Let me say right up front that my wife and I have a 2-month old daughter, and we ARE vaccinating her, and that my #1 goal here is to learn as much as possible about how to care for her health, because if anything happened to her I honestly don't know what I would do.
Until recently - like most people - I assumed vaccines were 100% safe, and I thought anyone who thought otherwise was dangerous and selfish, putting everyone else at risk. I thought this because I was told this, by many people, many times.
"The science is in."
"Vaccines are 100% safe."
Lather, rinse, repeat.
The first chink in the armor was a conversation with a friend of mine whose grandson, he said, was developing normally, got the MMR shot at 15 months, dropped into a fever that night, regressed suddenly, and has had severe autism ever since.
His story seemed far-fetched, but my friend is no storyteller, and I soon learned he was not alone in this experience.
Now to be clear, we're no strangers to the autism spectrum conversation- one of my best friends has Aspergers, and my wife is a BCBA who works with kids on the spectrum every single day... but digging deeper and hearing the many eerily similar stories of autism-related vaccine injuries from parent after parent was a new experience for us, and made me wonder where my self-assuredness about vaccine safety had come from-- and, most importantly, why it seemed to be something nobody was allowed to talk about.
My wife getting pregnant brought this all into sharper focus. Soon we would have to make these difficult decisions ourselves.
Right after my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, we heard about the documentary "Vaxxed", and how it had been yanked from the Tribeca Film Festival. We didn't pay it much attention until we saw the Today Show interview with the usually quiet Robert Deniro who said he regretted pulling it, and seemed sure there was more to the story than people wanted to believe.
So we went and saw the movie for ourselves.
We learned about the CDC whistleblower no national media were covering.
We learned about CDC head Julie Gerberding going to work for Merck as head of immunizations after helping to cover up the MMR-autism link, and cashing out for millions.
We learned about the existence of the United States Vaccine Court, which has paid out over $3.5 Billion to vaccine-injured children.
Say what you will about the documentary, which we found to be eye-opening, these things in it were verifiably true, disturbing things- none of which guaranteed a link between vaccines and autism, but all of which called the "Vaccines are safe" and "Science is in" mantras into question.
So I kept digging, and decided to do a series of podcasts on the subject, in an effort to find out as much as I could about the topic so we could decide the best way to handle vaccinating our daughter.
What follows are 4 episodes:
In this first one, I talk to "VAXXED" producer Del Bigtree about the CDC whistleblower, and why Doctor Andrew Wakefield, the director of the movie, may not be "The Father of the Anti-Vaccine Movement" as most seem to think.
Episode 1 is live on iTunes here: https://goo.gl/nXkFPI
And here's the direct link: http://goo.gl/32ypH9
In the 2nd (coming soon), I talk to investigative journalist Brian Deer, the man responsible for discrediting Wakefield all those years ago.
In the 3rd (coming a little less soon, but still soon), I talk to Louis Conte and Mary Holland, each of whom has done a lot of scientific and common sense research, and the only viable conclusion they could reach is their children are vaccine-injured. They conducted a study with Pace University that learned the U.S. government has actually been paying out vaccine-injured children who *happen* to also have autism... for years... at least 80 cases that they know of.
In the 4th and final episode (coming a little after the 3rd), since I hadn't spoken with an actual doctor, I talk to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, an MIT biologist who has been looking into this subject, and who feels the real culprit behind the skyrocketing autism numbers are the chemicals we use very cavalierly in our society... not just, but including, vaccines.
This series of conversations taught me a lot about just how unsettled the debate on vaccine safety and the causal link between vaccines and autism really is. I hope you get as much out of them as I did.
Again, to be clear, we're still vaccinating our daughter, but we're going to do it in as safe a way as possible, using resources like Dr. Sears alternate schedule to guide us... but the lesson I learned here was to question things, because questioning is really the only way to get answers, and for me the biggest red flag in all of this is how unwilling we as a society seem to be to even engage in this extremely important conversation.
I understand the risks an anti-vaccine movement presents, and I have no intention of contributing to that, but I also don't think it's fair for us as a society to act like vaccine-injured children don't exist, and to treat their parents like they're crazy.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let's have the conversation. Let's get the answers.
There's a difference between being anti-vax (which we're not) and pro-safe vax (which we are), and there has to be a way to keep vaccinating children without hurting any, but until we start pushing the government and the pharmaceutical industry to do better, we'll never get there.
It might be a long, difficult road, but that's no excuse not to try. Every year that passes without talking about this, more kids get hurt, and even one vaccine-injured child is too many.
Justin Kanew is a writer-producer in Los Angeles who was also a 2-time contestant on "THE AMAZING RACE" on CBS with his best friend Zev-- the first ever Amazing Race contestant on the autism spectrum. He lives in Encino, CA with his wife Nicole, a BCBA, and his recently born daughter Kaia. He also hosts "GET IT GOT IT GOOD", a podcast that was recently #16 on the iTunes News & Politics" chart. Subscribe to it here: And follow him on Twitter here: @justin_kanew