Nothing New Under the Sun
Film Review: VAXXED. Directed by Andy Wakefield and produced by Del Bigtree
By John Leake
Imagine that you and your spouse have a 14-month-old baby in excellent health. Your child is perfectly responsive to mother and father. His cognitive and social development has hit all milestones. He then receives an MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) combination vaccine. A few hours later he is struck with high fever, seizures, and severe gastrointestinal distress.
You call your pediatrician, who explains that, per the CDC, “There is a small increased risk for febrile seizures after MMR vaccines.” The pediatrician assures you the seizures will soon pass and your baby will be fine. However, following this initial attack, the baby becomes withdrawn and unresponsive to his mother. Instead of his characteristic bright-eyed smile, cheerful babble, and exclamations of delight, his facial affect becomes either blank or highly distressed. He ceases playing interactive games and showing interest in objects that had previously grabbed his attention.
You hope his condition is a passing aberration, but it’s not. Weeks and months go by, but the cheerful and responsive 14-month-old toddler you knew never returns.
As the child grows bigger and stronger, his condition becomes more frightening. He is easily upset at minor changes, throws tantrums, and reacts strangely to the way things look, taste, and smell. At night you and your spouse are tormented by his agonized shrieks and the thudding of his head against the headboard.
You are referred to a developmental pediatrician who diagnoses your child as suffering from autism. Immediately you wonder: Why was our healthy baby suddenly afflicted with this catastrophic social and cognitive impairment?
The pediatrician has no answer. “The cause of autism remains unknown,” he says.
“What about the MMR vaccine administered right before the trouble began?” you ask.
“We know the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism?” the pediatrician replies.
“But you just said we don’t know what causes autism?” you say.
“We don’t know what causes autism; we just know that it isn’t caused by the MMR vaccine,” he proclaims.
Your heart sinks with the suspicion that only a moron would dare utter such a patent logical fallacy. And yet, upon further investigation, you learn that your pediatrician is simply parroting the public health agency orthodoxy on MMR vaccines—an orthodoxy established without any comparative study of autism among vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children.
You observe mainstream media pundits parroting the same “safe and effective” mantra. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, asserts on national television, “We don’t know what causes autism, but we do know it’s not caused by the MMR vaccine.”
The situation is analogous to a missing child last seen getting into a brown 1976 Pontiac Firebird. The parents go to the local police station and are told by the missing persons investigator: “We don’t know what happened to your child; we only know his disappearance is not connected with the driver of the brown 1976 Pontiac Firebird, whose identity we don’t know.”
You turn on the television and see Microsoft monopolist Bill Gates aggressively proclaiming there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. You wonder why Gates is widely regarded as an authority on MMR vaccines and autism, but no explanation is forthcoming. And so, like Captain John Yossarian in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, you ask yourself: “Am I insane, or is everyone else insane?”
You assume your predicament must be rare, but then you ask around and discover there are tens of thousands of couples who have experienced the same disaster. And yet, virtually no one in the medical science establishment will even acknowledge the connection between your child receiving the MMR injection, his febrile seizures, and the onset of autistic symptoms.
A notable exception is the British gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield, who has long been interested in examining this link. Dr. Wakefield is so concerned that he directed the documentary film, VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Released in 2016 and initially scheduled to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was cancelled after the organizer, Robert De Niro, came under heavy pressure to ax it. Then as now, those who questioned the safety and efficacy of vaccines were heavily censored and censured.
A major character in the film is senior CDC scientist, William W. Thompson, who, in 2014, contacted the biologist and autism researcher, Dr. Brian Hooker, as well as US Congressmen Bill Posey (R-FL). Thompson stated that his colleagues at the CDC had, in fact, documented evidence of a link between the early administration of the MMR vaccine and autism—especially in African American boys—but had chosen to destroy the evidence. Instead of publishing their true findings, they presented a paper with an altered dataset that concealed the link. Thompson, who was listed as one of the authors, claimed his bad conscience had spurred him to become a whistleblower.
As I watched VAXXED, I was most struck by the parents’ testimony. As producer Del Bigtree pointed out, many of these parents are intelligent and reasonable people who are acutely aware of sudden changes in their children. Mothers are exquisitely sensitive to what is going on with their infants. It is therefore the height of arrogant obtuseness to dismiss their testimony out of hand.
There is now widespread acknowledgement that the global incidence of autism has sharply risen over the last twenty years. According to a recent study published in Autism Parenting Magazine, as many as 1 in 44, or 2.3% of American children, are now suffering from it. This compares to approximately 5 out of 10,000 in the 1970s (when the MMR vaccine was introduced).
Autism is a catastrophe for its victims and their parents. A recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders “following 187 people diagnosed with autistic disorder found their long-term outcomes to be overwhelmingly negative.”
The outcome data was grim, showing pervasive inability to live independently, hold a job, or manage money. Few became independent, with 99% unable to live independently. Of those, 70% lived at home with relatives, 21% lived in disability homes in the community, and 8% in residential facilities.
Given these dire findings, one would think that our public health agencies would regard the high incidence of this terrible syndrome as an emergency and invest billions to investigate ANY and ALL possible causes. And yet, given that these agencies refuse to acknowledge the testimony of tens of thousands of parents, it appears that no serious research is being conducted to examine the possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
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