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Sign up for a virtual screening of “Virulent: The Vaccine War”

Science-Based Medicine is hosting a virtual screening of Virulent: The Vaccine War. Get your virtual ticket to stream it and be part of the Q&A with the filmmakers hosted by Drs. Gorski and Novella on Jan. 29?

Before I get back to a regular schedule of blogging here on my personal blog, I’d like to take a moment to promote something going on at a different blog that is near and dear to my heart. Regular readers know that I’m a prominent regular at a not-so-super-secret other blog. Basically, I’m referring to its hosting a virtual screening of Virulent: The Vaccine War a new documentary about vaccines, vaccine hesitancy, and the antivaccine movement. After this virtual screening, which will last from today to January 29, Steve Novella and I will be hosting a virtual Q&A, along with filmmakers director/producer Tjardus Greidanus and producer Laura Davis. The screening is also dedicated to the late Dr. Hall, whom we lost unexpectedly last week (and whose deaths antivaxxers have falsely targeted for their “died suddenlyconspiracy narrative). The details will follow at the end of this post, but first let me give a bit of background and tell you about the film.

Better times, when antivaxxers sometimes actually faced consequences for their activities: Andrew Wakefield stands with his wife Carmel as he addresses the media in the grounds of the General Medical Council (GMC) in central London, on January 28, 2010 after losing his UK medical license.

Virulent: The Vaccine War

Ever since I sat down in front of my computer on a cold gray Saturday in December in 2004 to introduce myself to the blogosphere, one of the core forms of medical misinformation and quackery that I have discussed repeatedly—indeed, more times than I can easily determine, even as managing editor—has been the interface between vaccines and antivaccine misinformation. Indeed, by early 2005 antivaccine nonsense had already come to dominate the topics on this blog, as I noticed that the then-new Huffington Post had seemingly been taken over by antivaxxers, some of whom I still deal with today. One of the reasons, of course, is that those primarily harmed by antivaccine misinformation and disinformation have been children, before the COVID-19 pandemic at least. Indeed, in late 2019, as an outbreak of a previously unknown viral pneumonia was sweeping through Wuhan, China, a deadly measles outbreak had been ravaging Samoa for weeks, killing dozens of children. One reason that the Samoan measles outbreak made the news was because antivaxxers were making the situation so much worse by descending on the population to stoke as much additional vaccine hesitancy as they could among the population. While some antivaxxers tried to deny that measles can kill, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. himself even wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Samoa claiming that measles vaccine failure was responsible for all the carnage, not the measles, while complaining about news reports that blamed the outbreak on the antivaccine movement.

A little more than three months later, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the world seemingly shut down. By January 2020, the cause of the mysterious viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China was identified as a novel SARS-like coronavirus. That coronavirus was ultimately named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease itself became known as COVID-19. Indeed, by January 2020, conspiracy theories about this new disease had arisen, including one that claimed it was due to increased uptake of influenza vaccines in China.There wasn’t a vaccine (yet), but it didn’t take long for the antivaccine movement that had been fear mongering about vaccines against measles and other childhood diseases for many years before to join forces with those who denied and minimized the seriousness of COVID-19, as well as anti-“lockdown” and antimask activists opposed to the public health interventions being implemented to mitigate the pandemic. By the time COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time and started rolling out in December 2020, the antivaccine movement was not only ready, but had gained powerful allies. To paraphrase Virulent, they had been practicing and training for just such a cataclysmic event.

Two years later, the antivaccine movement is more powerful than ever, having reached a level of mainstream influence that we at SBM would never have thought possible, even in 2019. Indeed, after the unexpected passing of Dr. Hall last week, antivaxxers swarmed on her social media, blaming her death on COVID-19 vaccines, as they have for so many over the last two years. That’s why SBM is hosting a virtual screening of a new documentary on vaccines, vaccine hesitancy, and the antivaccine movement, Virulent: The Vaccine War.

Here is a trailer:

VIRULENT: THE VACCINE WAR teaser from Tjardus Greidanus on Vimeo.

First, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, featuring Cathy Grinnan & Cori Gentry, formerly vaccine-hesitant parents:

And then, of course, there’s a reminder from Dr. Paul Offit about how Mother Nature has been trying to kill us since the beginning. In other words, nature is not benevolent:

And from the Virulent website:

Virulent: The Vaccine War examines the consequences of vaccine hesitancy and denial. It’s a war anti-vax activists have been fighting for more than a decade. And Covid-19 is what they practiced for—a national conversation about vaccine safety and mandates.

Described on the the event page, Virulent:

Explores the highly contentious, emotionally fraught firestorm surrounding vaccines, charting the collision between scientists and charlatans, truth and lies. We put a human face on scientists and others in the trenches including:

  • Dr. Paul Offit, one of the world’s preeminent virologists and the project’s medical advisor
  • Dr. Peter Salk, polio inventor Dr. Jonas Salk’s public health expert son
  • Arthur Caplan, PhD, who founded NYU’s Division of Medical Ethics
  • Kevin Roose, the NY Times columnist who writes about how disinformation spreads online
  • Ethan Lindenberger, the student activist who had himself vaccinated against his parents’ wishes.

The film also shines a harsh spotlight on leaders of the anti-vaccine movement including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who disseminates bad science to Black Americans who hold the Kennedy name in high esteem. Virulent: The Vaccine War is an invitation to think again, exposing the myths and laying bare the facts about vaccine science, its history and what it will take to eradicate the world’s most deadly diseases.

I’ve seen the movie, and it is very good indeed. It comes from a unique perspective in that the filmmakers—Producer Laura Davis, Executive Producer Mark Jonathan Harris, and Director Tjardus Greidanus—were working on a film on vaccine hesitancy when COVID-19 arrived and the world temporarily shut down. This forced the filmmakers to do a major refocusing, as the new antivaccine movement started using the very same tactics and tropes as the old. That’s why Steve and I thought that teaming with the filmmakers to host a virtual screening would be a great way to promote the message of SBM (and this blog) while publicizing a documentary that needs to be seen more widely.

The event

Here is a link to the event page. The filmmakers and SBM are asking for a donation of $12.50. This is an “early bird” rate, as on Tuesday, January 24, the price will increase to $15. Your donation will support grassroots screenings like this one to build awareness and demonstrate to public TV & educational distributors that there is an audience for the film. It also helps the filmmakers achieve their goal of offering free screenings in low-income areas. Larger donations are tax deductible via the International Documentary Association.

Viewers will receive a link to take part in a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers director/producer Tjardus Greidanus and producer Laura Davis hosted by Steve and me at 7 PM Sunday, January 29, 2023. We hope to see many of you there.

In the meantime, Orac will return to his usual blogging schedule (or something approximating it) next week.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

17 replies on “Sign up for a virtual screening of “Virulent: The Vaccine War””

Dr. Paul Offit is an amazing communicator. I noticed in the ‘Read!’ section of the event page several of Dr. Offit’s books are suggested.

MJD says,

Fortunately, Dr. Offit’s books about vaccines are also available in many libraries.

Why is MJD’s book about vaccines excluded/banned in libraries?

MJD, the CDC, and the FDA are concerned.

@ Orac’s minions,

Vaccine safety advocates are pro-vaccine, when proven correct.

Why is MJD’s book about vaccines excluded/banned in libraries?

You’d have to provide proof of it’s being banned, and since you never provide any proof doing so for this would be ground-shaking.

Conjecture about why they might be excluded [not the same as banning]: because of the pure bullshit the author[s] present in lieu of valid science.

I just watched Virulent. Very nice to have a video to share with others in our post-literate world.

If there is a follow up or viewer’s guide, perhaps an addendum about how not all vaccines have sterilizing immunity, mutation / variants, and how mRNA vaccines reduce but don’t completely eliminate transmission could be helpful (for obvious reasons). Might also be nice to have a mention of how hospitalizations and deaths have tended to be Antivaxxers and Republicans since the start of vaccination for Covid. Maybe the soundbite of the former President urging his followers to get vaccinated – especially the clip of him in conversation with Candice Owens (ugh) – would be good to highlight. I’ve found this disparity is not a surprise to most people (except to Antivaxxers) but the extent of this shift is a shock, especially since it is entirely preventable and not a direct cause of inequities in the delivery of health care, but due to propaganda. If excess deaths are considered we’re now passing the death toll in the USA of deaths in all wars combined, from 1776 to today (at least on the USA side).

@ Michael J Doshniak

Libraries have limited budgets and last on their lists are books with little to no validity. However, for instance, my local library sometimes accepts donated books for shelving. Sometimes. So, take some copies of your book to a few local libraries and/or community college/university libraries and offer a free copy. See what happens???

I did check Amazon and there were two reviews of your book “Vaccine Delivery and Autism” (The Latex Connection):

“The current book in question is merely a hypothesis with no scientific investigation/experimentation, no peer review and definitely noone else repeating.
Furthermore, it would appear that Mr Dockniak has a conflict of interest, as he holds patents on artificial latex compounds[…], which would mean it was in his interest for his product to be used in favour of natural latex from plants.”

“Where the authors veer from unsupported speculation into outright error is when they speculate that “genetic material” (mRNA is mentioned prominently) from the rubber plant is somehow “leaching” from latex-containing stoppers into the vaccines. While it is possible (although unlikely) that some tiny amount of DNA might survive the process of converting latex into rubber, RNA (including mRNA) is too unstable to survive the journey from rubber tree to the processing plant, let alone the heat of processing. The authors are very passionate about their hypotheses, but passion cannot make up for their lack of basic knowledge of biology.”

I then checked out your article: Denise H. Dunn and Michael J Dochniak (2022 Sep 23). Natural Rubber Latex Precautions for Children. Annals of Pediatrics and Child Health.

I did a search of the National Library of Medicines online database PubMed, didn’t find it. Then did check of journal. You have to pay to get articles published, around $2,000. Also did search of PubMed for journal. Found only abstracts from four articles over last decade. Finally, found a ratings list: Scimago Journal Ranks 2021 Subject Category: Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health. Not even listed among total of 320 journals. Wow!

One abstract of article by you listed in PubMed:

Michael J Doshniak (2007). Autism spectrum disorders – Exogenous protein insult. Medical Hypotheses. Almost no university in United States even subscribes to the journal. Medical Hypotheses, you do understand what a hypothesis is, especially one not backed by any substantial valid research.

Being published in Medical Hypotheses is one of the biggest red flags in pseudoscience.

To be fair to MJD, Medical Hypotheses is ideally suited to his work.

There isn’t a journal named Medical Guesswork.

“So, take some copies of your book to a few local libraries and/or community college/university libraries and offer a free copy. See what happens???”

Under the Dewey Decimal System classification, MJD’s books would be eligible for filing under 599-5999.0005, Self-Indulgent Crap. But there’s a lot of vanity press stuff competing for limited space in that section.

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

@ Michael J Doshniak

I forgot to mention there are a few credible journals who charge a fee to publish articles. The main one in US is Public Library of Science. There is also one in the UK. Doesn’t change the fact that the journal you published in, Medical Hypotheses, at the time didn’t have peer-review and the one you published in appears almost nowhere.

I should also mention that some people do have allergies to Latex Rubber and PubMed has a number of articles on this; but allergies are NOT DNA or mRNA. But, of course, as many others who post comment here, you give NO indication you understand even the basics of immunology or biogenetics.

@ Joel A. Harrison,

Please reference where MJD states that the allergenic proteins in natural rubber latex are DNA or mRNA.

MJD says,

A classic example of misguided entrenchment, Joel. I’ve never said the Hev-b proteins are DNA or mRNA.

“Keep Orac’s minions close and Joel A. Harrison closer” – MJD (Vaccine Safety Advocate)

Let’s summarize the comments on MJD’s effort.

1) Conjecture
2) a hypothesis with no scientific investigation/experimentation
3) no peer review
4) definitely no one else repeating
5) Mr Dockniak has a conflict of interest
6) from unsupported speculation into outright error
7) You have to pay to get articles published, around $2,000
8) Medical Guesswork
9) Self-Indulgent Crap
10) vanity press stuff
11) you give NO indication you understand even the basics of immunology or biogenetics.

MJD says,

What are you scared of? Understand, MJD is a vaccine safety advocate NOT anti-vaccine. Hmm, I’m not sure that matters anymore…

@ Orac,

In this instance, is “vaccine safety advocate” a legitimate classification?

MJD’s last comment on this post.

In respectful insolence:

Q. Why are Orac’s minions like Gold Fish.
A. They’re fun to look at and all we have to do is feed them.

Wait a minute, do I have to pay $12.50 to watch that film? Is there something that I am missing?

@ Igor Chudov

Yep, $12.50. It is not to give them a profit; but to contribute to their work. And it was absolutely the best film I have ever seen on vaccinations.

@ Orac

The film was great. Paul Offit’s contributions were great; but one sentence he said did make me laugh. He said “nature is always trying to kill us.” NOPE. Viruses, bacteria, etc. have NO intentions. In fact, viruses aren’t even alive, just floating around and accidentally bumping into a cell they can enter and killing the cell is not their purpose. I thought, well then, lightening, earthquakes, tornados, etc. are all continuously trying to kill us. LOL

I sent an e-mail to others suggesting they watch it.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr is one of the most despicable people I can think of. I really don’t understand how he went from an excellent environmental lawyer to what he has become. I read his book “The Real Anthony Fauci” and was appalled, basically a work of fiction; but evil fiction. Oh well.

I also found on PBS their 2020 documentary “The Vaccine Wars”. Not as good as this one; but it was also good.

I look forward to Q & A.

Comments are closed.


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