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FDL Movie Night: “The Greater Good”

Vaccinations are a polarizing issue in health care. On one hand, they prevent the spread of disease and which helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated because of age or compromised immune systems from falling ill. On the other hand, the vaccines are loaded with preservatives and adjuvants such as mercury, formaldehyde, and aluminum which can affect neurological development.

Would you sacrifice your child’s health or life for the greater good? That is the question that arises in tonight’s film The Greater Good, directed, produced, and written by tonight’s guests Leslie Manookian and Kendall Nelson. The Greater Good takes a step back from the recent divisiveness discussing the issue’s complexity and nuances, bringing the bigger picture into focus through the stories of three families affected by vaccinations, with experts on both sides and in the middle of the vaccination debate.

At the center of the film are three families affected by vaccines. Influenced by Mercks’ $100 million “Be One Less” Gardasil campaign which ran heavily on MTV and other teen-oriented channels, fifteen-year old Gabi convinced her mom she wanted the HPV vaccine, which is delivered in three shots. Her life is forever changed. She suffers a series of strokes, and seizures and must use a wheelchair to navigate through her high school halls. Her memory and health decline, as do her family’s finances. Her prescription drugs cost $2,000 a month even with insurance, and the family faces $100,000 in medical debts.

HPV researcher Dr. Diane Harper explains that Gardasil was fast-tracked by Merck and the FDA, and was released for sale in 15 months, rather than after the usual three to four years of testing.  So far there have been 85 deaths related to Gardasil, which at one point was mandated for teenage girls by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has ties Merck. The Texas State legislature put an end to the Gardasil mandate.

Jordan King was a happy, high functioning two year-old until he regressed into autism after routine vaccinations. Now 12 years old, Jordan faces an uncertain future as his parents wonder what will happen to him after they are gone. There is no real systems in place to care for him and the growing number of autistic children who are soon to reach adulthood.

Experts in the film are divided on the autism issue pointing out that widening the spectrum of autism diagnosis has increased the reporting numbers, and arguing that other factors, including genetics, play a part in autism. (Parents of autistic children have been the most vocal in the anti-vaccine movement, their voices often overwhelming the dialogue; there are other effects of vaccines and adjuvants such as neurological damage that includes ALS and Parkinsons that research has shown can develop from repeated vaccinations–and since 1981, the number of vaccines mandated or suggested has tripled).

Are vaccines necessary?  Are they necessary in such rapid succession? Some pediatricians advocate spacing them out, Some parents refuse to get their children vaccinated (and in Prince George County, Maryland parents were ordered under penalty of arrest and/or fines to bring their children to court and have them vaccinated. Scary!).

Dr. Stephanie Christner learned that vaccines were safe and essential to the health of her children and all other children, so all of her three children were vaccinated. Her older boys have developmental difficulties and her daughter died at five months old after routine vaccinations.

The Greater Good is a measured, moving consideration of the vaccine debate, eschewing pathos and hysteria (and celebrities) to present a nuanced, thoughtful look at the pros and cons of mandatory and voluntary vaccinations.

Just yesterday I met a mom who wanted her children to get “vaccinated” against chicken pox the old old-fashioned way: By catching it.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.