I would like to thank the Varsity Theater for its decision to screen the movie, "Vaxxed." I would suggest that in reading about the movie, your readers pay attention to whether or not a particular spokesperson has actually seen the documentary.
Quite contrary to the guest opinion featured in your newspaper, the movie does nothing to denigrate, criticize or attribute harm to the measles vaccine. In fact, the movie goes out of its way to suggest that the measles vaccine is safe, effective, necessary and valuable to a healthy child and healthy community.
The distinction missed by your guest’s opinion is between the measles vaccine and its unfortunate replacement, the combined vaccine directed against measles, mumps and rubella in one fell swoop. Previously booted out of Canada and the UK for an associated risk of meningitis, the combined vaccine has been adopted and mandated in the United States for decades. The movie suggests we go back to the three separate vaccines.
The main issue at hand in the movie is the reliability of the CDC. We learn of the existence of a CDC whistleblower, a member of the original team studying the safety of the MMR, who has divulged previously unavailable information about the study — information that contradicts the stated official conclusions of that study. Congress has been asked, as protectors of the health of US children, to solicit the testimony of the whistleblower. So far, no public body nor news organization has expressed an interest in hearing his testimony. Without a hearing, we don’t know if he’s delusional or brave, imaginative or brilliant, pitiable or heroic.
The secondary issue is of course the tragedy of the autism epidemic. While we were worried about the raging epidemic of measles, its worst examples described by Dr. Shames, but its more common and milder version experienced by many of us over the age of 50, we shuddered as over 100 people were diagnosed with measles. The epidemic petered out in a few months, but at the same time the autism epidemic carried on.
And ultimately the issue is whether or not anything in science is ever definitely proven or whether it is always open to scrutiny by inquiring and responsible minds. Some of my first clinical experience as a medical student was actually working with Dr. Shames at a rural clinic in Takilma. As part of my work, I attended home births which were at the time in general considered unsafe, then widely celebrated by the public, then again disavowed, and now re-configured for greater safety with certified midwives and hospital backup. A work in progress, at each point in time doing the best we can to avoid death and damage in the birth process. Birth mishaps can of course result in serious disability for affected children, rivaling the lifelong disability of autism. Worthy practitioners never take lightly the safety risks to children or any patients.
That annual autism incidence is staggering. About the time of the CDC study, the rate of autism was 1 in 150 and it has now increased to 1 in 68. (Some argue that the perceived increase is false, but the current diagnosis rate is 1 in 68.) That’s about one million children in 2014. Isn’t it worth hearing what the whistleblower has to say? If you’re curious, see the movie. The Varsity thinks your curiosity is worth screening the film. If you think other folks should listen, let them know.
Dr. Deborah Gordon has practiced in the Rogue Valley for 30 years, moving here as the first medical director of Clinica Azteca, and has had a private practice in Ashland for the last 25 years.