story?

Several reasons. The director of Vaxxed is none other than Andrew Wakefield. The film was declared anti-vaccine propaganda and dismissed by critics and scientific experts. Dr. Hooker published a paper on this data, but like Wakefield's paper, it was redacted--this time due to conflict of interest (he had tried to sue to get compensation for his son's autism) and doubts about the validity of his work. (Source)

The rate of autism in the US is now at 1 in 45 kids. (Source) Whether you believe vaccines are involved or not, that's scary.


29 comments:

  1. That is a scary rate. Are there other suspected "culprits" beyond vaccinations? So many things in our environment have been tampered with chemically, including corn, etc. Just curious.

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    1. Oh yes. Glutamate, GMOs, and others.

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    2. Some believe it is hereditary. I have not researched enough to have a well-informed opinion but my slightly informed opinion is that it is inherited.

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    3. I'm in no position to argue for or against the hereditary aspect, but the sheer numbers of diagnosed cases over the past twenty years seem to go against hereditary being the only cause.

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  2. I think part of the thing with autism isn't that more people have it, it's that it's now more easily recognised and actively diagnosed now.

    In the past people with very severe autism would have been institutionalised or hidden away by the family, or would have been able to cope in the world but would have been labelled as strange or eccentric. Nowadays we're able to recognise it and so more people are aware of it and it's become more 'socially acceptable' for want of a better world.

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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  3. Yes, that rate is scary. Yet, every single person I know personally has had MMR vaccine is fine. All vaccines come with a disclaimer about possible side effect both remote and frequent. Both mild and life altering. My daughter had a mild case of the measles after her 1st MMR. Overall, I think more people suffer less because of vaccines then without them. My parents grew up in the 20's & 30's and knew people who had suffered from various ones.
    Perspectives at Life & Faith in Caneyhead

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  4. Those are some scary numbers.

    I wonder if the drug for those three things has changed over the years, causing this. When I was a kid, there was no shot for rubella. In fact, blood work before I was married revealed I was a carrier and would need a shot if I wanted kids or they would contract rubella.

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  5. I'm pro-vaccine. If there is a way to thwart a contagious/deadly disease, I'm going to line my children up for it. Even if there is a link to autism, it is still far better than the days of so many children dying. My father lost two brothers to childhood diseases we no longer fear. And sadly, that was the norm for families back then.

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  6. Like Cait (Click) said, more people are being diagnosed with autism because it is more easily recognizable. Plus, the diagnosis has expanded beyond those with severe autistic traits (non-verbal, etc.). Although autism can be frustrating and is a disability in our neurotypical world, it's not something to be feared, unlike the diseases vaccines try to prevent. I recently read this article (http://neurocosmopolitanism.com/what-is-autism/) about autism and what it is. I agree with the writer of that article that autism is something people are born with.

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    1. I don't know if I agree. Most people that are in good health will recover from mumps, measles, or rubella. Autism is for life.

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    2. I should be more careful here. That reply of mine coupled with the post above sounds like I've jumped on the anti-vaccine band wagon. My bad.

      So the part of Cherie's comment that struck me was that autism is not something to be feared, unlike the diseases vaccines try to prevent. But there's a wide variety of diseases this covers. On the fear scale, a diagnosis of flu wouldn't frighten me too much. My family gets vaccinated for flu every year and yet my daughter got diagnosed with the flu on Good Friday. My other daughter got the flu in 2013 and 2015. Both my daughters and I have dealt with pneumonia several times.

      Chicken pox and measles might scare me a bit more, but not as much as a diagnosis of autism. A diagnosis of meningitis, however, would turn my hair white.

      Where does the fear for any of these diagnosis come from? Thinking of the worst case scenario would be my guess.

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    3. Thinking of the worst case scenario can create a lot of fear. Most healthy people recover from most illnesses that vaccines cover, such as the flu, MMR, etc. But others are so much more dangerous, such as meningitis or polio. But being vaccinated yourself is not as much as for your (a healthy person's) protection but for the protection of others with compromised immune systems. I worked with a co-worker who had an immune problems. A simple cold could put her in the ICU. The flu could kill her. Sometimes it's not as much for ourselves but to protect the weak and vulnerable in society.

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  7. I agree with Click partly. Plus, we have a larger population now. If vaccines caused autism, we would have had the autism spike a lot earlier than happened. And I think there's something else going on that we're not taking into account. Something that our corporate overlords don't want us to know...

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  8. Vaxxed is well-known to be a fraudumentary, and has been soundly debunked by numerous people in the scientific community. Again, I present a Skeptical Raptor article:

    http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/vaxxed-guide-wakefield-fraudulent-film/

    I'm a proud Aspie, and part of the neurodiversity community. We really resent being called an epidemic, disappeared, gone, soulless, damaged, imperfect, in need of a "cure," etc. People who speak that way about their own autistic children need to learn to accept and love their kids as they are, not as they want them to be. Many of us consider autism and Asperger's a beautiful gift and blessing, without which we'd be much different people. I know I'd never be the writer I am, and wouldn't have most of my hobbies and interests, without the gift of Asperger's. Since I was born in 1979, it went unconfirmed until 2009, but my mother and I had long suspected it, even long before it was in the news so regularly. It's the way my brain was wired in utero. Today we have an umbrella spectrum, greater awareness, more understanding, better diagnosis, and more sensitivity. Autistics are no longer locked away in loonybins and misdiagnosed as, e.g., schizophrenic or (sorry for using this word) "mentally retarded." Aspies likewise are no longer viewed as oddballs and eccentrics.

    The breakdown in herd immunity and spread of pseudoscience since Fakefield's widely-debunked study is absolutely frightening. We're seeing resurgences of diseases which were all but vanquished in the Western world, like measles, whooping cough, mumps, and meningitis. I'm glad smallpox was already eradicated before all this insanity started, since my eczema is a legit contraindication for that vaccine, and I'd have to depend on herd immunity to stay safe. I used to take for granted that we didn't have to deal with all the diseases people in bygone generations frequently died and were maimed by, but I must've had too much faith in people to understand how science works.

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    1. I know someone who was recently diagnosed with Asperger's and was surprised.

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  9. I have several friends who have been diagnosed as on the spectrum but only got tested after their kids were diagnosed. I am nearly 50 and when I was growing up, people with autism were considered disruptive, geeky, or mentally disabled, depending on where they land on what we now seem to call the spectrum. They were not classified as autistic because none of us knew anything about it. It is my belief that it was that way in previous generations, also. I believe that it is all unrelated to vaccinations.

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Vegetable Ivory - Taguaf

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  10. Those numbers are scary. There could be so many factors that could be responsible, hard to say what exactly is. Personally I don't know anyone who's had the MMR shot and been diagnosed with autism. Also agree with posters above about autism being recognised more in the current medical scenario as compared to earlier times - blanket term mental instability or some such would be used, if diagnosed at all.

    Nilanjana
    Madly-in-Verse

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  11. My nephew is an Aspie, high-functioning. He was born with it, trust me on this! So were most of the members of a family whose children attend my school. And when young Max was diagnosed, it was explained to him that there were a lot of big names who had been Asperger's kids. Try Isaac Newton(just read some of the behaviours he showed as a school kid and you'll see it). Albert Einstein. More recently Bill Gates. And, IMO, Steve Jobs. The first two were born before vaccination - and by the way, what KIND of vaccination are the conspiracy theorists saying is to blame? Because we're having to listen to them moan here in Australia, right now, and they never say.

    Max is still in his teens and has been a musician and composer since childhood, as well as a film-maker and animator. In fact, he's composing the music for his films. His only problem was making friends, because autistic kids have trouble reading people's faces and will simply say whatever pops into their heads. But he's now in his first year at university, studying film making, and has made plenty of friends, since they have the same interests as him.

    Polio is for life too, Tamara. A lot of kids got it before vaccination. Smallpox kills. Rubella leaves girls sterile. And if you're not vaccinated, you can spread it to children too young to have had their jabs.

    No, it's just another conspiracy theory and I'm not surprised the film was kicked out, though it may be that banning it will just get it more views on YouTube. Maybe it would have been better to have agreed to screen it provided the director agreed to have a disclaimer put up.

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  12. Alot has to do with what's considered autism. when Asperger's was added to the DSM for autism, the number of autism cases skyrocketed even though the same number of people had the DSM symptoms. When you meet someone with Asperger's or what is now known as high functioning autism, you may not even realize it. You might think they're quirky. That's what some of the brilliant people in history who are now thought to have had HFA were thought as. Awareness has also been raised as has the benefits of being diagnosed. When my generation was in school, no one even looked for HFA, although looking back, I remember kids who I have no doubt would be diagnosed today. I would never totally discount the possibility that vaccinations could be a small part of the equation, but there is a lot that doesn't fit into a soundbyte.

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  13. The purpose of my post was to present a conspiracy theory, that autism and vaccines were connected. It is not something I necessarily believe, but it's interesting on how some commenters seem to react to this information as an attack against people with autism. As I commented earlier, someone close to me got diagnosed with Asperger's, an extremely smart someone.

    My comment to Cherie about the severity of measles, mumps, and rubella is a general one. While most people who are healthy can recover from these three, there absolutely are cases where these diseases have maimed and/or killed people.

    However, I think the most severe cases of autism (not Asperger's) would be more frightening than measles. But I would not tell anyone not to vaccinate. I would encourage people to research vaccines. My children have had all the required vaccines.

    And if I could rewrite this post, I'd insert a sarcasm symbol after "Wow, why wasn't the media all over this incredible story?"

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  14. And by "research vaccines" we mean "go to college, get a medical degree, and learn the scientific methods of research", and not "Google stuff until you are in a panic." :D
    This one makes me angry. It has reached Hungary now, so we are having an uptick in childhood illnesses again...

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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    1. I think you can conduct research on vaccines with or without a college degree and most people will turn to the internet for information. Yes, you can absolutely scare yourself silly doing this with vaccines and plenty of other topics. Picking out relevant information can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. You can find the vaccine inserts produced by the manufacturer online for example to learn about side effects. I've never been shown a copy of a vaccine insert in a doctor's office.

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  15. There's no conspiracy or mystery here. Andrew Wakefield faked his data. He altered histories and simply made information up.

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/autism.vaccines/

    His study wasn't retracted and called "an elaborate fraud" because there's something to hide. It was retracted because he made up the data.

    Why would he do that? Wakefield was secretly working for personal injury lawyers who wanted to sue vaccine makers. He had a direct financial interest in faking the data.

    He is a fraud and a conman, and children are dying because of it. That anyone would treat such thoroughly debunked garbage as plausible is deeply disturbing.

    http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v9/n12/full/ni1208-1317.html

    There is absolutely no scientific link, and this film is simply propaganda.

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  16. Interesting. I’ve heard the whole vaccines-cause-autism thing. I have a hard time believing it. My older sister has autism, but my younger sister and I don’t. We probably all got the same vaccines. The vaccines didn’t hurt me.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Just because vaccines didn't hurt you, doesn't mean they didn't hurt your sister.

      Just because I can eat peanuts doesn't mean those with peanut allergies can eat them, simply because they didn't hurt me.

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  17. Wow that is a very high number! All I know is that it started with fraudulent research paper and that is so sad that it took such an intense turn. Of course, Parents will want to know the cause and anything that is pointed at will suffer. It is a shame that someone pointed at something that is protecting us (and the people around us) from diseases.
    This having an emotional side, involving children suffering, fuels the propaganda. Autism is heartbreaking wish we find out more about it soon.
    I would like to watch the movie tho because I like conspiracy theories.
    Thanks for sharing
    Xenos
    Best wishes!

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  18. I agree with Click above. I heard that now-a-days, autism isn't stigmatized as much. Before, you shipped the family member off or hid them away and pretended all family members were healthy.

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    1. Maybe that explains why you didn't encounter them in public schools as much.

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  19. I'm not sure I believe that vaccinations can cause (or does cause) autism. No one I know that has received the MMR has autism. Granted, this doesn't mean that I'm right … or that the US government does or does not know more (or differently) than civilians. Anything is possible. I just hope that either a cure or some medicine to help people control their autism is created in the future. :)

    With Love,
    Mandy

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I will do everything in my power to visit commenter's blogs unless I've been abducted by aliens or my children get sick. (If my children get abducted by aliens, I will be very busy, of course, catching up on my sleep.)

Note: During the A to Z challenge, I may not be able to return all comments in a timely fashion, but I will do my best.