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Anti-Vaxxers Couldn’t Stop This Student Documentary About Vaccination, but They Sure Tried

It's like a vaccine against ignorance.


A group of students at Carlsbad High School in California wanted to make a documentary about the risks of under-vaccination and became a target for the anti-vaccination movement, who insisted they were being coerced into making propaganda. After years of work and pushback from opponents, the film has finally been released.

The controversy started in 2012, when a local paper ran a story about the 16 teens in the school’s award-winning chstvFILMS film and journalism program. Their film, The Invisible Threat, was not yet even finished, but anti-vaccination activists quickly became convinced that the students were going to portray the issue in an unduly lopsided fashion.

As we’ve discussed in the past, there’s nothing unduly lopsided about accurately portraying scientific consensus. Seriously. The real distortion would be making both sides seem equal. Still, the team behind the film did their homework, so to speak, and made a point to research both sides as they approached the issue.

According to the students themselves, the goal of the film was to really get to the bottom of the debate. They thought the original suggestion for the documentary from local Rotary Club volunteers, which was to simply detail how the immune system and vaccines work, was too boring. Instead, they made an effort to dig into arguments for and against vaccination, and what they found even changed some of their minds.

After reading studies, talking to experts, interviewing parents, and trying to give both sides a fair shake, they found that the controversy was manufactured from nothing. As student Allison DeGour told the LA Times, “It was all social controversy. There was no science controversy.”

Still, their project was almost shut down by their advisors. And protestors attended a screening, which caused another screening on-campus at the high school to be canceled. The students didn’t like feeling as though they were being pushed around, and they succeeded in keeping it alive. You can watch the trailer below, rent the documentary for $5 online, and make donations to keep the CHSTV program running.

The trailer looks really great, and the medical community seems as impressed as we are. Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said simply: “One of the best films made on this subject. It’s wonderful!”

(via io9, image via The Invisible Threat)

Previously in disease research

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