A child’s immunization status is largely determined by their parents. However, as children mature into teens and young adults it’s important that they gain a personal appreciation for the value of vaccines. If they’re going to be equipped to make their own informed immunization decisions – as adults and parents themselves one day – than we need to ensure they’re educated on the subject as teenagers. High school science courses should be preparing them with a basic understanding of infectious diseases and immunology. They should be learning how to identify reputable sources and conduct thorough research. And they should be preparing to make their own health decisions by understand the risks of disease, the benefits of community immunity and the importance of immunizations throughout the life span.
There is no better example of how capable young adults are in understanding the science behind immunizations than in the making of the captivating 40-minute documentary “Invisible Threat“. The film, which was produced by a small group of award-winning students from chstvFILMS at Carlsbad High School in California, explores the science of vaccination. The student filmmakers set out to understand the fears that have lead some parents to delay or decline vaccines, and in doing so they also explored the reasons behind the resurgence of preventable diseases in their community.
Funded by an unrestricted grant, they addressed this project as journalists, with the sole purpose to reveal the truth about vaccines – whatever that may be. After extensive research and numerous interviews with families, physicians and various experts, they were shocked and convinced by what they discovered and they used their film to share that information with their peers.
Seventeen year old filmmaker Allie DeGour, who was going into her sophomore year when she started her journey with “Invisible Threat“, explains:
I have been a part of CHSTV for 3 years now and my contribution to this film was research and reporting. My experience throughout the making of this film was a complete roller coaster ride. Not only was it an insightful and educational journey, but it was also one that changed my thoughts on an array of subjects.
When I began working on this film, I had a strong disliking to vaccinations. The needles, the thought of the process, and the “pain” when you get one. Just thinking about it made me uncomfortable. Because of this, I was extremely stubborn about changing my views on shots and vaccinations. About a week into conducting research for this film, (yes, we all contributed long after-school hours to educate ourselves on this subject), my beliefs were foggy. I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Were vaccinations causing innocent little kids to get autism? Were they the cause of saddened parents around the world? This is what I was going to find out.
I started asking my fellow filmmakers what their thoughts were on this. They had been conducting the same research so they were bound to have made their own conclusions, right? Wrong. They were just as confused as I was. This was when we realized this was something we had to really dig deep into. After months of researching, filming, and interviewing, we had all drawn our own conclusions on the subject. My personal conclusion is that vaccinations causing autism is a social controversy, not a scientific one. The scientific evidence was there to prove there was no connection between vaccines and autism and we interviewed a leading autism researcher in the film who explained it to us.
The experience of creating Invisible Threat has not only helped me become a much more educated student, but also an educated patient. No longer will I be terrified to go into an appointment with my doctor because of a shot or vaccination that I have to receive. Now that I know what it’s going to do in the long run, it’s worth it.
In the first part of this series, Ask Before They Play to Keep Chickenpox, Pertussis and Measles Away, Dr. Zibners explores why a parent might be concerned if their vaccinated child has unvaccinated playmates. In the second part, Are Your Child’s Friends Vaccinated, she provides tips on how to pose the question to others. In this final post she offers suggestions on how to respond when the answer isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.
By Dr. Lara Zibners
In parts one and two of this series, I’ve been equating a conversation about firearms in the home to one about immunization. Both can be awkward but both are very, very necessary. But suppose the answer isn’t the one you were hoping for.
You take a deep breath and spit it out: “Do you keep a loaded gun in the house?” If the answer is yes, there’s another conversation to be had: “Where are they kept? Are they secure? Where is the ammunition? I meant a revolver, not your staple gun!”
In the same way, you may want to open the conversational door about vaccines. What if the answer is
“Oh, no, we don’t vaccinate”
Do you panic? Jump to conclusions? Grab your child and run screaming?
No. Obviously not. My kids are numerous (3) and heavy (nearly 90 pounds combined). I can’t run anywhere. But besides that, it’s best not to start the conversation by assuming that every unvaccinated child has parents who are unwilling to vaccinate. If you find out that your child’s best friend hasn’t had his MMR vaccine, don’t turn away just yet. Take a deep breath and ask one simple question: Read more…
Part One: Why Ask at All?
By Dr. Lara Zibners
“Oh, you know, we never had baby gates, because, you know, of the controversy.”
This was the response I got from a mom at a playgroup after some random conversation about safety. Our house had a flight of stairs just off the living room that was 16 wooden steps ending directly onto a slab of stone. So we had baby gates at either end. The story was likely the one about me installing these gates and then calling the company to find out how to open them. They were that good. Anyway, it made perfect sense to me that small children + long staircase + stone floor = potential significant injury. Until that exact moment, I was unaware there was a “controversy.”
Yet, apparently this other mother had read something about boundaries and teaching children to respect the staircase from behind imaginary walls. Which would then in turn help them develop self-control. Whatever. To my mind, having your frontal lobe all bruised up after a flight down a staircase would also create long-lasting issues, so I went for the option with an immediate safety return.
If you look between the lines of this exchange, you can see that it’s not so different from finding out that this mother was a vaccine-refusing parent. Her philosophy about parenting was so incredibly different that mine, and her ideas seemed so far out there, that I had no answer for her. Just a smile and a nod. (And a snarky comment about traumatic brain injury—I couldn’t help myself.)
Is that really so different from mentioning your child’s flu shot appointment and being met with a response that implies (or flat out says) that the flu is not dangerous and actually good for building their natural immunity? Those of you who are convinced that immunization is the most effective way of protecting your children from a variety of preventable and life-threatening illnesses have already made peace with this decision. If, on the other hand, you’ve chosen to vaccinate but still have questions than I suggest you continue to hang around sites like this. The more you learn about the scientific evidence that supports immunizations, the more certain you will be in your decision.
Since I first began contributing to Shot of Prevention I’ve had many opportunities to realize that people who support immunizations are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. Everyone from healthcare providers to public health professionals, and immunization coalition members to epidemiologists all commit themselves to educating others about the importance of timely immunizations. They also play a key role in refuting the misinformation and negative accusations that continuously cause people to question the value and safety of vaccines.
When we look at immunization education challenges, there is no doubt that some of the most prevalent misconceptions about vaccines are the result of the work of one man – Andrew Wakefield. Many people would agree that Andrew Wakefield’s “callous disregard” for scientific integrity has had ripple effects on immunization rates and disease outbreaks. Not only have his professional dealings been questionable and heavily criticized, Wakefield has also been stripped of his medical license. Yet, as an author of a book entitled Callous Disregard, Wakefield continues to promote his misguided agenda in an effort to defend himself and persuade others to question the benefits of vaccines.
Fortunately, organizations like Every Child By Two, work hard to dispel the myths that he has helped create. And fortunately, Every Child By Two has the support of many devoted immunization advocates – people like Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH. As a retired epidemiologist he has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. After reading Callous Disregard, he felt compelled to refute each and every point that Andrew Wakefield attempted to make about vaccine safety and his article was ultimately published in a peer-reviewed online open-source medical journal.
He explains: Read more…
Vaccine advocates often wonder whether participating in discussions with those who vehemently oppose vaccines is helpful to our cause of advancing immunization education. On the one hand, we don’t want misinformation to go unchecked. But on the other hand, we can’t help but wonder whether these “debate style” conversations are effective at discrediting vaccine critics or if they inadvertently provide them with more attention than they deserve.
Unfortunately, when appearing on a television or radio interview alongside someone who is opposed to vaccinations, the very same scientific evidence that proves vaccines to be safe and effective is typically what makes our communication tasks so challenging. The scientific facts and overwhelming evidence that favors vaccinations must be articulated in a way that people can appreciate and understand. This can prove to be rather difficult based on the diversity of our audiences. Conversely, if one wants to discredit vaccines, all they have to do is allude to a few myths that help create fear and doubt which provides great strides in obstructing the message that vaccines are beneficial and save lives.
The reality is that their objective is much easier to achieve than ours. They can make things up. They can evoke irrational fear and they have become masters at playing upon our emotions. They can claim they’ve done their research, yet fail to provide one single shred of evidence. All they need to do is introduce a doubt and people begin to put parental intuition above proven science. We, on the other hand, are asking people to appreciate the science they often fail to understand, and have faith in experts who they have never heard of, nor will ever meet.
As hard as it may be to counter the elaborate myths and misinformation about vaccines, there are countless healthcare professionals, immunization experts and public health advocates who continue to work hard everyday to ensure that accurate information is available to the public. They refer people to credible sources that reference verifiable scientific findings. They inform people through books, medical publications, websites, PSAs, and in comments on vaccine related articles. They even share information on various social media platforms that alert people to the latest research findings and information about dangerous outbreaks.
While there is an abundance of immunization news that is researched, reported and read each day (which you can receive by signing up for Every Child By Two’s Daily Clips here), there is also a lot of misinformation that continues to circulate as well. Thankfully there are journalists and medical professionals who continue to combat the misinformation on television, in print publications and even on the radio.
Today we highlight an article that is especially relevant in the fight against vaccine misinformation. Dr. Vincent Iannelli has published a post on About.com Pediatrics that serves as a timeless and comprehensive guide that refutes the 40 most common vaccine myths. It is entitled Anti-Vaccine Myths and Misinformation and it provides a thorough investigation of vaccine related concerns while also including dozens of links that will allow readers to further research various aspects of immunizations.
The concerns addressed include the following:
1. Vaccines cause autism.
2. No one else is at risk if I don’t vaccinate my kids.
3. Shedding after vaccines gets people sick.
4. Most people who get sick during outbreaks are vaccinated.
5. Vaccines don’t really work.
6. Vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t really that serious.
7. Big Pharma.
8. Vaccines contain more mercury now than ever.
9. A selective or alternative immunization schedule is safer.
10. Many people don’t vaccinate their kids.
11. Vaccines are made with aborted fetal tissue.
12. Too many too soon – overloading the immune system.
13. Natural immunity is better than immunity from vaccination.
14. Vaccines are not rigorously tested before being approved by the FDA.
15. Herd immunity is not real.
16. I use PubMed to do my vaccine research.
17. 10 vaccines in the 1980s ballooned into 36 in 2008 and into 49 now.
18. Package inserts.
19. More vaccines are linked to higher infant mortality rates.
20. Most adults aren’t up to date on boosters.
21. Sick people should just stay home.
22. The media is just scaring people about measles and whooping cough.
23. You can not sue if your child is injured by a vaccine.
24. Vaccines go against some or most religions.
25. Most vaccine side effects aren’t reported by doctors.
26. Many experts are against vaccines.
27. Vaccinated kids are the cause of most outbreaks.
28. Vaccines cause shaken baby syndrome.
29. The chicken pox vaccine is creating a surge in shingles cases.
30. The U.S. gives more vaccines than other developed countries.
31. The anti-vax movement is growing.
32. Vaccines aren’t tested together.
33. I’m pro-safe vaccine. I’m not anti-vaccine.
34. It is safer to wait until your kids are older before getting them vaccinated.
35. Vaccine court has paid out billions to vaccine-injured children.
36. Vaccines are creating resistance in viruses and bacteria.
37. Unvaccinated kids are healthier than vaccinated kids.
38. People didn’t use to worry about vaccine-preventable diseases.
39. One more study.
40. The one-size fits all immunization schedule.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with this article so that you can refer to it in the future. And let us know what you think are the most effective ways to combat vaccine misinformation, both in print and broadcast media and online.
In 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.
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.
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.
Not 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.
It was outrageous to me that the adults would cave to the intimidation. Read more…