The documentary claims that there is a conspiracy by the CDC to hide the link between MMR and autism, even though the documents supposed to support that conspiracy do not support such accusations. In spite of the fact that even if the CDC wanted to hide such a link, it couldn’t control studies done in other countries looking at the issue (and finding no link). It makes untrue statements about vaccine testing, like falsely claiming that vaccines are not tested in combination.
In addition, in several cities, the Vaxxed team – discredited scientist Andrew Wakefield, his collaborator Polly Tommey, and producer Del Bigtree, and occasionally others – followed certain screenings with a question and answer session. In those sessions they made false claims that could mislead parents away from protecting their children by vaccinating.
The Vaxxed team claimed that preventable diseases were not prevented by vaccines. Among other things they claimed that vaccines were both ineffective and unsafe, ignoring abundant research showing the opposite: modern vaccines are extremely safe and effective.
Del Bigtree falsely described the hepatitis B vaccine – that protects against a virus that can cause liver disease and cancer – as “injecting a sexually transmitted disease”, potentially scaring parents off protecting their children against this dangerous infection. Finally, the Vaxxed team warned listeners against seeing pediatricians, because they can’t be trusted (see here and here for more of their misrepresentations and misinformation).
If a viewer watches Vaxxed and listens to the team’s advice, decides not to vaccinate based on this misleading information, and their child gets a preventable disease and is harmed by it, can they sue for money damages in torts?
The movie, directed by the cunning con-man Wakefield, promises to feature “revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.”
There’s been a lot of criticism by the pro-science community about this film, including this series of three articles by the enigmatic and inscrutable Orac:
Although you should definitely read all three articles, the Delphic Orac’s response to Tribeca’s implication that the movie represents part of the “debate” (there is no debate) about vaccines and autism is legendary:
It’s a common excuse made by, for example, reporters for “telling both sides” about scientific issues. Here’s the problem. This sort of attitude might make sense for social and political issues, but science is different, because in science there is often a right and a wrong answer.
You can have all the “dialogue and discussion” you want about a scientific topic, such as the question of whether vaccines cause autism, but at the end of the day there is a correct answer based on science
I don’t have it in me to write about everything wrong with this “documentary” – to be honest, I heard not one single bit of science based fact presented with respect to the MMR vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. The fraudumentary mostly presented lies, misinformation, anecdotes, and, notably, no real science. Worse yet, it tried to make Wakefield into a hero – maybe a deity of some sort.
So, let’s be clear – this movie is about Wakefield. Not children. Not identifying real causes for autism. Not anything important.
The Vaxxed emotional appeal, not supported by scientific evidence, can and will put kids at risk. To help those of you who will see the movie, I’ve created a flier to hand out to attendees that refutes much of the misinformation presented in the documentary.
The goal of this flier is to provide a concise explanation of some of the problems with the movie Vaxxed, with links for those who want to delve deeper or see the support for the points made. Use it however you need to.
Some ways I think it might be useful are:
If you are protesting or attending a screening and want to provide a short handout to help counter the movie’s misinformation.
If you want to explain to people who have or have not seen the movie why it is not a good source of information – including friends, policy maker, or theaters considering whether to show it.
I guess this story won’t die. After the huge kerfuffle with respect to the fraudumentary, Vaxxed, you’d think that I wouldn’t have to read anything where Robert De Niro talks vaccines – but alas, he is still pontificating on vaccine issues where he clearly is clueless.
In case you were on a trip to Ceti Alpha V, missing the whole Vaxxed/Tribeca Film Festival/Robert De Niro story, here’s a quick review:
Not much to say here – the Tribeca Film Festival and Robert De Niro have chosen to pull the Andrew Wakefield fraudulent documentary, Vaxxed. Here is their statement:
UPDATE: 3/26/2016 Statement from Robert De Niro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, regarding VAXXED at the Festival: “My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for. The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”
But to be positive, thank you Mr. De Niro and Tribeca Film Festival for listening to the rational voices, and rejecting those who seek to harm children.
There are literally dozens of articles out there from blogs, journalists (and journalist who have blogs), Facebook memes, and just about every where else, that were opposed to this film. Geez, the Skeptical Raptor and Dorit Rubinstein Reiss have written three articles about the the Wakefield fraudulent documentary in the past few days (see here, here, and here). Short of places like the Age of Lying About Autism, there is simply no one with a rational mind who cares about the lives of children who think Tribeca and De Niro were right in showing this fraudulent documentary by a conman. No one.
But I know it’s not over, I’ve been battling anti-science cretins for more years than most reading this blog have been on this earth. Cue the whining, conspiracy theories, and hate from the vaccine deniers.
In the words of my young son, it appears that Tribeca Film Festival made a bad choice (thumb down). It apparently decided to screen a problematic film by a man with a problematic history. Let’s look at the Andrew Wakefield, Tribeca Film Festival “partnership” for this “documentary.”
This post isn’t going to repeat these points. Instead, I want to remind readers that there’s nothing new in this; it’s old news in a new package, and it’s not anymore true now than it was in the past. Tribeca’s bad choice and Andrew Wakefield’s bad movie do not change the basic facts. MMR does not cause autism (nor do vaccines more generally). There is no massive conspiracy to hide vaccine harms; and Andrew Wakefield’s past actions still discredit him as a scientist and as a source of information on vaccines and autism.
The Wakefield, Tribeca Film Festival partnership should be judged carefully by the examination of evidence.
I wanted to provide you with following statement from Robert De Niro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, regarding Vaxxed at the Festival:
“Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.”
I am sympathetic to De Niro’s personal association with the autism issue. But there are no “discussions” about vaccines and autism. Vaccines are absolutely not related to autism – science speaks in black and white, and in this case, there is no debate.
What this propaganda film does is cause people to not vaccinate their children, putting them at risk of many vaccine preventable diseases. Wakefield is a fraud – that has been established by boatloads of evidence, including his inability to get a judgement against his accusers who have stated that fact.
If De Niro thinks that vaccines cause autism, then he should take is millions of dollars that he’s earned from his movies, and fund a great autism research center that relies upon science and evidence to speak to what causes autism.
Instead, he’s going to allow the cunning fraud, Andy Wakefield, lie to an audience with the passive, or more probably, the active support of one of our generation’s greatest actors.
As the elegantly subtle Orac says:
I almost feel sorry for Mr. De Niro. Almost. He’s about to be besieged by antivaccine cranks, who will now look at him as a hero and try to get him to support all sorts of wacky quack and pseudoscience causes. I hope he likes his new admirers.
Actually, I do feel a bit sorry for Mr. De Niro. He’s now finding out the hard way why those of us who’ve studie him say that Andrew Wakefield discredits anything he touches. That now includes the Tribeca Film Festival.
I actually don’t care what celebrities say. In general, they are uneducated fools whose purpose in life is to create an illusion for the audience. But I have a policy – I do not pay a penny to any actor who tries to intentionally harm people through their ignorance and foolishness. Vaxxed will hurt children.
Even if only one child isn’t vaccinated because of the pseudoscience and lies in this fake documentary, that’s one child too many. Is Robert De Niro willing to risk one child based on a fraud and conman’s lies?
Thus, I will never watch another movie by De Niro. He’ll still get millions for each movie he does, no one will care about me.
But I’m on the side of science and truth. He’s not. Children will lose in the long run.
Opponents of legislation to tighten school immunization requirements have been promoting a movie called Trace Amounts to legislators and others. They seem to think this movie proves a link between thimerosal – a mercury-based preservative in vaccines – and autism. It shows, in their view, that our vaccine program is corrupt and harmful through and through, and hence is an argument against vaccine mandates. The movie, however, shows nothing of the sort. There is no new evidence in it, and it simply repeats old and disproven claims.