In memoriam – fraudumentary Vaxxed by Andrew Wakefield

Late last week the fraudumentary (my portmanteau of fraudulent documentary, you can thank me in the comments), Vaxxed by Andrew Wakefield was going to be a part of the Tribeca Film Festival, then got support from Robert DeNiro, then got trashed by everyone as being old news, then was pulled from the film festival.

Various anti-vaccination activists whined about all kinds of things, including various conspiracy theories, complaints about censorship (without really knowing what censorship means), and just about anything else you could name.

Unless you were living under a rock (and I’d have to ask why), this kerfuffle seemed to have exploded in an instant and disappeared within a couple of days. I think it was the unified indignation of nearly every science writer on the planet that convinced Tribeca to cut bait and run (I’m really on my game for clichés).

I mean it really wasn’t that hard.  MrAndy Wakefield is a fraud – period. Vaccines and autism are unrelated according to all of the high quality epidemiological research – period. And the so called CDC Whistleblower manufactroversy (another invented portmanteau, just to be thorough), a key part of the film, was really much adieu about nothing.

And that whistleblower has stated over and over again, he strongly recommends that all children get vaccinated according to the CDC schedule. Let that sink in.

I’ll but this into terms that should be clear to any reader. Vaxxed is, was, and forever shall be pure, organic, GMO-free, derived from virgin cows, BULLSHIT.

But like most bullshit, the stink doesn’t go away very fast. Let’s see what happened.

Vaxxed by Andrew Wakefield –resurrection

 

Probably as a result of the huge controversy, Vaxxed did find Cinema Libre, a self-described “boutique” film distributor, to get the film into theaters. The also get their films into digital content and DVD/Blu Ray, so you can look forward to it in the mark down bins at Walmart or something.

The fraudumentary was premiered at a theater in New York City, where the New York Times described “several dozen people (and more than a handful of reporters)” attended. I’ll bet that skeptical journalists made up the bulk.

And the Times reported that some people came to the movie because “I want to see both sides of the story.” There aren’t both sides. There is one side that is lying, and there’s the other side that has ALL of the scientific facts that vaccines are not responsible for autism.

Eric Kohn, at Indiewire, wrote a powerful critical review of the paper. He stated,

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Nevertheless, “Vaxxed” works overtime to mimic the look of a credible research project, with charts and graphs tossed around to lend an air of authenticity. But no amount of data sets — nor the numerous tearful parents recalling their healthy children transforming into autism cases — can change the utter lack of substance within these claims. Wakefield sounds the alarm about a rise in autism coinciding with vaccinations as if the two were intrinsically linked; at no point does anyone address the possibility that these are discrete phenomena. Any high school math student will tell you that correlation is not causation, but Wakefield’s team didn’t get the memo. [/infobox]

As I’ve stated time and again, the anti-vaccination squad can’t get the simple math right. And apparently this math ignorance goes all the way up to their spiritual leader, Wakefield the Cunning Fraud.

But Kohn’s not done:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]The most egregious argument of the anti-vaccination movement, reiterated with utter seriousness in “Vaxxed,” finds Wakefield playing the race card. In a segment of the film titled “The African American Effect,” Wakefield emphasizes research claiming that black children are particularly susceptible to developing autism after receiving the vaccine, with the assumption being they were somehow genetically predisposed to the trigger rather than the disease itself. [/infobox]

This is the smelliest bullshit part of the whole CDC whistleblower manufactroversy. The claim, from a non-epidemiologist, Brian Hooker, was based on a review of <10 data points. For those of you who have skills in simple statistics, that few data points has no meaning to anyone.

According to a thorough analysis of Hooker’s article by David Gorski, MD,

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Hooker did a cohort study. He analyzed data collected for a case-control study as a cohort study. Basically, he looked at the risk of an autism diagnosis in the groups first exposed to MMR at different age ranges. Remember, case control = comparing risk factor frequency in people with a condition compared to controls; cohort = examining risk of condition in people with different exposures.[/infobox]

Dr. Gorski summarizes the quality of the research in another post:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]But first, for those who might be entering this saga right now, let me recap a moment. I’m referring to a conspiracy theory, which has been flogged to death by the antivaccine movement for nearly two weeks now, that there is a CDC whistleblower who has made “devastating” reports that the CDC hid data that showed a 3.4-fold increased risk of autism in African American males, based on an incompetent “reanalysis” of a 10 year old CDC study that found no evidence that children with autism were more likely to have received their first MMR vaccine earlier than neurotypical controls.[/infobox]

Let me summarize – there’s nothing there.

And by the way, on 3 October, 2014, the journal, Translational Neurodegeneration (a really low impact factor journal) formally retracted the article by Brian Hooker. So there’s even more nothing there.

But my favorite part of the article by Kohn is:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]In a statement leading up to the film’s release, Wakefield’s co-writer Del Bigtree claimed that “Vaxxed” is “not an anti-vaccine movie,” which is kind of like saying “Triumph of the Will” is anti-Hitler. Strung together in obvious ways to induce a constant sense of dread (look out for the slo-mo shot of a crying child!), “Vaxxed” shamelessly repeats the same non-arguments over and over again, drowning facts in murky proclamations. [/infobox]

Zing!!!!

For those of you who don’t know about Triumph of the Will, it’s a Nazi propaganda film from the 1930s. Hitler was the executive producer of the film. It’s a really good Godwin, just in case you were wondering.

I don’t know what delusional world Del Bigtree lives in, but it isn’t the one I live in. But Kohn’s zinger was good enough for me.

But here’s the thing – enough people are going to watch this fraudulent documentary, and think it’s going to tell the truth. The woman I mentioned above form the New York Times article about the movie left the theater crying. And I’m going to guess it’s not because she was laughing so hard.

And that could lead to fewer children being vaccinated. A California school, one of the most undervaccinated, has had to shut down temporarily because of a measles outbreak. This mirrors a 2015 measles outbreak in California, one of several in the USA where more than half of the victims were intentionally unvaccinated. And that follows the 2014 outbreak there were 644 measles cases in 27 states.

Much of this is directly related to the fraudulent claims of  Andy Wakefield. We can thank him for bringing back a disease that was once thought to be nearly eradicated.

 
 
The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor

Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!