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by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC


From Cover-Up to Catastrophe
Directed by Andrew Wakefield
Produced by Del Bigtree
Cinema Libre Studio

It’s hard to know where to start in writing this review. I put off viewing this film because of assumptions I made from media reporting, the acceptance, then pulling of the film from the Tribecca Film Festival for “unscientific claims,” and because I am not an “anti-vaxxer” nor “conspiracy theory” subscriber. It seems to me most conspiracy theories reach for complex explanations when simple greed explains the suspect actions well enough. From what I heard about this film, it seemed I would be viewing a complex mess of theories, bad science, and reasons why no one should get vaccinated.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Perhaps the first and most important statement regarding this film is that it is NOT an anti-vaccine film. To depict it as such is irresponsible and incorrect reporting. The film is the story of a whistle blower at the CDC (Dr. William Thompson, PhD and CDC Senior Scientist) and his communications with biologist Dr. Brian Hooker, including illegally (but verified by Thompson himself) recorded phone conversations regarding studies involving the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) combined vaccine. It is also the story of British gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield, who first researched and reported on the need for further studies into a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

The film suggests a benefit to waiting until a child is approximately 3 years old before vaccination with the MMR vaccine. Alternatively, it suggests that the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella might be safer if given as “uncombined” single vaccines. Andrew Wakefield makes the statement: “(A) drug . . . that involves 3 live viruses, must be considered dangerous until proven otherwise. I strongly recommend the use of monovalent (single) vaccines as opposed to the polyvalent (multiple) vaccines.”

That this is reported as anti-vaccine suggests to this reviewer that those labeling it as such never viewed the film, or are reacting to audience members who are anti-vaccine, and were so before viewing the film. Unfortunately, on the heels of a growing number of requests for single vaccines, Merck stopped production of the single vaccines, giving parents no option. William Thompson admits to “deceiving millions of taxpayers regarding the potential negative side effects of vaccines,” and goes on to cite the lack of transparency in the CDC and its inability to police itself.

&For those of us not up to speed, Doreen Granpeesheh, PhD, Board Certified Behavioral Analyst and Founder of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in California defines Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder in detail. She also cites statistics that indicate a rapid high growth of autism starting in the early 1990s.

Dr. Wakefield defends his research, which called for further investigation into a pattern of claims by parents that their children regressed into autism 7 days to 2 weeks after receiving the MMR vaccine. His own published papers never claimed the MMR vaccine was the cause. As he stated “medicine is about pattern recognition, and there was clearly a pattern emerging.” Home movies are shared by parents of one to one-anda- half year olds, walking, running, smiling, babbling, talking, then, days to a week after receiving the MMR vaccine, unable to walk, or stand, unable to communicate and, in some cases, with severe gastrointestinal inflammation. In some instances, the child had been on a course of antibiotics prior to immunization. This home movie footage is striking in its apparent indictment of the MMR vaccine.

Del Bigtree, producer of this film and an investigative medical journalist makes the statement “there have been many studies in medicine proving that vaccines do not cause autism. The problem is thousands and thousands of parents are all telling the same story (of fever following the administering of the vaccine, then, once out of the fever, loss of speech, loss of the ability to walk; apparent regression into autism).” Effective also is his statement “When parents first have babies, they are overly sensitive to them – to every little hiccup, every cough, every sniffle . . . (for doctors) to say parents were just unaware their child had issues (prior to MMR vaccination) just doesn’t make sense.”

We meet Polly Tommey, founder of Autism File Magazine, which provides support for parents experiencing this “pattern” of MMR immunization then regression into autism. Tommey’s own child, normal in shared home movies, had the reaction of a seizure to the MMR vaccine. She and her husband were told by hospital workers “this is common for many, many children who have this vaccination.” On the literature that comes with the vaccine, seizure is listed as a rare side effect.

Amongst the data collected by the CDC, evidence emerged, and was suppressed, that suggested that African American males appeared more susceptible to an increased risk of autism following an MMR vaccination.

On August 27, 2014, CDC Senior Scientist William Thompson released a public statement, which included the following paragraph: “My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which I have worked since 1998.

I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal of Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk of autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.” (the statement in full can be accessed at: http://morganverkamp.com/statement-of-william-w-thompson-ph-dregarding-the-2004-article-examining-thepossibility-of-a-relationship-between-mmrvaccine-and-autism/)

In the process of writing this review, I looked into the pulling of this film from the TriBecca Film Festival, and the buzz around that decision, including some reviews of the film. In statements lauding the decision NOT to show the film, the discrediting of Andrew Wakefield is prominent, along with the lack of “science” in the film’s claims. There is a great amount of editorializing as well, and vilification both in reports and pubic comments of those who would listen to these parents, question the CDC, and the science. There is clearly an attempt to make those who question the status quo as “stupid, anti-science, irresponsible and, in more than one case, causing the deaths of thousands of children.” What’s missing is an effort to understand why a growing subset of parents report regression into autism after MMR vaccination. What’s missing is a concern with statements by CDC whistleblower William Thompson on the order that was given to Eric Snowden, or Erin Brockovich. What’s missing is a questioning of multiple conflicts of interest at the CDC (such as Dr. Julie Gerberding, former head of the CDC (1998-2009) leaving the CDC to become the head of Merck’s vaccine division), of the influence of billions of dollars at stake, or the understanding that good science does question itself, and doesn’t suppress conflicting data.

Calls are made for independent research on vaccines, due in part to the revolving door between the CDC and pharmaceutical companies. Internal emails within CDC refer to (quote) “sensitive results we have been struggling with in the MADDSP MMR/Autism study.” As film producer Del Bigtree points out, “how do you ‘struggle’ with scientific results?! Facts are facts; data are data.”

There is a nod to the ever-expanding, ever more dominant-in-our-lives pharmaceutical interests in vaccination. Brandy Vaughan, a Merck sales rep from 2001-2003 states “if a drug company gets just one vaccine added to the CDC schedule, they can make upwards of 30 billion dollars in one year.” Clearly, there is a huge impetus to create “a situation of constant vaccination, from cradle to grave”.

The film ends noting that CDC whistleblower William Thompson, now outed, got a whistleblower lawyer, and provided all documents on the fraudulent CDC study to Florida Congressman Bill Posey. On July 29, 2015 congressman Posey urged congress to subpoena William Thompson and investigate the CDC fraud. No action had been taken by congress as of February 2016.

The filmmakers urge viewers to contact their political leaders and demand the following:

1. That Congress subpoena Dr. William Thompson and investigate the CDC fraud

2. That Congress repeal the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act and hold manufacturers liable for injury caused by their vaccines (not taxpayers)

3. That single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines be made available immediately

4. That all vaccines be classified as pharmaceutical drugs and tested accordingly

Doesn’t sound anti-vaccine to me . . .

Probably the most important film Creations Magazine has reviewed this year, not in the least because it wasn’t given a fair review by most other news sources.



Mark Maxwell Abushady Mark Maxwell Abushady is an actor, singer, designer and photographer based in New York City.