Having an Autistic Brother Made Me More Skeptical of Vaccines
Apr 30, 2014
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.
A huge portion of being a student filmmaker on Invisible Threat involved extensive research regarding vaccinations and their history driven by the students. Through this process, I learned of numerous outbreaks and studies, while gaining an overall deeper understanding of how vaccines work. But the acknowledgment of one specific concept remains the changing point in my opinion regarding a vaccine-autism correlation: herd immunity. This phenomenon conveys the importance of vaccinating in order to protect the rest of society and I suddenly recognized the benefits of vaccines opposed to simply contemplating the risks. As I was able to experience interviews with medical experts about this issue, I heard their opinions and reasoning firsthand. This newfound knowledge, combined with confirmed medical research that has failed to determine a connection between vaccines and autism, proved to be a turning point for me during my involvement with Invisible Threat.
Making the film changed my mind.
Overall, I was shocked to learn of the great controversy involving the option to vaccinate. Before I began researching, I viewed vaccines as simply the cry-inducing needle for the kid in the neighborhood doctor’s office; but now at the completion of Invisible Threat, I am forced to recognize the importance of considering both the risks and benefits. Through the opportunity to work on this film, I have increased my knowledge regarding vaccines while developing my journalistic skills. I’ve learned that as a storyteller, it is my responsibility to present information in an accurate and unbiased manner––ultimately leaving the opinions to the discretion of the viewer.
After viewing Invisible Threat, Every Child By Two was so impressed with this student project that they’ve decided to use it as a tool to help educate the public and our legislators about the risks of vaccine refusal. To demonstrate the immunization community’s support, join us on an Invisible Threat Twitter Chat today, 4/30, from 7-8pm ET, by following the hashtag #InvisibleThreat. This chat will not only allow people the opportunity to ask the filmmakers questions about the project, but will also allow us all to share helpful immunization related resources.
For more information about how you can arrange a local screening of Invisible Threat, check out the Every Child By Two website here.
Be sure to “like” the Invisible Threat Facebook page and follow @InvisThreat on Twitter.
This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom. Like all parents, my child’s health...
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