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Overland Park Theater To Show Controversial Vaccine Documentary

Rotary Club of Nagpur
A controversial documentary about the purported link between the MMR vaccine and autism is screening for an entire week at the Glenwood Arts theater.

Starting tonight and for an entire week, the Glenwood Arts theater is screening the documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” which was withdrawn from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year amid an uproar over its thesis: that there’s a link between the mandatory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, and that health authorities have conspired to cover it up.

The supposed link has been widely debunked, but the co-owner of the theater, Brian Mossman, says he’s showing the film because customers asked him to and “if it opens up a dialogue on the subject, I think that’s a good thing.”

Mossman acknowledges he hasn’t seen the movie, but he says “the biggest interest I have is what exactly did the CDC cover up.”

Mossman says the film will be screened 27 times over the course of its run and that, as of early Friday afternoon, more than 800 people had bought tickets online.

“Normally, we’ll have as many or more walk up,” he says. “It’s going to be hectic.”

Dr. Stephen Lauer, associate chair of pediatrics at The University of Kansas Hospital and a longtime practicing pediatrician, says the film peddles a discredited argument and that its maker, an author of a now-retracted study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism, lied about it.

In a Q&A with KCUR, Lauer elaborated.

Credit Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor
Heartland Health Monitor
Dr. Stephen Lauer, associate chair of pediatrics at The University of Kansas Hospital, says the film peddles a widely discredited thesis.

Is there any link between the MMR vaccine – the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine – and autism? 

No, there is no link that's ever been established in any credible way between the MMR vaccine and autism. There have been studies done around the world involving millions of children, and there has never been any link established between the MMR or any other vaccine and autism. 

The Lancet, the British journal that in 1998 published a study purporting to find a link between the vaccine and autism subsequently retracted it, concluding it was fraudulent, and the paper's lead researcher, Andrew Wakefield, who made this movie "Vaxxed," was barred from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom after authorities found he had falsified his research. Yet some people continue to cite it. Why do you think that is? 

Autism or a diagnosis of autism in a child is a terrible thing to have occur for any family. And there's concern about rising rates of it – there's been more autism around, and that's kind of a separate question. Either way, autism is a terrible, life-altering diagnosis for any family to receive. And when those bad things happen, people, all of us, like to say, “There's the reason.” And that's a very human response and answer because we don't have a great explanation for understanding of autism in the scientific world yet, although things are moving along on that pathway. And so I think that explains the continued interest in citing that paper, even though the other way of putting what you said about it was, in simple terms, he lied. And he was paid to lie. Getting your medical license revoked is extremely unusual. 

The movie posits that the CDC – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – conspired to suppress the truth. What do you say to that? 

I'm a member of the 70,000 pediatricians in this country, we've got tens of thousands of family medicine physicians, all the nursing staff, the CDC, the World Health Organization — so literally, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people worldwide who are actively involved in the conspiracy to harm children. So I don't know what to say to that kind of thing. It doesn't make any sense to me.

What about those who say that the various components of the MMR vaccine should be administered separately? 

There is no evidence to support that. These vaccines were originally studied in individual one-doses as they came along and then to encourage adherence to the regimens, they were put together in ways that allows to cut down on the total number of injections given to children. What has happened with the anti-vax campaign over the years is they keep shifting their focus as things get discredited, and so one of these is that putting them together causes it.

How risky is it to not vaccinate kids against MMR?

Well, measles, you need to understand, still kills tens of thousands in the world. It doesn't kill many children in the U.S. because of the success of the vaccine. But in children it is still a very dangerous disease. And so those diseases still exist in the world. Many of them are a plane ride away from the U.S. and we need to continue to be vigilant and keep children vaccinated so they're not exposed to these often potentially life-threatening diseases.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR 89.3. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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