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Having an Autistic Brother Made Me More Skeptical of Vaccines

April 30, 2014 1 comment

theinvisible_threat_Promo_Facebook_avatar_450x450In today’s guest post Hannah, one of the student filmmakers involved in the making of the documentary Invisible Threat, explains how having an autistic brother, and conducting research for the film, influenced her understanding of vaccines.

Growing up with an autistic brother, my thoughts differed from most of my peers during the initiation of Invisible Threat. With the common concern of a correlation between autism and vaccinations, I couldn’t help but wonder the cause of my brother’s disorder. Thus, in search of a deeper understanding of vaccines and an answer regarding the cause of his hardship, I saw the opportunity to work on this film as a way to educate myself whilst pursuing my passion for filmmaking.

Going into this film, I believed that there simply had to be a connection between autism and vaccinations. I had heard stories where parents took their child into the doctor’s office and saw a nearly immediate alteration in behavior. Living with an autistic family member is no small feat and I therefore recognized the potential heartbreak of this situation. It was different for me than the student filmmakers surrounding me; autism was a disorder which affected nearly every moment of my family’s life. It wasn’t simply a “story”––it was a living, breathing, suffering, person.

IThannahA huge portion of being a student filmmaker on Invisible Threat involved extensive research regarding vaccinations and their history driven by the students. Read more…

Invisible Threat Filmmaker Discusses Journalistic Integrity

April 23, 2014 11 comments
theinvisible_threat_Promo_Facebook_avatar_450x450
Invisible Threat is a 40-minute documentary produced by California high school students which explores the science of vaccination and how misperceptions have led some parents to make dangerous decisions.   In an effort to draw attention to the national launch of the Invisible Threat movement on May 1st, we are participating in a Blog Relay. Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, DC.  Visit the Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page for links to each blog post and visit the Every Child By Two website to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.

This guest post was written by Camille Posard, the student filmmaker who wrote Invisible Threat.  Camille has since graduated from Carlsbad High School, where she was involved in the making of this film and is currently a student at UCLA.

ITcamille_roxy

In all honesty I wasn’t very interested in making a science film about the immune system, until I personally discovered the false information that floods the internet and the subsequent firestorms created when the word “vaccine” is used. Almost three years ago an article in our tiny local newspaper mentioned our broadcast journalism club, Carlsbad High School TV (CHSTV) Films, was going to make a video clip about the immune system including how vaccines work. We hadn’t even started filming, yet the blogs prompted hundreds of ugly comments and calls. Yes, the anti-vaccine bloggers were harshly criticizing high school students doing an after school project sponsored by an unrestricted local Rotary grant.

ITbreaking newsNot knowing anything about vaccines, I thought there must be something shocking we were about to uncover about children being harmed and possible cover up. Now that was worth researching. However, the adult supervisors at CHSTV Films -  the director (our broadcasting teacher) and the volunteer (PTA mom turned producer) – had a different reaction. They pulled the plug on the project, citing a concern for us teens after all the angry comments flooded in. They had no idea that this topic was so explosive. Due to the success of our previous films, we had other projects being pitched to us and the adults felt it best to avoid this headache.

The students discuss the film at their regular staff meetings.  (Photo courtesy of chstvFILMS)

The students discuss the film at their regular staff meetings.

It was outrageous to me that the adults would cave to the intimidation. Read more…

The Invisible Threat Is Coming to Our Nation’s Capitol

April 22, 2014 10 comments

Written By Amy Pisani, Executive Director, Every Child By Two

theinvisible_threat_Promo_Button_300x50On May 1st the Invisible Threat will be coming to Washington, D.C……

 

The Invisible Threat film focuses on understanding the science of vaccinations and the misperceptions leading parents to delay or decline life-saving immunizations. This 40-minute independent documentary, produced by award-winning high school student filmmakers, has earned praise from more than 50 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Every Child By Two, calling the documentary “powerful,”fast-paced,”  “well-balanced,” andimpeccably produced.”

 

 

On May 1st at 10am, Every Child By Two and the Immunization Coalition of Washington, DC will host a special event which will serve as the official nationwide launch of the Invisible Threat movement.  Since it is critically important for our elected officials to get the strong message that the public expects sensible, science-driven legislation when it comes to vaccines, we’ve invited them as our special guests.  Now we are counting on you (and your friends, family and colleagues) to call, or email, your members of Congress this week to further encourage their attendance at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

By flooding their offices with calls and emails between now and May 1st we can make it clear that pro-vaccine constituents have a voice, and that we stand firm against vaccine misinformation that is resulting in weakened public health policies, watered-down school vaccination requirements and the resurgence of deadly diseases!

Please take a moment to contact the key legislators on our invitation list to ask them to attend the Invisible Threat film screening and expert panel on May 1 at 10 a.m.  Let them know that this event is important to you because deadly vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, meningitis, pertussis and influenza continue to threaten your community.  Explain that this student-film aims to uncover the truth about the anti-vaccination groups who seek to dismantle the progress made to combat deadly diseases that used to take the lives of millions of people each year.  Make it clear that as a constituent it is very important to you that your member attend this event so that they can be better prepared to help protect your community from ongoing disease outbreaks that threaten the lives of your family.

The May 1st congressional event will begin with an airing of the film followed by Q&A panel with leading immunization experts, including:

  • Amy Pisani, Executive Director, Every Child By Two
  • Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/Co-inventor of the Rotavirus vaccine
  • Dr. Melinda Wharton, Director, Immunization Services Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases/CDC
  • Frankie Milley, Executive Director, Meningitis Angels
  • Lisa Posard, Producer, Invisible Threat

RSVPs are required as seating is limited –please inquire with info@ecbt.org if you wish to attend.

For more information on ways that you can become involved with the Invisible Threat movement click here.  You can also “like” the Invisible Threat Facebook page,  follow them on Twitter @InvisThreat and join the filmmakers on an Invisible Threat Twitter chat, Wednesday, April 30th, from 7-8pm, ET.  Follow #InvisibleThreat and help get the word out that the threat is out there and vaccines are our greatest defense.

 

Vaccines and Autism: Something Old, Something New

April 8, 2014 63 comments
Photo credit:  Emily Willingham

Photo credit: Emily Willingham

The following post is an adaptation of a previous article written by Shannon Des Roches Rosa for Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism entitled Keep Calm and Think Critically.  Shannon is a mother of three and an autism advocate extraordinaire.  She writes extensively about parenting and autism on the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and Squidalicious blogs, and serves as a contributing editor on BlogHer.  Shannon critically evaluates new autism data and explains that even though a few misguided people will attempt to use this data to try to put a new spin on an old myth, it won’t change the fact that vaccines don’t cause autism.

 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a recent media briefing to announce and discuss readjusted estimates for autism prevalence, with a new rate of 1 in 68 children. This announcement caused instant furor in anti-vaccine autism groups, which started claiming the 30% rate increase was proof of a vaccine-autism link, despite longstanding evidence (also from the CDC, along with many other resources) that no link between autism and vaccines has ever been established by legitimate research.

Shot@Life Champions with Walker Zorensky,  Legislative Research Assistant, Office of Senator Barbara Boxer

Shot@Life Champions with Walker Zorensky,
Legislative Research Assistant, Office of Senator Barbara Boxer

I found this information-twisting especially irksome, because it reinforced to me that the anti-vaccine autism community — as few in numbers as they are — would rather endanger children’s lives than admit they’re wrong. I feel horribly guilty about the harm such misplaced fears about autism have wreaked on immunization rates. And so I work very hard as an autism parent advocate, a writer, and now a UN Foundation Shot@Life Champion to educate people about vaccine-preventable disease, and the critical importance of immunizations.

I want people to remember that vaccines save lives. To acknowledge that while Americans get to bicker about whether or not to vaccinate their children, in other parts of the world children who don’t have access to vaccines are still dying from preventable disease — one child death every 20 seconds, in fact. I want them aware that even here in the United States, unvaccinated kids, and infants too young to be vaccinated are at risk from current measles outbreaks. And it makes the job of everyone who stands on the side of children’s health and legitimate science harder when vaccine denialists light their torches and do their damnedest to spread misinformation.

But what does that new 1 in 68 estimate actually mean? Well, that takes some critical analysis, digging, and sifting, which I’ll walk you through, starting with the CDC’s Dr. Colleen Boyle’s opening statement: Read more…

Thoughts on World Autism Awareness Day

April 2, 2014 41 comments

Originally posted on Momentum - The Baylor College of Medicine Blog:

Dr. Peter Hotez and his daughter Rachel.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his daughter Rachel.

Today is the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day, a day when organizations committed to autism research, advocacy, or policy promote awareness through events and public discussions.

As both a scientist and a father of four – one of whom is an adult child with autism (as well as other mental and physical disabilities) and a second who is actually doing her Ph.D. on the developmental psychology of autism – I am often asked to speak or provide public comment about the autism spectrum conditions, especially their causes.

Indeed, the fact that I lead a multidisciplinary team that develops neglected disease vaccines while also serving as President of the non-profit Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development often places me front and center in the dialogue about purported links between autism and vaccines.

For me, the issue is…

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Victims Katie Couric Neglected To Mention In Her Discussion of HPV

December 5, 2013 232 comments

A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that Katie Couric’s new daytime television show Katie was planning to air a segment about HPV vaccine.  After hearing the proposed line-up for the show it was clear that the HPV vaccine was not going to be portrayed favorably.  And as expected, the conversation has blown up all over the internet in the past 24 hours with many reporters and bloggers calling out Katie Couric and her producers for how poorly they’ve handled this important conversation.

Unfortunately, daytime television ratings are driven by emotion and controversy and Katie Couric’s producers know that.  So despite the overwhelming research available on the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine, that information was not adequately presented to the millions of viewers of her show.

But there was one other thing notably missing. 

It was the voices of those who have suffered with HPV related cancers.  And those family members who speak out on behalf of those lost to HPV related cancers.  

Since the Katie Couric neglected to include a single cervical cancer survivor, I’m encouraging anyone who has had a personal experience with an HPV related cancer to speak out and let others know just how terrifying it has been for you.  You may share your story in the comments below or send them to us at shotofprevention@gmail.com.  And I would like to encourage everyone to share your opinions of the episode with one of the show’s producers (Beth.Cochran@katiecouric.com).

Below are just a few of the HPV related stories that are featured on the Shot By Shot website.  They are all very compelling and emotional and I hope that someday they will get the kind of attention that the Katie show has given to those critical of the vaccine.

In this video, Heather Burcham shares her story of cervical cancer just two months before she died.  Her hope was to change just one person’s life by encouraging others to get the HPV vaccine.

This is an excellent video filmed at the national Cervical Cancer Coalition conference in Atlanta, GA, in January 2013 which highlights stories from cervical cancer survivors and family members of women who have died from the disease.  These personal stories highlight the devastating impact of cervical cancer and emphasizes the importance of prevention in the form of vaccines and regular screening–prevention that can save lives.

Read more…

I Was Vaccinated and All I Got Was a Sore Arm

November 19, 2013 10 comments

GraceStrongEvery day, all around the world, infants, children and adults are getting vaccinated.  If we were to calculate the exact number of vaccines administered in just one given day, I’m certain the number would be staggering.  And the most amazing thing about this enormous number would be that in the overwhelming majority of instances, the vaccines are administered and nothing happens.  Nothing bad that is.

However, something does happen.  Vaccines help our bodies to build important immunity to protect us from some very dangerous and even deadly diseases.  Although it may be happening without much fanfare, it deserves to be celebrated because vaccination has been credited with saving countless lives and sparing people from enormous amounts of pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, the problem is that our society seems to have a fascination with pain. And when it comes to print and television news, suffering sells!

By focusing on the miniscule chances of an adverse event that can be caused by a vaccine, we tend to create a false sense of risk and reinforce irrational fears.  While the overwhelming majority of people accept the scientific evidence that vaccines are safe, there will always be a few vocal critics that will argue that vaccines cause everything from autism to autoimmune conditions to infertility and everything in between.

But here’s my story.  I was vaccinated.  Many times.  And all I’ve ever gotten was a sore arm.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t risks to vaccines, as there are with all medications.  We know that, rarely, people experience serious reactions after vaccination.  We know this to be true because vaccines are some of the most rigorously tested pharmaceutical products on the market today.  And they should be.  They are administered to nearly every person in the U.S.  And we are fortunate to have lots of regulatory bodies to constantly monitor vaccine safety, even long after the extensive pre-licensure testing.  So while we can claim that vaccines are extremely safe, we can also identify the likelihood of serious or adverse event for each vaccine based on verifiable scientific research.  With that being said, it’s important that we keep perspective on the risks versus the benefits when we discuss vaccines.

I know hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who have stories like mine.  They have been vaccinated and have never experienced any adverse reactions.  But I doubt you will ever hear our stories. Read more…

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