Though I had been aware of the 2016 documentary Vaxxed, including the controversy it caused upon release, I only got around to watching it just recently. For those unaware of what the documentary is about, the film focuses on the potential link between vaccinations and autism. It also presents compelling evidence that the US Center for Disease Control has worked hard to cover such a connection up.
I did not know much about vaccines or autism before seeing the film, and I can’t claim to be an expert on either subject now. Furthermore, I do not have any children of my own, which means I’ve never been in a position to choose whether or not to get my children vaccinated. Regardless of whether or not you have kids, I still think this is an important film to watch. Not only is Vaxxed an eye-opening documentary, but the reactions to the film by the mainstream media are also very eye-opening in their own right.
Vaxxed: A Brief Summary
The documentary was produced by Andrew Wakefield and Del Bigtree, who both appear as some of the main talking heads in the film. Wakefield was (yes, was) a doctor specializing in gastroenterology in the UK.
In the 1990’s, he noticed a correlation between babies suffering from gastrointestinal damage and those who’d received the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). Many of these babies suffering from gastrointestinal issues, it turned out, also developed autism. Wakefield published the paper in a medical journal in 1998.
The MMR vaccine, it should be pointed out, is administered as a single shot containing three different live viruses, as opposed to three individual shots given separately. Many doctors recommend that babies receive the vaccine at the age of twelve to fifteen months, although Vaxxed suggests that this is actually the most dangerous time.
After noticing the correlation between the MMR vaccine, gastrointestinal issues and autism, Wakefield suggested that babies be given single dose vaccines as opposed to the triple MMR shot. However, his research was later declared fraudulent, and he was even banned from practicing medicine in the UK.
The documentary suggests that Wakefield’s hypothesis was, and still is, a threat to the profit margins of certain pharmaceutical companies. Should his findings be accepted as potentially true, it would also greatly damage the integrity of a number government agencies who have long declared vaccines to be safe.
The Vaccine Industry and the CDC Coverup
The film goes on to explain some disturbing facts about the vaccine industry, such as the fact that vaccines are not held to the same standards or safety regulations as standard medications. Furthermore, the US government has even put laws in place which protect vaccine manufacturers from being sued for damages! All the while they continue to claim that vaccines are safe.
With the help of recorded conversations of a whistleblower from inside the Center for Disease Control, Vaxxed also presents compelling evidence that the CDC has worked hard to cover up any connection between vaccines and autism.
Vaxxed suggests that the CDC discovered a potential link in many of their own studies but tried to come up with new, alternative ways to present the data so that the link wouldn’t stand out. When this didn’t work, they left out certain bits of information entirely, or left the results of some studies completely unpublished. The CDC has even openly admitted that they have never done a basic study comparing children who’ve received the MMR vaccine with those who haven’t.
Parents Speak Out
Vaxxed also contains plenty of heart-wrenching and emotional scenes of parents claiming that vaccines caused autism in their children. They talk about how their children were developing and behaving completely normally, right up until the point that they got the MMR vaccine. In typical cases, children would develop tremendous fevers, after which their personalities would completely change overnight.
Is Vaxxed Anti-Vaccine?
It should be noted that Vaxxed is not claiming that all vaccinations absolutely, unequivocally cause autism. The filmmakers are simply calling for open debate and dialog about the issue and for the proper studies to be done regarding the MMR vaccine. As mentioned, the producers recommend single dose vaccines spread out over a period of time, instead of the single MMR vaccine which is likely just too toxic for many small babies to handle.
It should come as no surprise that Vaxxed caused a lot of controversy upon release.
The Tribeca Film Festival Controversy
Robert De Niro, the organizer of the annual Tribeca Film Festival, asked for Vaxxed to be part of the programming for the 2016 event. This is significant because even though he’d been the organizer for a long time, he doesn’t normally choose which films get shown or not. The reason Vaxxed is significant to him is because one of his sons is autistic and he hoped that the film would encourage open discussion and debate.
Nevertheless, due to tremendous pressure, the film got pulled from the festival anyway. De Niro then claimed that “we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”
However, De Niro later claimed in an interview on the Today Show that he believed the film “is something that people should see” and said he partly regrets pulling it from the festival. He even goes so far as to recommend another documentary called Trace Amounts.
I have not yet watched Trace Amounts myself but it raises questions about the mercury content of vaccinations and many of the health concerns surrounding it – another hotly discussed vaccine concern that does not get mentioned much in Vaxxed. (1)
As controversy tends to do, the Tribeca Film Festival debacle helped Vaxxed gain a lot of attention it may not have otherwise. There are a number of documentaries coming out every year which attack “Big Pharma” or promote natural alternatives to common health ailments, but they rarely receive the attention that Vaxxed got, and is still getting to this day.
Vaxxed did get screened in New York, but at a small independent theater that was separate from the festival. Today the film can easily be purchased online.
Reactions From the Mainstream Press
When one types in the word “Vaxxed,” into an internet search engine, it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that nearly all the first page results are from mainstream news outlets and that they’re pretty much all negative reviews.
After seeing the film, I wanted to have a look at these reviews with an open mind in hopes of gaining a broader perspective of the issue as a whole.
The Washington Post’s Review
One of the first articles to typically come up is from the Washington Post. The article is an attempt to discredit the film in a number of steps. Again, I tried reading this with an open mind, but it didn’t take long to see that the author, Ariana Eunjung Cha, was not interested in encouraging an open and honest discussion about the issue.
She starts off by saying that Andrew Wakefield is not credible because he was “discredited.” It seems like the author is missing an important point of Vaxxed. The filmmakers put in a lot of effort to show that Wakefield was discredited for political reasons and not because he was necessarily wrong.
However, I do still think the controversy surrounding Wakefield is something that should be examined even by those who agree with most of the points in the film. But even if Wakefield did use fraudulent information in his papers, should we completely ignore the countless number of parents who’ve claimed that the MMR vaccine has caused autism in their children?
The author also complains that the film doesn’t make it clear that the talking head, Andrew Wakefield featured in the film, is also the director himself. In this case I would have to agree. It’s only natural that someone like Wakefield would want to make a documentary to share his experiences and findings with the world, but Vaxxed could’ve at least mentioned that he’s also the person behind the documentary itself.
I really stopped taking this article seriously by its third point. The article title is “7 things about vaccines and autism that the movie ‘Vaxxed’ won’t tell you.” The third “thing” here is the fact that Robert De Niro pulled the film from Tribeca. Yes, we should blame the filmmakers for not including the film’s post-release controversy into the documentary itself! It’s truly amazing what’s allowed to pass for mainstream journalism these days. (2)
The article then goes on to point out how most mainstream scientists deny the link between autism and vaccines. Everyone already knows this, and the whole point of the film is to offer an alternative viewpoint backed by compelling evidence, and to encourage further debate.
Another article I found comes from STAT, an online publication which specializes in health and medical news. The headline of the article is “We watched the movie ‘Vaxxed’ so you don’t have to.” Clearly, many people in the medical industry do not want us watching this film at all!
The article makes little effort to dispute some of the specific claims made by the documentary, instead accusing the film of having a “paranoid tone.” The author, Rebecca Robbins, also suggests that it presents a “conspiracy theory” with no evidence.
Robbins calls into question the scenes with CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson, pointing out that he was unaware of being recorded during the conversations featured in the film. I think that in most viewers’ minds, the fact that he was unaware he was being recorded at the time makes his admissions of a coverup even more believable. (3)
It’s interesting how most of these reviews fail to mention the fact that former CDC head Julie Gerberding went on to land a job with Merck, one of the main manufacturers of the MMR vaccine. (4)
The Guardian and Others
Other reviews, such as by The Guardian and similar publications, take on a similar tone. Many reviewers have tried to stifle honest discussion of the issue by simply including links to certain studies which they believe are enough to completely dismiss the documentary and end all debate.
The main problem here is that Vaxxed has already shown how organizations like the CDC cannot be trusted. So how is the average person who’s already intrigued by the film’s ideas going to be convinced by a journalist’s link to a study done by the CDC itself?
Censorship by The Huffington Post
If you were wondering if there were any positive stories about Vaxxed in a mainstream media outlet, a regular contributor for The Huffington Post named Lance Simmens did write one. Shortly after submission, however, the article was pulled and his account was banned. This is in spite of over 8 years as a regular contributor without incident. (5)
In summary, the film received a lot of unexpected attention due to the Tribeca Film Festival controversy. Since the mainstream news media couldn’t just ignore it like they would’ve liked to, they’ve been publishing articles which attempt to discourage people from viewing the film. One of their main tactics is hurling out the usual insults like “conspiracy theorists,” “cranks” or “quacks” to anyone who may dare question Big Pharma.
The War on Free Speech is Also a War on Our Health
This web site and our book series have not touched on the subject of vaccines before and it’s unlikely to be a major focus of ours in the future. Nevertheless, I still felt the controversy surrounding Vaxxed is an important subject to bring up because I’ve noticed similar bullying and intimidation tactics in regards to other wellness related issues.
It’s quite scary how so many people hide behind the word “science” when they’re confronted with an idea or concept that falls outside the narrow box of ideas deemed acceptable by mainstream medicine. It’s like we’re living in some archaic religious theocracy where “science” is the new “God,” an almighty being that can never be questioned. (Perhaps we should even start spelling it with a capital S.)
The medical establishment has now taken on the role of the priesthood, and only licensed ‘Doctors’ can communicate between ‘Science’ and the average person. Have a differing opinion? Well that can’t be true, because ‘Science’ says so. Oh, you actually came to such a conclusion by using scientific means? How dare you communicate with ‘Science’ without a ‘Doctor’ as an intermediary!
I’ve seen these types of reactions from people when simply trying to suggest that many diseases and health ailments can be prevented or alleviated by eating a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. Or by suggesting that certain herbs can help alleviate certain health conditions. “Well that’s not what ‘Science’ says,” they’ll tell me, before mumbling something about the placebo effect.
All the while, such individuals will ignore the fact that so many mainstream scientific journals won’t even bother to study and test things like natural herbs because they can’t legally be patented.
So what can we learn from all the controversy surrounding Vaxxed, along with the censorship, bullying and intimidation toward people who don’t want to swallow everything mainstream ‘Science’ has to tell them?
It’s now more important than ever that we keep asking questions and keep pushing for open discussions and debate. Some places in the world, for example, have actually made it illegal for food distributors to inform consumers that their product is genetically modified. We also have things like potential mandatory vaccinations to worry about!
If we don’t keep questioning the mainstream medical establishment, not only might we see further restrictions on free speech and freedom of information, but we may even lose the legal right to protect and nurture our own bodies.
If you’re interested in watching Vaxxed, which I suggest everyone do, you can buy the film on their web site (vaxxedthemovie.com/watch) or on Amazon.