Guest post: Lies wrapped in emotional appeal

Guest post by Jen Phillips, originally on Facebook and posted here by permission.

The movie ‘Vaxxed’ is showing at the David Minor Theater in Eugene this week. It’s billed as a documentary, but, like many other films claiming that genre, it’s chock full of inaccuracies and spin. For a ‘reality based’ gal like me, most of the time I just find that annoying, but in the case of ‘Vaxxed’, I find it dangerous and infuriating.

Why dangerous? Because lying about vaccine safety scares a significant number of parents into opting out of vaccines for their children. That puts the children and their communities at risk for serious diseases. “Lying” isn’t a term I throw around lightly, but that’s exactly what this is: lies wrapped in emotional appeal. William Thompson, the so-called CDC Whistleblower, was taped without his knowledge, and the filmmakers spliced his words together to fabricate meaning that was not in his original statements. What does Dr. Thompson actually say about vaccines? Here is a direct quote:

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

Vaccines do not cause autism. The MMR vaccine (the focus of this movie) does not cause autism, or make children more susceptible to autism, or have any influence whatsoever on the manifestation of autistic characteristics. Andrew Wakefield is a disgraced and defrocked former physician who has gotten rich by fearmongering to vulnerable parents. He is not a reliable source of information on vaccine safety OR autism.

Why infuriating? So many reasons. It’s infuriating that this misinformation puts the health of so many vulnerable people at risk. It makes me fidget with frustration that this is STILL being debated, when mountains of research and population level studies all over the world have shown that it is a non-issue. Mostly, though, it’s that the filmmakers and many of their associated anti-vaccination activists demonize autism as a fate worse than death. Presenting the possibility of death or serious disability from vaccine preventable disease as preferable to autism is as harmful as it is heartbreaking. Depicting people on the spectrum as ‘damaged’ or ‘ruined’ in some way is a standard tactic with which to scare parents into not vaccinating, and it’s disgusting.

If you choose to see this movie, please, please, go in with your eyes open and be aware that it is so far from factual that Andrew Wakefield might as well be beaming in his commentary from a space station orbiting Sirius.

If you have questions about vaccine safety or autism prevalence, I would be more than happy to provide evidence-based, accessible information if you reach out to me.

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