Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Opportunity for a Conversation

As soon as I saw the trailer for VAXXED, I knew that the mainstream news would begin to regurgitate rotten reviews of Andrew Wakefield.  
Click here to see the trailer. 
Since Wakefield is the man behind the documentary, which is set to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, the news would surely have a field day Wakefielding Wakefield once again.  The news outlets tend do that whenever vaccines hit the headlines.  

I was right.  I read more rotten reviews than I cared to.  

The reviews should focus on the content of the film - which has everything to do with a whistleblower, the CDC and altered data from one of their own studies regarding the MMR vaccine, not about how one doctor who continues to be singled out by the media since the late 90s.  Thankfully, Robert De Niro, who established the film festival, spoke up late last week: 

“Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.”

But before De Niro stepped in, the news spit out the same old same old.  They did everything they could to put a spot on Andy's reputations while ignoring the actual topic at hand:  vaccines.  I addressed the journalists who did this in an open letter last year.  In the midst of the measles mania, the misreporting, the flat out lies, and the simple copy-paste writing style that that was being passed off as a solid, fact-checked report needed to be addressed.  I sent this message to a local news station:
The public is bombarded daily with information.  From the newspapers to television to the internet, breaking news and news we can use is available and at our fingertips all day long.  People turn you on, tune you in, view your shows, listen to your interviews, and read your articles.  Reporting fair, balanced, investigative, facts used to be the norm.  What’s being aired, printed, and posted now is not.  We’re now being fed fear, half-truths, mistruths, and straight up lies. 
What should you do instead?
Do the research.  Do that before you open your mouth, before you write your article, and before you contribute unnecessary confusion about vaccines. 
Facts, not fear.  That’s what your viewers, your readers, and your subscribers expect.  It’s what the public needs to see.  It’s what the public deserves to hear. 
Cathy Jameson, mom to a vaccine injured child

Not surprisingly, I didn't get any responses from any of the reporters that I had contacted or called out.  But that didn't stop me from sending more emails.  

After seeing The Lancet paper be mentioned in last year's measles news cycle, I asked Ms. S, a reporter for a big media outlet, to check her facts before she choose to write again about vaccines or Wakefield.  Here is part of the letter I sent her:

Ms. S—
I believe it is important for parents to educate themselves on vaccines.  I also believe that those who write about vaccines should present accurate information. 
When you reference The Lancet, please make sure that reference it correctly.  The authors of that paper stated, "We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described…" 
All too often the media misreports that finding.  They also twist the authors' words.  The authors' final words were, "We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine."*
So that you are aware, the findings from that paper have been replicated several times across the world and have come to the same conclusion:  that some children on the spectrum have gastrointestinal issues, and that some of those children with gastrointestinal issues have previously been vaccinated. 
I don't plan on calling anyone out for their mediocre and incorrect reporting this year.  I will, though, thank those who do take time to fact check, who go back to the beginning, who understand what really happened, and who report the truth.  There's a story behind that paper and those doctors.  No one is denying that.  But that story isn't the one that the public is seeing, hearing, and has been lead to believe for so long now.   

The story Ms. S— and so many others try to tell, that there was fraud, that there were arrests, that there was jail time served is quite fantastical.  Sadly, that misinformation continues to be cycled through the news today.  It trickles down to the home, to the workplace, and to online conversations.  Those online conversations can cause quite a stir.  

Just two weeks ago, a nurse was trying to lecture me and other parents about the benefits of vaccines on my friend's Facebook post.  She was adamant that we not fall for anti-vaccine scare tactics adding that the reason why parents don't vaccinate is because of "that doctor over in Europe who serving jail time for what he did!"  I wanted to ask her if she'd actually read Andy's paper, but before I got the chance, the nurse, who determined I was a crazy anti-vaccine parent, refused to reply to my comments.  It's a shame because I had just a simple question for her:  If, when you take the time to read the paper, you find the part where Wakefield and the other authors emphatically state that vaccines cause autism, can you let me know where it states that?  Because I just don't see it.  I let the other parents know that that nurse should be ashamed of herself for the scare tactics she was using and for telling straight up lies about Andy Wakefield.  Many of the other parents agreed.  

How mainstream news sources, and subsequently ill-informed nurses, portray Andy Wakefield is no representation of who he actually is.  For those who don't know who Andy is and want to know more, go back to the beginning.  Start by reading the paper he and his colleagues wrote.  Instead of relying on the news, do your own research.  Do that so when the opportunity arises, you can contribute facts, not fear, to the next vaccine conversation you are a part of.  

xo, Cat  

*THE LANCET • Vol 351 • February 28, 1998

Photo credit:  Screenshot from VAXXED

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