“The Greater Good” Documentary Tackles Complex Vaccination Topic

Posted by David on June 28, 2012 in Autism, Parenting |

As the parent to a 6 year old diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (or ASD), I’m certainly no stranger to the topic of vaccinations and their potential role in the explosive rise in Autism diagnosis in the US over the past 20 years. It was a topic I was familiar with when the twins were babies and I agonized over the decision whether or not to go through with the full vaccination schedule.

As it turned out, I had good reason to be concerned because I believe they did play a role in Stone’s autism. I will write a separate post with more details about Stone’s early years and how he was ahead of Ty on all major developmental milestones until after a series of vaccinations when they were 18 months old – after which time the development stopped and he regressed. But for now, I’ll focus on the marvelous documentary, The Greater Good.

I had heard about The Greater Good from others within the Autism community since it was released in 2011, but did not have an opportunity to watch it until last weekend, when I watched a recorded version that ran on the Current cable network. And I can tell you, its well worth watching – especially if you’re a parent. It was extremely well produced, taking pains to include opinions from a range of experts on the topic – including Dr. Paul Offit, “a highly esteemed infectious disease doctor, vaccine patent holder, Merck consultant and the most vocal vaccine advocate in America today.”

The documentary focuses on three main characters:

  • Gabi Swank, a 15-year old girl from Wichita, KS, whose life was profoundly altered after she received the cervical cancer vaccination Gardasil. Gabi was an honors student and cheerleader before the vaccination. She wasn’t told of any potential side effects, but began feeling them hours after the vaccination. The documentary tracks her journey over a period of months – showing how she became so physically impacted, she was unable to walk the length of her school (she sometimes had to rely on a wheelchair) and was unable to attend her homecoming dance (even though she was voted a princess – even with her new disabilities) due to seizures initially, and then kidney stones. At one time she had to take 40 separate pills/prescriptions per day – costing her family $2,000/month (even with insurance). Her parents ended up divorcing, and they also lost their house.
  • 12-year-old Jordan King, of Portland OR, who regressed into autism after a routine vaccination. Because he is non-verbal. the documentary relies on his parents and gifted sister to tell his story. They talk about how he was a normally developing baby – even speaking in sentences – until vaccinations. As The Greater Good website explains, “Jordan’s parents worry about his future. Will there be a place for him after they are gone? Will his younger sister bear the burden? How will society deal with this growing epidemic?” One of Jordan’s physicians is Dr. Green, a fellow in the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and American Holistic Medical Association. Green’s primary focus is on work with ASD children, caring for more than 2,000 children with autism. His work is leading and following parents to the best path of healing for their children.
  • The Christner Family (from Tulsa, OK). In medical school, the mother, Dr. Stephanie Christner, learned that vaccines were safe and essential to the health of her children and all other children and she never questioned their safety. Tragically, her daughter died at 5 months of age – and Dr. Christner has no doubt it was due to vaccinations. In the documentary she tells an absolutely gut-wrenching story about her daughter changed after a round of vaccinations. She said stopped eating, started crying more and experienced a seizure and stopped breathing at one point – but later seemed OK. They continued with her vaccination schedule a week after the seizure episode and within two months, had lost their daughter. On her journey to find answers, Christener was shocked to find studies that documented vaccine injuries published in major medical journals going back decades. With her new knowledge, she wonders what else she might have missed before her daughter died at 5 months of age.
What I learned most from this documentary was that we have a lot more we need to learn about vaccinations before we can call them completely safe for our babies and children. One of my favorite experts interviewed was Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center and co-author of the 1985 book DPT: A Shot in the Dark. Early in the film she explains that the vaccination conversation has perceptually evolved into a “for or against” type of argument. In other words, it is now assumed that you are either “for” or “against” vaccinations. But she pointed out that many people/parents who had questions about vaccination safety were not against vaccinations per se, but they question the use, quantity and quality of the high number of vaccinations now mandated for US children. Why do we have to buy the “one size fits all” argument that is presented? Why can’t parents elect to spread out vaccinations?
The film points out that the US vaccine schedule now includes 36 mandated vaccinations before the age of five – a number that has more than doubled in the past 20 years (which coincidentally or not, also mirrors the huge rise in Autism diagnosis). For the record, this is more than double the number of vaccines mandated by other western countries (France is closest, with 17). If the true objective of vaccinations is increased health and safety in children, you would expect the US to have the lowest mortality rates, given the number of vaccinations, right? Unfortunately, this hasn’t proven to be true. In fact, our mortality rate ranks 34th globally. Something is very troubling with this picture.
Watching The Greater Good, I also learned that the US is the only country (other than New Zealand) that allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise on television and other major media outlets. It showed the profound impact that marketing drugs has on sales of these billion dollar products – including Gardasil. Even more distressing (and depressing) was learning that over the past ten years, the pharmaceutical industry has been the largest lobbying group in Washington DC – overshadowing all other industries, including oil/gas and insurance.
Are there conclusions to be drawn from The Greater Good? I think you need to watch it, listen to the various arguments (including those from leading physicians who passionately believe in our current vaccination policy and industry) and draw your own conclusion. I think we need to look very closely at our current profit-driven healthcare industry and the impact is has had on our national health policy and start to ask more questions about the “why” of some of these policies. I personally abhor the idea that drugs can be marketed like candy, soda and other consumer goods. But I’m also a realist and understand that we very much now live in a country where corporations and their profits have become a greater priority than the care and well-being of individuals.
You may be able to catch The Greater Good on Current again in the future (I had to search for it on my DVR and caught it in the middle of the night to record) or you can order a copy of the DVD. You can also sign up to host a viewing party or to receive updates.

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