Studies show filmmakers are not experts in vaccines

Another day, another anti-vaccine “press release” from people who think they know better. This one would be extremely hilarious if it wasn’t deadly serious to put people at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. If you think that Michael Moore should run the Treasury Department, that Quentin Tarantino should be our Attorney General, or that Steven Spielberg should run NASA, then you’re going to love this press release from the makers of “The Greater Good,” an anti-vaccine “documentary” from anti-vaccine zealot Leslie Manookian.

The “press release” begins with a lie:

“Health officials are blaming unvaccinated children for the recent measles outbreak that started at Disneyland. However, with no blood tests proving the outbreak is from wild measles, the most likely source of the outbreak is a recently vaccinated individual, according to published science.”

Wrong! Big shout out to Todd W. for bringing to our attention this statement from CDC:

“Measles genotype information was available from 9 measles cases; all were genotype B3 and all sequences linked to this outbreak are identical. The sequences are also identical to the genotype B3 virus that caused a large outbreak in the Philippines in 2014. During the last 6 months, identical genotype B3 viruses were also detected in at least 14 countries and at least 6 U.S. states, not including those linked to the current outbreak.”

So, no, Leslie Manookian, the virus that is infecting people and making them sick and started off in Disneyland is not the vaccine strain. It’s very much the wild virus that infects and makes people sick in “Third World” countries. (Congratulations, America, you’re now in company with the Third World when it comes to vaccine preventable diseases.)

The press release continues:

“Scientific evidence demonstrates that individuals vaccinated with live virus vaccines such as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), rotavirus, chicken pox, shingles and influenza can shed the virus for many weeks or months afterwards and infect the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.1,2 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10.”

Those numbers are citations, because press releases should read like scientific papers in order to confuse Google University attendees into thinking that they’re reading something that is well-researched. The citations are cherry-picked studies and abstracts of studies that Leslie Manookian probably thinks support her theory. For example, this study (reference #2) looked at the urine of 12 children after they got the MMR vaccine. Ten of those 12 children had measles RNA (the genetic material) in their urine. To Leslie Manookian, this probably means that ten children having RNA and not the whole measles virus in their urine means that these kids are shedding measles at a phenomenal rate and making everyone sick.

Reference #4 is a paper on sibling transmission of Rotavirus vaccine strain virus. This one I actually know a lot about because I did some epidemiological data analysis when they first started noticing what was happening. To Leslie Manookian, this probably looks like a whole bunch of kids were getting diarrhea and dehydration from the vaccine strain after their siblings were vaccinated. To the professional epidemiologist and anyone with an ounce of scientific reasoning, this means that you don’t need to vaccinate all children for Rotavirus if you’re low on resources. Vaccinating one per household seems to spread the vaccine virus to others, giving them much slighter versions of the full-blown disease and in fact immunizing them against any further infection from the actual virus. It’s an effect that we have seen with polio as well, and something that we’ve built into immunization plans in order to maximize effectiveness when the program country doesn’t have the resources to get everyone vaccinated. As a bonus, the rate of complications from the vaccine strain are much, much lower than the rates of complications from the wild strain.

Let’s keep reading the press release:

“Furthermore, vaccine recipients can carry diseases in the back of their throat and infect others while displaying no symptoms of a disease.11,12,13

“Numerous scientific studies indicate that children who receive a live virus vaccination can shed the disease and infect others for weeks or even months afterwards. Thus, parents who vaccinate their children can indeed put others at risk,” explains Leslie Manookian, documentary filmmaker and activist. Manookian’s award winning documentary, The Greater Good, aims to open a dialog about vaccine safety.”

Those three references (#11, #12, #13) all do not say what they think they say. Number 11 is about how influenza is passed from one animal to another. Number 12 takes you to the same link as number 11, so a big fail there. And number 13 is a New York Times article that actually emphasizes the need for parents to be immunized against pertussis so that they don’t get it and pass it on to their too-young-to-be-vaccinated children. Do anti-vaccine loons ever read their own citations, or just the titles?

And, yes, you read that right. The authority on this matter is Leslie Manookian because she made an anti-vaccine film. Why else? And what awards did it win? According to Wikipedia, it won an award from the Amsterdam Film Festival in 2011 for “Cinematic Vision.” Yeah, that makes the three anecdotes in the movie totally legitimate.

For the remainder of the press release, we get this:

“Both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals are at risk from exposure to those recently vaccinated.  Vaccine failure is widespread; vaccine-induced immunity is not permanent and recent outbreaks of diseases such as whooping cough, mumps and measles have occurred in fully vaccinated populations.14,15  Flu vaccine recipients become more susceptible to future infection after repeated vaccination.16”

Again, their citations are all being used in a misleading way. Yes, both vaccinated and unvaccinated are at risk from exposure, but the vaccinated will get the disease at a rate hundreds or even thousands of times less than unvaccinated people. If you have 100 people and 90 of them are vaccinated, you can have an outbreak of 20 cases where 10 are vaccinated and 10 are not. But, when you do the math, 100% of the unvaccinated are sick while only 1/9th of the vaccinated are sick. Ten out of ten is more than one out of nine. Math, however, has never been in the anti-vaccine person’s realm of mastery.

To mislead you even more, the press release cites another expert:

“”Health officials should require a two-week quarantine of all children and adults who receive vaccinations,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation. “This is the minimum amount of time required to prevent transmission of infectious diseases to the rest of the population, including individuals who have been previously vaccinated.””

It is the Weston A. Price Foundation that is putting out this press release, by the way. Sally Fallon Morell has degrees in English, with no apparent formal training in biology, medicine, or epidemiology. Yet that doesn’t stop her from making the ridiculously stupid suggestion that vaccinated children and adults should be quarantined. If her theory were to be true, which it is not, the quarantine should be longer than two weeks. After all, there are plenty of vaccine preventable diseases which have longer incubation times, like Hepatitis A. You should also note that they don’t make any distinction between live attenuated vaccines and killed vaccines, or vaccines that don’t even have whole viruses but only parts of them (like the acellular pertussis vaccine that we use today). The level of ignorance from Leslie Manookian and Sally Fallon Morell is phenomenal.

I’m impressed. I mean, look at this next in the press release:

“”Vaccine failure and failure to acknowledge that live virus vaccines can spread disease have resulted in an increase in outbreaks of infectious disease in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals,” says Manookian, “CDC should instruct physicians who administer vaccinations to inform their patients about the risks posed to others by those who’ve been recently vaccinated.””

Sweet Jesus, this is ignorant. If anything, CDC should instruct physicians to give their patients a medal for wanting to be part of the herd and protect those who are too young, too old or too sick to be vaccinated.

The press release closes with the real intent and level of epidemiological misunderstanding and misinformation from the Weston A. Price Foundation:

“According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the best protection against infectious disease is a healthy immune system, supported by adequate vitamin A and vitamin C. Well-nourished children easily recover from infectious disease and rarely suffer complications.

The number of measles deaths declined from 7575 in 1920 (10,000 per year in many years in the 1910s) to an average of 432 each year from 1958-1962.17 The vaccine was introduced in 1963. Between 2005 and 2014, there have been no deaths from measles in the U.S. and 108 deaths from the MMR vaccine.18”

These are probably the same loons that think that Ebola can be treated with IV vitamin C or something like that. And, no, well-nourished children don’t “rarely” suffer complications. The complications from things like measles are actually quite common, with ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death being much more common in those who get measles than in those who get the MMR vaccine. How much more common? Thousands of times more common.

Finally, the idiots who drafted this press release tell us that the measles deaths were on the decline before the vaccine came online. That’s true. We learned to keep people alive with medical technology. We also developed antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial complications from measles. There was also more access to healthcare and such. What they don’t tell you is that we continued to have cases of measles right up until the end of the 1960s, once herd immunity really kicked in from the measles vaccine that was introduced in 1963. And that last reference, #18, is a paper from CDC talking about how much of a resounding success the MMR vaccine has been. And, much to your surprise, there is zero mention of the “108 deaths from the MMR vaccine” in that paper. That number has been thrown around from VAERS reports, a database of adverse events associated with vaccines to which anyone and everyone can report and which has counted as “vaccine associated” deaths involving drowning or car accidents months after the last vaccine was given.

Anti-vaccine zealots like Leslie Manookian and Sally Fallon Morell go out of their way to bring this kind of misinformation to the public through press releases. If they had one shred of credible evidence to what they say, scientists would listen. But we look at their interpretations of the articles they cite and laugh. No, seriously, we laughed. Someone suggested sending them a copy of a Godzilla movie to scare them into anti-nuclear activism so they can help stop the giant lizards that roam the ocean floors near Tokyo. Because that is the level of ignorance of science and biology that we’re dealing with here. Anyone who takes this press release as genuine medical advice or some kind of scientific breakthrough is a fool.

11 thoughts on “Studies show filmmakers are not experts in vaccines

  1. I wish these loons would make up their minds about how their unvaccinated spawn and themselves are not to blame for measles outbreaks. Some say the vaccine doesn’t cross-protect for non-vaccine strains while this numpty is saying vaccinees are shedding their vaccine measles all over the place. Why oh why is the vaccine strain not detected in any of the infected to refute the latter and why are unvaccinated getting infected at the rate you’d expect (which is the vast majority) if the vaccine wasn’t cross-protective?

  2. I noticed an article going around recently regarding the 108 measles deaths. The article included a screenshot of an entry from VAERS which apparently the author didn’t think to read the preexisting conditions, etc. before choosing the image.

    The entry shows was regarding a 1.5 yr old with Preexisting conditions: Cardiac heterotaxy, Dextrocardia, Complete AV Septal defect, Pulmonary Atresia.

    And… The baby tested positive for streptococcus pneumonia.

    But it was the vaccine I tell you, the vaccines!!!111!!1

  3. As if…any State reports a suspect case of measles as a confirmed case. Nope. Never, ever happens Ms. Manookian and Ms. Morell.

    A simple search for the CDC Case Surveillance Manual of Vaccine Preventable Diseases-Measles Chapter shows you how suspect cases of measles are able to be reported as confirmed cases of measles via several confirmatory laboratory tests.


    An acute febrile rash illness† with:

    – isolation of measles virus‡ from a clinical specimen; or

    – detection of measles virus-specific nucleic acid from a clinical specimen using by polymerase chain reaction; or

    – IgG seroconversion‡or a significant rise in measles immunoglobulin G antibody‡using any evaluated and validated method; or

    – a positive serologic test for measles immunoglobulin M antibody‡ §; or

    – direct epidemiologic linkage to a case confirmed by one of the methods above.

    Note: Genotype identification by a WHO reference laboratory (CDC or a public health laboratory that has validated their measles virus sequence analysis) is required to distinguish wild type from vaccine strain if vaccinated within 18 days of rash onset.

    P.S. Aliquots of these suspected measles cases serums are sent from the local health unit to State Health Departments and thence to a WHO reference lab (CDC) to confirm that the specimens fare wild measles genotypes.

  4. Thank you for giving a clear refutation of yet another vile attempt by anti-vaccinationists to lie to the public.

  5. Even if people don’t have a science background, they could use plain logic to blast apart these diatribes.

  6. Thanks for covering this! Really helpful. One change – the first time you name the movie, it should be “The Greater Good,” not “The Common Good.”

Comments are closed.