OZARK, Mo. A controversial film is rekindling a debate about whether childhood immunizations cause autism. Claims made in the 'Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe' documentary are causing grave concerning for doctors. Because of the controversial claims made in the movie, it was recently pulled from the Tribecca Film Festival.
Most doctors say there is no real debate at all when it comes to whether autism is caused by the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine, which is usually given to children around 2 years of age. They say the link is nothing more than a myth disproved over and over again by scientific evidence.
"Probably, the numbers are up in the hundreds of thousands of children they have studied; they just cannot find a correlation between vaccines and autism," stated Dr. Ron Jones, a Mercy Pediatrician.
Most of the research regarding the autism-vaccine theory originated with British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. His claims were later debunked by other doctors and numerous other medical studies. He later had his medical license revoked. This same Andrew Wakefield is the director of 'Vaxxed,' and is the key expert shown in the film. In the documentary, he claims the U.S. government knew vaccines were dangerous but covered up that fact.
"It is not about anti-vaccine, stated Malinda Todd of Highlandville, who has a child with autism she believes was caused by a vaccine. She explained, "What it is about is the research that was done by the CDC but was not put out for people to know."
Dr. Jones explained, "As far as anybody can tell from a scientific standpoint, there just isn't any connection between vaccines and autism. That has really been studied as thoroughly as anything has been studied probably."
But, Todd and other supporters of the film say parents should not believe everything they are told.
"Well, they trust their doctors to have the information, but I don't believe doctors always have all the information, either."
Malinda originally saw the film in Kansas weeks ago. She made the request for the film to be shown locally. It will be screened at B&B Theaters in Ozark next Monday and Tuesday evenings. So far, at least one of the showings has sold out.
"As with any topic, I think you need to have all the information and not just depend on one source of information," she said. She added, "You need to invest more time in it. People invest more time in buying cars...more time than they do researching vaccines for their kids."
Doctor Jones says it's unfortunate there is a movement underway to distrust medical and scientific evidence.
"It is hard to say 'never' just because we have studied a million kids. Well, maybe it happens in a million and a half kids. At some point you have to say, well it is just not very likely that it causes the
problem. And, I think that is where we are with that."
Doctors say the film is dangerous in that it may convince people to opt out of vaccinating their kids. Medical experts say the advent of immunizations has led to massive declines of many deadly diseases, and the near-eradication of others. On the flip side, doctors have said recent rises in rates of diseases like measles and whooping cough can be attributed to some parents choosing to opt out of immunizing their children.
"There are no safe illnesses that we vaccinate against. There is a reason for doing the vaccination. And the downside is very severe and sometimes fatal."
Tickets for the showing of Vaxxed are only available on the filmmaker's website ahead of time (www.VaxxedTheMovie.com), and will not be available at the box office.