This afternoon I went to Midtown Art Cinema with my husband to see VAXXED. Over the past few years, I had begun to have more and more questions about vaccines as my blind confidence in the US healthcare system shifted. I was intrigued that a movie about vaccines was so controversial as to be blocked from the Tribeca Film Festival. When I found that VAXXED was coming to Atlanta, I knew I had to see it. Since any decision on vaccinating any future children would involve my husband, I wanted him to see it also.
I received a Masters in Public Health at the same time I worked towards my MD. I pursued a degree in public health because I wanted to do more than just impact the health of the individual. I wanted a perspective that would allow me to have a broader scope of positive influence. For many in public health and medicine in general, the individuals that work at CDC are placed on a pedestal. We view them and their research as the epitome of scientific excellence. We regard their findings and recommendations as the gospel. We trust them to pursue hard science and trust that when they publish data, they are not being influenced by anything more that the pursuit of truth. I was shattered when I saw VAXXED because this movie told the story of a situation where something other than truth motivated certain professionals involved in safety research involving the MMR vaccine. I learned for the first time about the whistle-blower Dr. William Thompson. The truth he exposed, revealed in black and white an instance where life-saving information was withheld. Information that could have saved countless lives.
My heart broke for the parents of children with autism. There was story after story of beautiful babies who were developing perfectly and engaged with their families up until they received the MMR vaccine. I fought back tears as Polly Tomey shared how she defended her choice to follow the pediatrician’s advice to give her child the MMR vaccine despite concerns expressed by her mom and a good friend. Our patient’s place such trust in us as physicians. As physicians, we place our trust in organizations such as the CDC to give us the information we need to keep our patients safe. It changes you when you find that those you thought you could trust could not be trusted.
Last fall was the first year that I declined the influenza vaccine. Previously I had followed the party line regarding immunization and encouraged my pregnant patients and adolescents to do the same. Over the past year, I had become more silent on the issue. I only mentioned vaccinations if asked directly by the patient. This is because I already had too many questions. I still have many questions. After watching VAXXED, one thing is clear, there is a definite link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Children are being damaged and something needs to be done. As an OB/GYN, I strongly encourage you to educate yourself about vaccines before you get vaccinated during pregnancy or vaccinate your children. The National Vaccine Information Center is one of many useful resources. There is much that I have learned recently that I was not taught in medical school and is not part of my Continuing Medical Education. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t settle until you have an answer. Don’t presume that physicians know everything there is to know about vaccine safety. The MMR vaccine is a case where we only knew what we had been told and that was a lie.
I definitely encourage you to go and see VAXXED this coming week while it is at Midtown Art Cinema. If you already have a child with autism, there are many resources for support such as The Autism File. Dr. William Thompson is willing to testify but can only do so if he is subpoenaed. Talk to your congressional representative and encourage them to subpoena Dr. Thompson so that the truth can get out. Autism is a burgeoning epidemic. Now is the time to take action!
Photo Credit: Partha S. Sahana “The Needle”
* UPDATE Since writing this blog I found out about another great vaccine resource by Marcella of VaxTruth.org. This is a must read for all pregnant women, new moms and those who care for pregnant women.