Vexed by “Vaxxed”

September 13, 2017

I am long familiar with the anti-vaccination “movement” (a conspiracy-theory cult based on a hoax), but it nevertheless came home to me recently. Literally. A black bus with the word Vaxxed in 4-foot-high letters parked a stone’s throw from CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY. (No, I didn’t throw a stone.)

I was alerted to the bus’ presence by a couple of our special agents, Cody Hashman and Roe Giambrone, and, after we watched briefly from a window, the latter accompanied me to the site—an adjacent plaza’s parking lot. There (see photo) I stood in line to learn what was going on.

The film Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe (2016) accuses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of covering up an alleged link between the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. A handout I received asks:

“Are Vaccines Necessary? It’s a great misconception that our bodies are unable to protect themselves from disease. On the contrary, when given the proper nutrition, supplements, rest, exercise, sunshine, and avoidance of toxic chemicals, our bodies possess a God-given, innate ability to heal, protect, and maintain optimal health, even when a threat of infection is present.”

It has been my experience that—when people are supposedly citing science, while at the same time invoking “God,” we must watch out for pseudoscience or worse. (As we saw in my previous blog, a similar approach characterizes the talk of some climate-change deniers.) Considerable scientific research establishes that the purported vaccines and autism link is nonexistent.

The film Vaxxed was directed by the notorious anti-vaccine guru Andrew Wakefield. After he published a study in The Lancet in 1998, suggesting MMR caused autism, the prestigious UK journal retracted the study. Wakefield’s medical license was subsequently revoked, based on his “ethical violations and a failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest,” as well as for his having invented evidence for his claim. Wakefield is a director of the Autism Media Channel, the producer of Vaxxed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaxxed).

Dangerously, at a Minnesota Somali community where Wakefield twice spoke in 2017, childhood vaccination rates fell dramatically, whereupon measles broke out. Undaunted, anti-vaccine zealots intensified their campaign. As Rebecca Robbins of Stat News wrote of the bus tour, “It’s part of a recent surge in anti-vaccination activism spurred in part by optimism after the election of President Trump, who has a long history of voicing unfounded doubts about the safety of vaccines.” (Online at https://www.statnews.com/2017/09/05/vaxxed-protests-road-trip.).

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