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I hope you can join me in a Reddit discussion regarding my super controversial film
THE PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMIST.
Why is this controversial you ask? Because it is a character study of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, one of 13 co-authors of a notorious 1998 paper in the UK medical Journal The Lancet, but who became the very public face of what has come to be known as “The Anti-Vaxx Movement.”
The extremely strong opinions on either side of the vaccine issue or of Wakefield himself are heated and vitriolic. Both sides seem to think this THE PATH LOGICAL OPTIMIST is either too Pro Vaccine and others find it too Anti- Vaccine. This is interesting as it is neither. THE PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMIST is a profile of a unique figure in our history and a look inside a growing movement which is causing concern to a lot of people.
Wakefield allowed me and my crew to follow him and his family for five years beginning in 2011 as he fought a defamation battle in the courts against the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer. The results of that case – and the self-reflection, pronouncements, and observations of Wakefield, his legal team, wife, and his children – create a complex and incisive look at one of our era’s most fear-provoking and continually provocative movements.
Despite what you may have red, as a film maker I take no sides inTHE PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMIST. My intention is letting the audience see what they will in Wakefield and the battles he fights. Is he a Fraud, Monster, Liar? or is he a Healer, Savior, Martyr? In this film it appears he is both.
Ok so you tried to make your film as unbiased as you could (kudos onthat) But what are you personal thoughts and opinions on vaccines?
Thanks for your question. My personal thoughts on vaccines are that they are an incredible scientific advancement that has curbed diseases and helped save lives. I am grateful for this science and other types of medical advancements that have been helpful. The film is unbiased because it is in a character study style. A portrait piece. Rarely do those types of documentaries impose the film makers opinion in it.
Have you considered that five years on a subject who obviously played you - first refusing and then relenting when he had a commercial motive - may have caused you to lose your objectivity? I haven't seen your film, but your tweets suggest you've joined the anti-vax side.
I don't think I have joined any side. But read into what you may. Also, I'd hope I'm smart enough to not get "played" especially by Andrew Wakefield. Tweets showing me not agreeing that it's ok for governments to tell us what we can do with our bodies and making medical decisions for civilians to me isn't anti - vaccine. SB277 just took away the religious and personal freedoms for people to make their own medical decisions and punished the child by not allowing it in school. It didn't stop schools from still making them mandatory with out an exemption. Please see the question above regarding my thoughts on SB277 which goes into this in more depth.
When you do see the film, you will see that it is a look inside a man and a movement that is growing. If you want to understand that movement it is a deeply engaging film. I found the topic of a man hated and adored with followers who were almost flock like incredibly fascinating for a film.
Hi - I look forward to viewing the film. I am finding it hard to understand how you say you are providing an unbiased portrait of this subject while using terminology such as “anti vaxx” to describe those who have vaccinated their children then stopped after injury or simply are pro safety which does not make them anti anything. It also is paired with “controversial”, another word used when individuals want to do the research and question current mandates. How do you explain the “ no opinion” stance you take on the subject while using these words to market your film, i.e. monster and fraud, which I understand have been used to describe him, but you are calling him the face of a movement ? I appreciate the fact that the film was made at all and loved your open letter to Brian Deer, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a bias based on the advertising campaign. Is it coming to Atlanta soon so I can find out? Thank you!
I'm not sure I have personally used the terminology Anti-Vaxx. I believe Wakefield uses it in the film and obviously the marketing firm and film reviewers etc use that term. Also, it plays on several clips when Wakefileds own film VAXXED was pulled from Tribeca. I believe Anti Vax and Pro Vax are made up terms to divide us and single out parents who are vaccine hesitant or have witnessed vaccine injury.
What is your favorite food?
French fries and potato chips. What's your favorite food?
How was Andrew Wakefield as a person when the cameras were off? He seems like a very intense person.
He was quite nice and very kind. His family is also very fun to be around. Especially his wife Carmel. She is a power house.
what other figures in medicine in the past or now do you think are comparable to wakefield?
Im not sure. Can you think of any?
Why did it take you five years to produce your film? Wakefield's motivations are pretty obvious, aren't they?
it took so long for a couple of reasons.
I started for a year without his permission after he initially turned me down. This idea of the film was going to be Chasing Andrew Wakefield. Exploring the MMR Scandal outside of him directly. However, I couldn't get many people who were not in his direct circle to talk to me. So I interviewed people who knew him and knew his story or had written about him. And I interviewed a mother and met her son who was a patient of him. But then when the BMJ articles came out- It turned around because I went back to him and asked again if he was sure he didn't want me to get his life, his interview from the inside. And then he changed his mind and allowed me access. It turns out he changed his mind because he was taking action against the BMJ articles and attempted to sue them for defamation. So I followed him during this attempted case. The first part of the case was determining if he had the right to sue them in Texas since they were a UK company. This process, including the appeal took over 2 years. So there was about 3 -4 of the years. I was planning on locking as soon as possible once he did not get jurisdiction. The editor and I worked very hard to cut the film in a way that was interesting, emotional but still got him to answer the key allegations of him from the entire MMR Scandal. Once we did, and we finished, I found out his film Vaxxed got into Tribeca Film Festival. So I had to stop everything- finish my nervous breakdown- and wait to see what that film was before I could finish mine. It was tough.
The Daily Mail says Wakefield donated $50,000 to the Trump campaign. Do you support Trump's promise to create a commission to study vaccine safety?
wow- is that true? I didn't hear that. It's hard for me to support anything Trump says or does.
I think we should always be trying to make all medical advancements safer and more effective and there are alway more ways to create better medicine.
Why were other doctors or people who had criticism of Wakefield not interviewed? Why are he, his family and supporters the only ones speaking?
I spoke to several. But several would not go on camera. I think many of them got fed up with the way they were portrayed in some other films. I did however consult with Dr. Paul Offit and a few others who are given special thanks in the credits.
The film is an inside look at Wakefield and his "way of life" so to speak. Similar to the Anthony Weiner documentary or perhaps the JT Leroy documentary, or another character study I produced UNRAVELLED which followed financial schemer Marc Drier on 30 days of house arrest and it was his lawyers and his family as well. It's never been a problem for films in the past but for some reason this character isn't allowed. Keep in mind most people have no problem watching MAKING OF A MURDERER or THE JINX
medicine in terms of psychiatry -- which you could perhaps argue Hubbard may have had more legitimate complaints about than Wakefield had about vaccine use.
Do you think that dynamic be a compelling enough angle to create a documentary around?
I believe they did. It was called GOING CLEAR and it was brilliant.
Scientology is anti vaccine; they've held events with RFK Jr and Nation of Islam denouncing vaccines as part of vast New World Order plot.
I think you may be right. And sadly they are considered a religion. ugh. That said, I don't know much about Scientology other than it creeps me out.
What is the most surprising thing you found in your research for this film?
In research for this film I was surprised to find out about the 1986 law that gives blanket immunity to drug companies who make vaccines in a way where they can't be sued. That was shocking to me and I still think that law is problematic.
There were a lot of surprising moments while I was filming as well. I was surprised that his wife stayed with him considering they had a long distance relationship with him in Texas and her and 4 kids in the UK for four years. I'm not sure I would have been able to withstand that.
So why have you tweeted statements in opposition to the California vaccine mandate? There really isn't a controversy over vaccines.
Thank you for that question as well. I am a firm believer that the state and local governments should stay out of our bodies. I don't want them in my uterus telling women if they can terminate their own pregnancy's and I don't want them mandating any medical procedures or drugs. I'm what you would consider Pro- Choice all across the board.
I also believe in the constitutional right that ever child deserves the right to an education. This law forces children to be homeschooled for not taking some vaccines that aren't even transmittable in a classroom. So it made no sense to me. Tetanus for example is not passed from person to person. Also, the Hep B mandating in pre-school or kindergarten I didn't agree with as it is mostly passed through needles and sex and I don't know many kindergartners engaging in that behavior. I am opposed to the state being in our bodies, but if there is going to be mandates for vaccines, at least have the Hep B one be mandated later in life where it can protect children more. There is a lot of science still being done on how long these vaccines produce immunity for. If the vaccine wears off in 5 years than children aren't protected if they actually do engage in behavior down the line. So I think the law could be finessed to only focus on vaccines that prevent diseases that can be transmittable in a classroom. SB277 didn't change that vaccines were necessary for school just that people could no longer apply for exemptions for personal or religious reasons. I am against any kind of religious discrimination. I found that SB 277 discriminated against Orthodox Jewish population and certain sect's of the Muslim population. As well as Christian Scientists. So there was that I didn't like as well.
maybe L Ron Hubbard? I don't know much about either, but it seems like the movements and people surrounding them are demonstrably harmful and outweigh any possible legitimate critique either had about their respective issues.
I wouldn't consider L Ron in medicine- but I see what you mean in terms of having a following. I'm sure there are many examples of that.
That first part is not actually right. There are limits on immunity, but for most things drug manufacturers can be sued after someone goes through the vaccine injury compensation program.
And the program is actually better for people with real injuries: they don't have to show fault, the standards of causation is lower - they just have to have a plausible theory with an expert behind it, in the hardest case - and they get fees and costs covered.
The NCVIA you mentioned came as the direct result of pharmaceutical companies who, after years of being sued and required to pay damages for injuries and deaths caused by their vaccines, threatened Congress that they would stop making vaccines if the government didn’t intervene. Afraid of a vaccine shortage, and convinced it would result in widespread disease, Congress obliged. The Act shields pharmaceutical companies from liability when their vaccines cause injury or death and also governs the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) set up to award damages via tax-payer dollars to those unfortunately harmed by their vaccines. Most people have no idea that you cannot sue a vaccine manufacturer or that vaccines are the only product in the U.S. that enjoys this zero-liability status. I had no idea about that before this project.
Why did you delete all of your antivax tweets before your movie came out? http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/more-celebrities-speaking-out-against-vaccines
Again, not being for mandated medical treatments and wanting the government to stay out of my or my childs body does not make me "anti- vaccine"-
I deleted it because too many tweeters on both sides were trolling me after Jezebel came out with that ridiculous list.
Here's the Daily Mail article. It mentions your movie:
"Wakefield is parading his martyrdom in a new documentary about his life called Pathological Optimist, released last week in the US. So on the same day Minnesota celebrated the end of its measles outbreak, some 40 mothers, fathers and children clustered around his business partner Polly Tommey after she pulled up in the Vaxxed campaign bus in a Minneapolis park."
He's not exactly an admired figure in the UK.
wow! crazy. thanks for sending link.
That isn't true. Vaccination isn't against Muslim or Jewish faiths.
According to some of them it is. It's not really my place to say as I'm not ultra orthodox or muslim or a christian scientist.
Are you OK with parents sending infected children out into the world to spread vaccine-preventable diseases? Because that's what "choice" means in this context. No child is an island, Miranda.
No. I am not OK with that.
If my child even has a cold I keep them home. But thats me. I am not ok with parents who allow their infected child to still go to school.
because many vaccines are manufactured using cell lines obtained from abortions, many Christians, Muslims and Jews have ethical problems with them.
I think that one part is for "personal" reasons. Perhaps Catholics can say this, but just as much as someone who is a Vegan could say they don't want Bovine cell's in their medicine as well. It's complicated. Also, I think the fetal abortion tissue thing is blow out of proportion. I believe there is only one line. And yes it was from a fetal abortion. But my personal feelings is it's probably better for science if we are allowed to use these tissues to further advance medicine. But I know a lot of people don't agree with that. And certainly nothing like that is mentioned or covered in this film because this film isn't about laws or religions or any of the above. It is simply addressing the MMR scandal specifically and Wakefield' s attempt to clear his name and a look inside his following.
"It is estimated" by whom?
All manufacturers can be sued for negligence if their manufacturing process isn't up to par, so your statement is false. Manufacturers demanded immunity for producing vaccines following CDC guidelines when they work as designed. There's actually very little money to be made from vaccines, so pharmas won't make them if they're exposed to the frivolous lawsuits that are so popular in the US.
Can someone here mention how much money is made on vaccines. Because the words "very little money to be made from vaccines" might be subjective...depending on what you consider little money.
No. There isn't any major organized religion that opposes vaccines, though there are some sub sects who do. And the "state in your bodies" argument is really troubling when we are talking about vaccinating children - I hope most people don't see their born children as part of their bodies.
Tetanus is not communicable, but that shot is bundled with diphtheria and pertussis - both communicable - so even if we thought children shouldn't be protected from tetanus, a disease with 10% mortality, before they go to school, removing tetanus from the law would not change the requirements.
And hepatitis B can be transmitted in other ways, like bites. And it would certainly be effective throughout school.
In other words, if your opposition to the law is based on a strong vision of minimal state interference in personal decisions, that's one thing: people can disagree, though I would like to see you address the fact that children are not adults, and the fact that school also includes children of other people.
If your opposition is based on the other arguments, they are incorrect.
Can you show me the science where "bites" transmit Hep B? If that is true why are children who actually have Hep B allowed in classrooms?
and getting compensated for a vaccine injury is no easy feat... http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667136.pdf
Yes, I was around many people it took years for them to get in there an be heard. If that program is going to stick around it needs a major overhaul and it needs to be much better. Particularly if there is mandatory vaccine laws involved.
You have to take anything in the Daily Mail with a pinch of salt, but Wakefield does appear to be making more money as a professional martyr than he ever made as a doctor.
Personally, I didn't witness him getting paid directly for anything during the making of this movie. That said, I wasn't in his bank account or looking over his shoulder. The parents I saw donate wrote checks to a specific fund set up for Wakefield's legal bills.
I imagine he paid himself making his documentary and those were donations. But again, I didn't really follow that or see anything myself.
What are the doctrinal disputes that proscribe vaccines in the Orthodox Jewish population?
Oh, I have no idea. But I do know of large populations in NYC and LA of Hasidic Jewish people who don't vaccinate. Could it be a kosher thing? Maybe the Bovine line in some aren't accepted? Either way, I think we could find some way to make kosher vaccines couldn't we? If yes, perhaps we should.
Again, not accurate. The manufacturers did not threatened. They left the market. Congress stepped in because it did not want the vaccine supply threatened and children unprotected.
And anti-vaccine organizations like NVIC supported the act because it made it easier to be compensated.
And there's no "zero liability". For anything except design defects, you have to go through VICP first, but then you can sue in state court.
Paul Offit's book Deadly Choices gives a good overview of this.
I've only read his books Autism's False Profits and Blind Faith. I'm reading his latest one now. His writing is very engaging. But Ill check out Deadly Choices. Perhaps he will send me one. He did see this film and did give me thoughts on it before I locked picture. And I'm very grateful for the time he gave me. I know that many supporters of Andy do not like him. And many supporters of Offit do not like Andy. This is a heated, complicated issue.
The trouble with unvaccinated kids is that they can be contagious for several days before they show symptoms. The most common refrain of the anti-vax parent is "I didn't know he/she was ill!"
Can you send links showing this? Thanks. The only ones I've read were about non vaccinating parents who didn't take their child to the doctor and then ended up with meningitis. If my kid sneezes or has a bug bite I'm on the phone with my pediatrician. But I do know not everyone is like that. And that is why vaccines are required for school. Exemptions take time and care and a serious focus on the subject to get. (back when you could get them) These parents who are that hyper aware enough to get an exemption I would hope are the type of parents who would not send their child to school if they were ill. But yes, it's complicated. This is why education and incentives are so important and why corrosion and force aren't helping.
Are you aware?
YES! love it.
It's a cult, that's all you need to know.
Yeah, I think you are right on that. Leigh Remini's docu-series is pretty enlightening.
The Vatican announced years ago that vaccines are permissible, regardless of a 60 year old fetal cell line.
yes, I remember this. thanks for clarifying.
I suggest you ask Paul Offit about this, he's written on it. Here's one of his old pieces (from 2005): http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/24/3/622.full
I will. Thank you. There is also this info out there.
"Vaccines generate billions of dollars in revenue for drug companies as costs paid by the federal government — which purchases half of all the vaccines for the nation's children — have risen 15-fold since 1986, The New York Times reported."
And here is specific information on Merck:
Market Cap As of May 2017
and this from New York Times
"The vaccine industry has changed rapidly in the past two decades, the report found. The market grew to $33 billion from $6 billion between 2000 and 2014."
Did you ask Mr. Wakefield about the Alex Spourdalakis case?
No. I didn't. Nor did I see his film on it.
Why do you take some parents at their word that they have witnessed vaccine injury? Is it because one thing followed another?
There are thousands of parents who have the same story about their child getting a vaccine and then having a horrible reaction to it. BTW- this happens with Penicillin as well. Or eggs or anything really. Parents, mostly moms can see if something causes a bad reaction in their children. My question to you would be why would you deny parents this observation? How is it any different from moms taking their kid to the doctor and saying doctor my kid ate this peanut and couldn't breath and blew up like this....luckily the doctors aren't saying " no no no, I'm sure it's not the peanuts don't be ridiculous- or get out of my office you anti- peanut quack. :)
Please keep in mind this is not me linking vaccines to Autism. But vaccine injury is real. That is exactly why the governments have set up the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund.
And no doctor will tell you that vaccines are 100% safe for everyone.
To your other question - when most children are immunized, the risks of a hepatitis B positive child are very low - and when known, precautions can be put in place if the child is injured, and caution taken.
Of course, unvaccinated children are at higher risk.
In addition, children known to be sick with hepatitis B are seen as having a disability, and get more protection than children who are not yet identified as sick, but whose parents did not protect them from the infection.
Thanks. Yes I was able to open it and you are correct it does mention:
"Routes of transmission include vertical (mother to child or generation to generation through close contact and sanitary habits), early life horizontal transmission (through bites, lesions, and sanitary habits), and adult horizontal transmission (through sexual contact, intravenous drug use, and medical procedure exposure) and are evident to varying degrees in every country."
Fortunately, it's pretty standard in our country to give the vaccine if the mother has Hep B- in order to protect that child. So likely it is super rare to have a Hep B child in a classroom or to have a bite be so bad that it would transmit this.
Typhoid Mary rings a bell. She spread infectious diseases too.
Not comparable. She was a nurse who didn't know she was infected and she was treating patients. Wakefield himself doesn't have Measles and isn't spreading it.
He actually is spreading measles, mumps, and rubella by making people afraid of the perfectly safe MMR vaccine. But unlike Typhoid Mary, he's doing in on purpose.
I think you may be slanted by the media fear mongering. But if that's what you would like to think of him, I certainly can't stop you and this film certainly wont change your mind on that. I'm sure you will find what you need in the film to support what ever position you take. That seems to be the case on several sides who see this film. This fascinates me. I liken it to the recent Commey trials. We all saw the same trial on TV- yet half the country saw one thing and half the country saw another thing. Both yelling "See! I told you I was right about him."- we are at an interesting time in history.
Yes, frauds and cults make for good drama. I look forward to seeing your movie, but with some trepidation because you don't appear to understand the medical issues behind infectious diseases.
That is true. I am no doctor. (I just play one on TV) :)
But again, this movie is a portrait of a man, a character study. And we discuss his allegations which led to the loss of his licence- not medicine. As he lost his licence for ethical violations.