In 2013, biologist Dr. Brian Hooker received a call from a Senior Scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who led the agency’s pivotal, but now questionable, 2004 study on the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and its link to autism.
The scientist, Dr. William Thompson, confessed that the CDC had omitted critical data in their final report that revealed a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. Over several months, Dr. Hooker records the phone calls made to him by Dr. Thompson who provided the confidential data destroyed by his colleagues at the CDC.
Dr. Hooker enlisted the help of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the British gastroenterologist falsely accused of starting the anti-vax movement in 1998 with his paper on a unique inflammatory bowel disease. In his ongoing effort to advocate for children’s health, and recognizing the failure of the news media to report on the CDC Whistleblower, Dr. Wakefield directed Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe to examine the evidence behind the appalling cover-up committed by the government agency charged with protecting the health of American citizens.
Vaxxed was accepted into and announced in the lineup of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival with the support of co-founder Robert De Niro, whose then wife believed that vaccinations played a role in their son’s diagnosis of Autism. Amid unprecedented controversy and calls for censorship, Tribeca pulled Vaxxed from its lineup, after which, De Niro made several television appearances endorsing the film, stating “Everyone should see this film and make up their own mind.”
On April 1, 2016, Vaxxed premiered at the prestigious Angelika Film Center (NYC) to sold out audiences, continuing for several weeks and launching into a national release that grossed over $1.4 million at the box office. Following the theatrical release, Vaxxed opened up to a theatrical-on-demand release, with 400+ additional screening across the country and sold out theaters and events in several countries around the world. The documentary was also streamed and released on DVD, with the DVD often trending above several newly released blockbuster films on Amazon charts.
From the initial release in Manhattan at the Angelika, parents began to approach producer, Polly Tommey, whose story and son Billy are featured in the film, to share their own story of vaccine injury. Parents who were called crazy by their doctor after they saw the reactions in their children, parents whose doctors told them their children were the one-in-a-million sacrificial lamb for herd immunity, parents who have felt alone, censored, terrified, and trapped in silence, had somewhere to go, and someone to talk to. Recognizing the every-growing censorship battle ahead of an already marginalized community, Tommey took out her cell phone and began to live-stream these stories.
From April 2016, Tommey travelled the country, documenting thousands of stories from people who have experienced vaccine injury, and the doctors who treat them. Often dubbed anti-vaxxers,’ they often prefer the term ‘ex-vaxxer,’ to show they were once in favor of vaccinations, and received their vaccinations, only to find out the hard way that the risk-benefit ratio was not what they’d been told. The ‘Vaxxed Nation’ bus tour collected the names of those throughout the tour who shared their story, or wanted the name of their injured loved one listed on the bus. To date, there are 7,000 names signed on the tour bus.