Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vaccine-Nation (Gary Null Productions, 2008)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

My intent was to show the first half of the Gary Null movie Vaccine-Nation but as things turned out I ended up running the whole thing, partly because the copy I had (the one I had been loaned almost a year ago!) was billed as a “director’s cut” but was totally uncued — it was just one big long DVD file without any chapter stops whatsoever, therefore no convenient place to pick it up for a second showing a month from now; and partly because the story was so compelling, especially the case of Alan Yurko, the “star” of the film.

In 1999 Yurko’s eight-week-old son was given a routine vaccination “cocktail” (it’s amazing here, as in AIDS, a medical procedure is colloquially nicknamed after something decidedly unhealthy!) and, two days after the shot, began to developed the high-pitched cry that’s an acknowledged side effect of the vaccines. Two days after that he stopped breathing, and Alan and his wife Francine rushed the baby to the hospital, where he was given the blood-thinning drug heparin (why?), with the result that blood was ultimately found in the baby’s brain after it died and Alan was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on the “shaken baby syndrome” theory. He was convicted (at least in part, the film suggested, because just before his case went to the jury a local TV news program ran a report on shaken baby syndrome that recommended coming down very hard on the parents) and sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole — beginning a costly legal battle as well as living hell for Alan, who was lumped in with child molesters by the other prisoners and treated to getting piss and shit dumped on him. This continued until 2004, when his wife and the legal effort she had managed to put together for him won him a new trial and he was acquitted — only to be re-arrested on an old charge in Ohio (he’d been living in Florida when he was arrested and had served his earlier sentence there) from which he was finally freed on parole in February 2005.

Null’s “stars” were Yurko and the late Dr. Michael Hilleman, who courtesy of a soundtrack recording of an interview he gave PBS for a documentary on the polio vaccine recalled his own role in testing it in 1955 and the jocular attitude of his fellow scientists towards his allegations that their vaccines might be contaminated by new viruses which had been undetectable before his research invented new means of detecting them — including HIV (though it seemed odd indeed to hear a reference to the “AIDS virus” in a movie directed by Gary Null, of all people, this is yet another piece of evidence that even if you believe in HIV as the cause of AIDS the syndrome still could be iatrogenic!). Null suggested in the show that vaccination has never been proven to be either safe or effective; his film doesn’t make that case very convincingly (though it does present evidence that the diagnosis and death tolls from catastrophic diseases like smallpox and polio were starting to trend downward even before mass vaccination was introduced, thanks to improved sanitation and other non-medical interventions that helped control the infection vectors) but does suggest very strongly that routine mass vaccination is a bad idea and vaccines should be considered a major health intervention that should be addressed cautiously.

I remember a Tony Brown’s Journal episode on PBS from April 17, 1994 that featured a letter from John Salamuni, whose son came down with polio as an effect of the polio vaccine, who wrote, “I am not recommending that children not be vaccinated, but rather that our government create a policy that provides precautionary measures, so that other children do not become sick from the very program that is designed to promote their health. Most parents are not informed by doctors, prior to vaccination, of potential risks involved, despite an even more comprehensive national program, recently enacted by Congress. There is no policy requiring doctors to inform parents in advance about potential hazards and risk factors, or the option of dead polio versus live polio vaccine. As tragic as David’s case is, it is made more so by the knowledge that a $20 pre-vaccination test could have prevented the polio that crippled him.”

Given that $20 is more than the actual vaccine costs, one can readily understand the health establishment’s reluctance to administer the test en masse — especially since the public health community is so imbued with mass vaccination as a magical principle that requires 100 percent compliance, or nearly so (I’ve read interviews in which vaccination advocates regard children whose parents opt out of vaccination for religious or moral reasons as “freeloaders” who are getting the alleged protective value of vaccination without running the risks), that they dare not allow the release of any information that even remotely questions the safety or effectiveness of mass vaccinations. The film also dramatizes the sheer number of vaccinations routinely ordered for American children — more than in any other country in the world and far more than I had when I was a child(when measles, mumps and rubella were considered rites of childhood passage and not fearsome menaces to be vaccinated against) and raises the interesting point of whether vaccines should be given in combined doses or singly so that the immune system has a chance to develop an antibody response to one vaccine before having to confront another.

About the only flaw I would point to in this film is Null’s repeated suggestion that the vaccine program is being pushed by pharmaceutical companies for profit motives; in fact, the major drug companies are loath to get into vaccines precisely because a vaccine is only given a limited number of times (even ones that require “booster shots” are generally administered only two or three times, and most vaccines are only given once), and the focus of the modern pharmaceutical industry is on drugs that have to be administered repeatedly, hopefully for the rest of the patient’s life (which is why in the mid-1990’s everyone in the AIDS mainstream suddenly stopped talking about a “cure” and started talking about making so-called “HIV disease” a “chronic, manageable condition” — i.e., one for which you would have to take multiple medications for the rest of your life). Indeed, the government liability program Null mentions in his movie — which, like the government liability program for nuclear reactors, caps total damages and makes it illegal for vaccine victims or their parents to sue in court — was put in place because without it the major pharmaceutical companies refused to produce vaccines at all! Null probably spends too much of the current film on the thimerosal issue (thimerosal is the mercury-producing chemical used as a preservative in vaccines that was widely believed to be behind the increased rates of autism in American children over the last 25 years until it was withdrawn in 2002) and not on the overall issue of free cholce versus medical mandates and the power of the medical industry’s argument that in the field of public health we should live under a medical dictatorship in which informed consent is not permitted and those who buck the consensus are punished — and the people who have “side” effects from vaccination should be accepted as collateral damage for a greater public good. That mindset is far more chilling than the direct harm done from the vaccines themselves.