The movie ‘Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe’ made the rounds of select theaters in Vermont over the last several months. These showings - one of which took place in Brattleboro at the Latchis Theater this past Monday evening - are sponsored by the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice (ww.voicesforchoice.com) and are part of an effort to raise awareness about risks associated with vaccinations.
What makes Vaxxed so compelling is two-fold:
There are many powerful, heartrending scenes in which parents of vaccine damaged children testify to their experience of having their child vaccinated and then soon thereafter witnessing profound neurological degeneration. These interviews watched one after the other can leave the viewer emotionally stunned - and enraged at the forces that led to these outcomes.
But it is also a carefully crafted whistleblowing exposé entwined in controversy and cloaked by a contentious debate about freedom of speech. The intrigue is multi-layered: the revelations of corruption at the Centers for Disease Control which is the content of the movie intent, the controversial career of the director of the movie, and the contentious debate swirling about a scheduled airing of the movie at the Tribeca Film Festival this past spring.
“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.”1
So begins a statement printed in 2014 on the website of a well-known law firm which defends whistleblowers. Thompson had sought job protection under the federal whistle-blower law because of allegations he made about corruption at the CDC – corruption as in deliberating discarding data that implicated vaccinations as a causal factor in autism.
After seeking whistle blower protection in 2014, Thompson turned over 100,000 pages of documents to Florida Congressman Bill Posey hoping that Posey would call for an investigation of the cover-up and have Thompson testify before Congress.
A year earlier, Thompson, who had led the CDC study on the connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, had contacted bioengineer Dr. Brian Hooker, who amongst other things once was a team leader at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Thompson admitted that the final article had purposely omitted information that indeed revealed the causal link between MMR and autism. Apparently unknown to Thompson, Hooker recorded a number of phone conversations between the two that took place over a number of months in which contains controversial information that had been thrown out by the CDC is revealed.
With this in hand, Hooker approached Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British specialist in pediatric gastroenterology whose medical career was sidetracked and ultimately destroyed when he published research that also showed a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. Wakefield, who currently lives in the United States and has been active as an advocate for vaccine damaged children, used these conversations between Hooker and Thompson along with interviews with parents of vaccine injured children, politicians, physicians and ‘pharmaceutical insiders’ to make a documentary.
The gist of Vaxxed is straightforward: the CDC intentionally tampered with the evidence because it is under the sway of the pharmaceutical industry due to the fact that a revolving door exists between the two – they are essentially one and the same.
Interestingly, Vaxxed is not an antivaccine film at heart. It is about the corruption and greed leading to a lack of safe guards when it comes to vaccination policies. The makers of the film don’t advocate against vaccinations, but do call for the following four actions 2:
- That Congress subpoena Dr. William Thompson and investigate the CDC fraud.
- That Congress repeal the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act and hold manufacturers liable for injury caused by their vaccines.
- That the single measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine be made available immediately.
- That all vaccines be classified as pharmaceutical drugs and tested accordingly.
The documentary was set to make its public debut at the Tribeca Film Festival held in lower Manhattan earlier this year. Robert De Niro, one of the Festival’s founders and producers, had a special interest in the film because he is the father of an autistic child. He thought the issues raised by the film were both credible and important, and that they deserved to be heard by the public.
What he and the other co-producers were not bargaining for was the maelstrom of controversy that would ensue from merely announcing that Vaxxed was in the Festival line-up. The inclusion of Vaxxed was criticized as irresponsibly promoting an antivaccine agenda and some other filmmakers threatened to pull their films if it was not withdrawn.
One of the lightening rods of criticism, of course, was Wakefield who the critics decried as a discredited fraud. The irony in all of that was that Wakefield, who had an impeccable career as a medical career until he basically stumbled into evidence that showed the MMR- autism connection is has never been anti-vaccine but was the victim of the same forces that led to the data tampering of the 2004 study. (See http://vaxxedthemovie.com/andrew-wakefield-biography/)
No doubt, if Thompson had spoken out in 2004 about the real results of the study instead of waiting 10 years and seeking whistleblower protection, he would have ended up in the same position as Wakefield. Likely, he learned from Wakefield’s ordeal what the results of speaking out would be.
De Niro remains outspoken in support of Vaxxed and Wakefield. "The movie is not hurting anybody. It says something. It said something to me that was valid. Maybe some things were inaccurate, but if the movie was 20 percent accurate, it was worth seeing… And they were saying it’s because of the filmmaker and he was discredited, but how was he discredited? By the medical establishment? There’s a lot going on that I still don’t understand, but it makes me question the whole thing, and the whole vaccine issue is a real one. It’s big money. So it did get attention. I was happy about that.”3
"Something is there with vaccines, because they’re not tested in some ways the way other medicines are, and they’re just taken for granted and mandated in some states. And people do get sick from it. Not everybody, but certain people are sensitive, like anything, penicillin."
In the same interview he went on to mention, "I’m working on something else. Harvey Weinstein and I are working on doing a documentary, but I don’t what to talk much about it, because when I talk about it, something happens. But that’s what we plan to try to do."4
So, maybe in the end, with the backing of a Hollywood magnate like Weinstein the information will reach a wide audience. But if you don’t want to wait for De Niro’s documentary and have missed screenings of Vaxxed, it is still available on Netflix - or simply download it from vaxxedthemovie.com.