VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe

Cinema Libre Studio
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Grade: B+
Director:  Andrew Wakefield
Written by: Del Matthew Bigtee, Andrew Wakefield
Cast: Del Matthew Bigtree, Andrew Wakefield, William Thompson, Brian Hooker, Steve Hooker, Marcia Hooker, Rhonda Roberts, Tyler Roberts, Noah Roberts, Sophia Guarneri, Jonathon Tommey, Jonathan Edwards, Jack Devereux, Daniel Lawler, Del Bigtree, Thaea Bigtree, Rep Dan Burton, Rep Bill Posey, many others
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 4/1/16
Opens: April 1, 2016

If I were still in front of a classroom now, I would love to show Andrew Wakefield’s new film “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” which is not really balanced (documentaries, contrary to popular belief, do not have to present both sides equally), but is in no way one of those subjects that could be classified as settled.  Yet Robert De Niro, as a founder of the Tribeca Festival in New York, had pushed to include “Vaxxed” in the huge schedule of offerings, but then backed down after criticism and struck the film from the festival, which looks to me like an example of censorship which is not justified in a society such as ours.  “The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy,” said Mr. De Niro.  Really?

Never mind, though.  The film opened April 1 commercially at the Angelika Theater in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan and will play there for one week, perhaps to find other outlets so that more Americans can at least see one side of the story and be encouraged to pursue further interest in the topic.

The brouhaha re-ignited when American physician William Thompson, acting as whistle blower in secretly recorded phone calls to biologist Dr. Brian Hooker, accused the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of covering up data in a 2004 study of the triple-dose Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine. We hear alarming statistics in the film that autism, once affecting as few as one in ten thousand children, had increased greatly following administration of the vaccine, with African-American kids disproportionally hurt.  To prevent this tragedy, we might switch to giving the vaccines in single doses, and to delay administration of the solution until each child is three years old rather than the current twelve- to fifteen-months.  This seems reasonable enough  Yet when British Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who published a 1998 research paper claiming that measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was linked to autism, he was accused of misconduct, of fitting data to his own preconceived theory. The Lancet, one of the most professional medical journals, considered Wakefield to be a quack retracted the piece.  Wakefield is now unable to practice medicine in the U.K. because other scientists were unable to replicate his results.

Here is why the Centers for Disease Control got upset by Wakefield’s allegedly falsified report.  Because of the former surgeon’s study, an anti-vaccination movement has convinced many parents to refuse to vaccinate their children, the law notwithstanding.  Measles and Mumps cases soared.  Vaccinations in general are now considered harmful by a minority of parents, who refuse to allow their kids to get any vaccines.

The most moving parts of this powerful documentary are not the statements of doctors and scientists, but one-on-one chats with parents.  Some parents, in tears, describe how shortly after the administration of the MMR vaccine their children had seizures, banged their heads against the walls, and became non-communicative, avoiding eye contact and crying.  One would hope that these parents could sue or at least force the appropriate government agencies like the FDA to test vaccines with the same rigor that they vet drugs, but thanks to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, Big Pharma is not liable for harming vaccinated kids.  Sounds like Congress members are in bed with the pharmaceutical companies that donate money to their campaigns and send them to Hawaii on junkets.  Could it be?  Nah.  This is America.

One wonders about the effect of this film on those who see it at the Angelika, and hopefully at other theaters around the country thanks to efforts of the brave distributors, Cinema Libre Studio.  Administrators like the company chairman Philippe Diaz, do a service by calling the CDC to task with its alleged “suppression of medical data by a governmental agency that may very well be contributing to a significant health crisis.”  Yet neither Diaz nor Dr. Wakefield is anti-vaccine.
Who knows what other movies during the past decades gave in to critics and voluntarily agreed not to distribute their wares?  Censorship is not supposed to be what we’re about.

Unrated.  90 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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