THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE:
First things first: regardless of what you may have read elsewhere, VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is not an anti-vaccination film. However, it is a very important documentary that does raise some interesting and often alarming facts about the relationship between the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine and autism. While this subject may not be new to older readers, there is a new generation of young parents who are completely unaware that this was even an issue in the recent past. And why don’t they know? The answer to that question can be found in VAXXED, one of the most controversial and misunderstood documentaries in recent memory.
Before discussing the focus of VAXXED, let’s go back a few years. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, was falsely accused of starting the anti-vax movement when he – and eleven other authors – published an article in UK medical journal The Lancet. The article, which linked autism with the MMR vaccine (and not ALL vaccines), caused outrage and panic in equal measures. For reasons more complicated than I can go into (Google it!), The Lancet eventually retracted the feature, ten of the twelve authors retracted their support of the article, and Wakefield was eventually barred from practicing medicine in the UK. Flash forward to 2013 when biologist Dr. Brian Hooker received a call from Dr. William Thompson, a Senior Scientist at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC). Thompson, as it turns out, led the CDC’s 2004 study on the link between the MMR vaccine and autism. According to Thompson, the CDC omitted crucial data in their final report that revealed a “causal relationship” between the vaccine and autism. Hooker then reached out to Andrew Wakefield and the seeds of VAXXED were planted.
VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is a fascinating film from beginning to end. Directed by Wakefield and produced by Emmy-winning producer (THE DOCTORS) and medical journalist Del Bigtree, the film focuses on William Thompson’s astonishing revelations about the truth behind the CDC’s findings. Thompson does not appear in the film, although his voice and the documents he turned over as evidence do, and these documents are quite startling.
The passion, belief, concern and love that went into making VAXXED is evident in every frame. However, writing about this film doesn’t do it justice. Although a documentary, VAXXED plays out like a political thriller and the viewer is left with many questions by the time the film ends. That may leave an audience angry and confused after watching a film of fiction, but for a documentary like VAXXED, it leaves the viewer with a different perspective…and the desire to see changes made. For Bigtree, Wakefield and all of those involved with this film, that is the type of reaction they are looking for. Intrigued now? Well, you SHOULD be.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with the film’s producer, Del Bigtree, and discuss the film’s goals, the controversy surrounding it and more…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: I was quite surprised that almost every bit of press that I read about this film was completely inaccurate. It was not an anti-vaccination film whatsoever. How are you feeling about this journey to finally bring the film into homes around the world?
DEL BIGTREE: The journey so far is scary. I’m nervous about the future of this country and I’m nervous about the future of journalism. I got involved with the movie because I saw a clear representation that the health of children in this country is at risk and we have a government agency that has covered up a dangerous vaccine and I don’t know why exactly. I made the movie because I was worried about the future and the health of children. The media has, in my mind, lied about what our film is about. When I talk to people who haven’t seen the movie, they think I’m a Conspiracy Theorist. Yet I have doctors who say they came to this film kicking and screaming… and then say that this movie changed their minds. Today, out of all of the cities that we’ve done Q&As in, I have not had a single doctor come up to me after a screening and say, “I just saw your film and you’re a liar!” Not one! And yet, I read review upon review that mention that a fraudulent doctor directed it, therefore nobody needs to see it. The reviews rarely ever mention the fact that the film is about Dr. William Thompson, a very real scientist at the Center for Disease Control that is making extremely alarming statements. He has achieved whistle blower status – he is still at the CDC. Beyond four hours of recorded statements, he’s provided 10,000 documents which people get to see in my film. So, you tell me: what has happened to journalism? As a medical journalist, you couldn’t pay me to make an inaccurate statement about anybody, so what is happening? Are they seeing the movie? Or are they writing reviews based on something sent to them by their sponsors? People are calling themselves journalists and cutting and pasting somebody else’s headlines and not doing their job. Journalism and science share the same principle at heart which is, “We should never stop questioning.” We are going down a dangerous road that looks very much like Nazi Germany to me – a propaganda that our media is involved with now that is perpetuating that anybody that asks a question is a crazy person.
SPAZ: How is it that people can so easily believe that UFOs and Bigfoot exist but scoff at the fact that autism might be linked to the MMR vaccine?
DEL: What’s more alarming is the amount of people that believe GMOs are bad for them, that Monsanto is not working in the interest of health, but in the interest of the bottom dollar. They believe that our government body – when talking about food – are lying to them. But they do not believe that there is any chance that a government body could be lying to them about Merck or vaccines. That, to me, is a finer line than what you described. What is it about Monsanto that drives people crazy but Merck (the company that developed the MMR vaccine) is their best friend?
SPAZ: As a filmmaker, is it frustrating to have to explain what the movie is NOT about rather than what it is about?
DEL: The truth is that I don’t get caught in that game – I DO always say what it is about. They want me to talk about what it is not about. They want me to talk about Andy Wakefield and the LANCET paper because that is the one-trick-pony the pharmaceutical industry thinks they have…and that is unraveling before them. I tell everyone that this film is about Dr. William Thompson, a whistle blower from the Centers of Disease Control that has come forward and said that the CDC has committed scientific fraud on arguably the most important vaccine study ever done. And I say the most important because it was the last vaccine study that the United States government ever paid for looking for a connection between vaccines and autism. This fraudulent study is what the U.S. government used as a reason to never have to look at this issue again. And now we find ourselves fifteen years behind the ball. Every seven minutes, a child is being diagnosed with autism. We are destroying beautiful, healthy children. And the only thing that keeps people from knowing the truth is not seeing my film. Everybody that does see the film is realizing the truth.
SPAZ: Is it more difficult to deal with critics of the film or journalists with a definite agenda who quite possibly have not seen the film?
DEL: There are very few actual critics of the film. Most of the things I read are people who have not seen the film – I can tell by the way it’s written. I have no problem with criticism but I haven’t heard legitimate criticism of the film. When I read, “I saw the film and it’s all lies” – that’s not a criticism. What exactly are you saying is a lie? A criticism would actually be saying that William Thompson had an axe to grind with one of his bosses or that he’s trying to blackmail the CDC. Those would be criticisms. Journalists can have different perspectives. In fact, they should. But it’s scary when every news agent winds up on the same side of an argument. It’s rarely possible that everybody has exactly the same perspective on a story. So yes, it is frustrating because it is lying. I don’t have a problem with discourse. I don’t have a problem with a different perspective. But can’t we at least share the facts and say how we see them differently and why? To lie about the facts and not address the facts, then that’s just a lie. So yes, that is frustrating!
SPAZ: Have you noticed any changes for the better since you made Vaxxed?
DEL: The number one positive change has been the growing number of young parents that are coming to this film and saying to me, “I have never heard this is an issue!” There is a generation now that has never heard there was a question. The fact that I am putting a new question in them and they start asking appropriate questions of their doctors, that’s the greatest thing. I believe we are saving children every night that a theater is filled with people. That’s the number one benefit.
SPAZ: What do you want this film to achieve? What type of reaction?
DEL: I want safe, healthy effective vaccines for everybody that believes in that medical approach. More than anything in the world, I want that for them. But how do you have safe vaccines if the most important testing body is committing fraud? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around!
SPAZ: Even though it has been a tough battle, are you proud that you made this film?
DEL: There are projects you get involved in that are a heavy lift the whole way – you have to push it up, it’s difficult and you barely get it there. And then there are those things that almost make themselves – they have a life of their own and there is something they need to say. This is one of those. When we sat and watched the final version of the film, I literally had tears in my eyes. I thought, “Who made that movie?” It transcended all of us. I’m proud to have been a part of that experience. And I’m proud because this movie does cause people to think. I know that every night, people are waking up because every night, this film is being seen by more and more people. And hopefully, something good can come of that.
Thanks to Del Bigtree
Special thanks to Rick Rieger, Lauren Watt, and Dave Rayburn
From Cover-Up To Catastrophe