By Siouxsie Wiles 02/07/2017

As a parent, I know what it’s like to worry about whether you are doing the right thing for your child. When my daughter was born, I couldn’t quite believe that after just a few days in hospital we’d be going home in sole charge of a small infant. Didn’t they realise we were unqualified?!

Aside from giving her a name she wouldn’t hate us for, one of the first decisions we had to make was whether we would get our precious two-day old baby vaccinated against TB, a nasty bacterial lung disease that was prevalent in the part of London where we lived. As it turns out, I’m a scientist, and TB is one of the diseases I study. But even though I knew what the TB bacterium does to the human body, and just how safe the vaccine is, it was still hard to stand by and watch my precious baby being pricked with a needle and injected with an actual bacterium, even one I knew wouldn’t harm her. How would she react? Would she get a fever? While I worried about that, the scientist in me also knew that a mild fever was a sign her body was doing what it was supposed to be doing – reacting to a relatively harmless foreign invader to protect her from the real deal.

As a parent, I understand that it can feel like not vaccinating is the safest thing to do. You’ve probably heard that some people say that vaccines contain mercury, and may cause autism. Isn’t it best to be on the safe side, and not put our children at risk? How bad can the diseases be anyway? The answer is pretty bad. Maybe your child will be all right, but the truth is that vaccine-preventable diseases can be devastating to the vulnerable people in your community. By vaccinating, you are helping to cast an incredible force field over your friends and neighbours. A forcefield that can stop many awful bacteria and viruses from infecting those most at risk, including babies too young to be vaccinated.

People of Whakatane, there is a gaping hole in your region’s force field. Vaccination rates in your area have been steadily declining and you rank 35 out of 36 in the country for the number of children who are fully vaccinated.

I’ve just heard that the film ‘Vaxxed’ is due to be shown at a Whakatane cinema. I use the word film loosely, as ‘Vaxxed’ is an emotive piece of anti-vaccination propaganda that will attempt to manipulate you into believing that there is a link between the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine and autism. This simply isn’t true. Many many studies, involving millions of children all over the world, have shown no link. Instead, researchers have found is that there are differences in the brains of children with autism well before the age they would receive the MMR vaccine.

What is true is that the man behind the film, Andrew Wakefield, started the MMR-autism scare. He carried out unethical research on sick children and lied about their medical records to make money and get his work published in a prestigious medical journal. That paper has now been retracted, and Mr Wakefield struck off by the General Medical Council in the UK. If you have time, it’s well worth reading how investigative journalist Brian Deer uncovered the fraud, and the masses of money Mr Wakefield made from it.

Maybe you’ve heard or read that ‘Vaxxed’ isn’t an anti-vaccination film, but a documentary about a whistle-blower and corruption inside the United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In that case, if you choose to watch the film know that the sound recordings you will hear have been manipulated and the ‘whistle-blower’ doesn’t stand by the film.

I understand that it can be hard to know who to trust.** Should you trust the people who endorse the film like the athlete and celebrity Allison Roe, an elected member of the Waitemata District Health Board, or Dr Mike Godfrey, a retired Mount Maunganui GP? Or should you trust Dr Lance O’Sullivan who took to the stage at the Kaitaia screening of the film, imploring people to vaccinate their children? The government-funded Immunisation Advisory Centre is also against the film.

If you are worried about vaccination, please don’t be swayed by ‘Vaxxed’. It isn’t telling you the truth. The overwhelming evidence is that vaccines, including the MMR vaccine, are safe and not linked to autism. The majority of paediatricians and doctors, as well as advocacy group Altogether Autism, support this position.

It’s time we stopped stigmatising people with autism and worked together to make sure no one in Aotearoa New Zealand is needlessly harmed by vaccine-preventable infectious diseases. Will you help?

With best wishes,


Dr Siouxsie Wiles, PhD

*Vaxxed screenings are also scheduled for Wellington, Queenstown, Whitianga, Hamilton and Te Kuiti.

**In reality, who we trust and what we believe very much depends on our worldview and experiences. It’s worth checking out this excellent comic on how hard it is to believe things that challenge our worldview, as well as this short talk on how Facebook and the algorithms that personalise the internet for us influence how we see the world.

0 Responses to “An open letter to the people of Whakatane (and the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand)*”

    • Thank you Siouxsie, and thanks Reasonable Hank for posting that video in the comments.

  • “I understand that it can be hard to know who to trust.** Should you trust the people who endorse the film like the athlete and celebrity Allison Roe, an elected member of the Waitemata District Health Board, or Dr Mike Godfrey, a retired Mount Maunganui GP? ”

    They are in it for the money! Organic shills!!!! Big Homeopathy!!!!

    No, seriously. Alison even promotes her own line of sunscreen stating that “People deserve to have the choice to go natural, chemical free and take care of themselves and the environment.”

    How science and medical knowledge bereft can you be?

  • “Vaxxed is anti-vax”. You clearly haven’t seen it. Stop quoting other people’s reports and opinions and write an actual review of the film. What are you all so scared of? If the movie is just telling lies, as you suggest then you have nothing to worry about. Sweep it away and carry on. If it’s telling the truth then you may have a lot to worry about.
    It’s so horrific how emotive this topic is. It almost feels like when parents question “why is there Mercury in my kids vaccine?” They’ve suggested the earth might not be round and get attacked, bullied and tormented. Parents all want the best for their kids. Let’s all focus on that and allow room for discussion and maybe even a little kindness.

    • This is not about kindness. Its about intellectual rigour and honesty. Both of which are lacking in Vaxxed.

      I agree that, largely, parents want the best for their kids. Trouble is, a lot of parents are poorly equipped to make informed and fact-based (note you need both) decisions and so they revert to emotion.

      We all do it to some degree – that’s why some people send their kids to private schools despite the science showing it adds no value. Some drive their kids to school every day in the mistaken belief its safer.

      And some avoid immunising their children in the mistaken belief that vaccines are a higher risk than the disease they protect against. Wanting the best doesn’t mean you are equipped to assess whats best.

      • So Ashton, deflecting yet again. It seems the reply box is not available so that I can reply to the comment on the Simpsonwood Verstraaten Transcript. So, I reply here instead. The mere fact that you have to asked me to explain the obvious about this document, which you have referred to in you previous comment as having been ‘refuted,’ which one would think indicated you had read it,.. come now Ashton and you say that I am the one being oblique or obtuse. I have named the document, which you ought you have no trouble finding. This is akin to those who have ‘not’ viewed the documentary Vaxxed, Fom Coverup to Catastrophe, choosing to write disparagingly and with bias about its content. Regarding the documentary, do you agree that Dr William Thompson must be subpoenaed?

    • It is clear that many of the people commenting on this blog, have not read, or may not be aware of the Simpsonwood Transcripts. As you they are all so well informed and capable researchers , they will have no problem locating these. The Transcripts speak for themselves. The truth is coming, so best be on the right side of history.
      By the way anyone care to explain why a person with agammaglobulinaemia can sail through measles with no problems….Throws doubt on the whole antibody concept don’t you think?

      • Hi Fiona – I struggle with your oblique references and opaque implications.

        Are you referring to Simpsonwood in 2000 and the (since refuted) concerns about thimerosal?

        • Oblique references and opaque implications? You must have me confused with someone else Ashton.
          Attempts to discredit my comment, were an epic fail… Just another example of a knee jerk reaction, to an unpalatable truth I suspect. If you have not been able to locate the Simpsonwood/ Verstraaten Meeting Transcript, you are not looking in the right place. Refuted??.. I think not…However, if you have read these and apologies if you have, could you refer to the Transcript and what you say has been refuted? ‘Embargoed’ evidence from a meeting… yes I love that transparency and the word ’embargo,’ appears a number of times in the Transcript and not in a good way. I understand what is meant, when reading the the comment, where one of those present at the meeting, refers to making certain, that his new grandchild would ‘not be receiving the vaccine with the thimerosal in it,’ …It shows how concerned he was, yet willing to participate in concealing the information pertaining to thimerosal, disclosed in the meeting, concealing it from the general public.
          Using the word ‘refuted’ is wearing a bit thin Ashton; please change the tape. I must say, it makes a change from ‘debunked.’ All the best locating the Transcript (again) and after you have read it, (again), maybe you will be better placed to comment on ‘the Transcript,’ rather than try to dismiss the concealment contained within it, or as I have said, discredit me. The Simpsonwood Verstraaten Meeting cannot be disregarded and has not be refuted.

          • Hi Fiona – thanks, but no thanks.

            If you can’t do the simple courtesy of clearly identifying the document you refer to and the specific issues you think are problematic, I’ll pass on trying to discuss it with you – we would be wasting each other’s time.


  • what a pile of …! Vaxxed is an anti corruption movie so you should look hard at anyone who does not want this stamped out
    I do not need to know who to trust as am well qualified enough to do my own research and it is not this souxsie character with her dubious assumptions. Stupid articles like this just make me question more

  • Your ignorance is showing. You should really do some research before you post things like this encouraging people to put their children in harm’s way without a shred of anything to back up your position. Vaccines DO cause grievous harm. Have you read a vaccine insert for Dtap? If vaccines do not cause autism, them why is it listed right there on the package insert as a possible side effect, right before SIDS? If the vaccination rates of Whakatane are falling – where are the epidemics? Where’s the rampant disease and gigantic death tolls? There aren’t any, just as there aren’t any among us adults who’ve never had a shot since childhood. They’ve all worn off and we’re not sick. Surprised?

  • This article is a or piece for the pharmaceutical industry. The sound recordings have been manipulated? That remark is utter hogwash. Every thing in this poor excuse of an article can be disproven. Go see Vaxxed and judge for yourself. The truth is vaccines spread more diseases than they prevent. What is Souxie afraid of by people seeing the documentary? Don’t be a sheep. See it for yourself and decide. Don’t be fooled by paid shills.

  • @David W Darby – I’ve watched Vaxxed myself online and can confirm that it is indeed “an emotive piece of anti-vaccination propaganda that will attempt to manipulate you into believing that there is a link between the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine and autism”. That is its main aim. That is why people are concerned about it being shown around the country.

  • ““Vaxxed is anti-vax”. You clearly haven’t seen it.”

    Like Peter, I have watched the film too. I’ve also looked into some of the claims made. (I had thought to write about the film at the time it was first screened in NZ, but let it go at the time.)

    If you look closer the film is largely Wakefield trying to make out that one of his earlier claims was “right all along”. It pays to remember that he’s also one of the directors of the film, not just featuring in it, and that his earlier claims where shown to be based on fraud.

    What he uses to make that claim is wrong, however.

    The catch to understanding that is that you need to know what is not said in the film. What’s left out shows up the claims made in the movie.

    The CDC never did “hide” a subset of the data. A subset of the data were people who got the MMR vaccine after they were diagnosed for autism. They have to be left out in a study looking for the possibility of the vaccine causing autism, as they’re plainly not candidates: they already were diagnosed for autism before they got their vaccines.

    (There’s no “hiding” going on either – the original study noted the subset in a table in the research paper.)

    The film leaves out that the reanalysis it touts was retracted by the journal, well over a year before the film was released. It was a flawed effort (to be polite).

    I could go on, there’s a lot the film leaves out.

    You have someone who has previously been fraudulent trying to assert he was right by offering even more ‘not really true’ claims. The film is remarkable—for the sheer chutzpah of the lies.

    I was left wondering if Wakefield has the ‘I am never wrong’ thing a few otherwise very bright people have, but to a pathological degree – one where he’ll keep claiming he’s right despite being quite wrong.

    The film is being screened because a small number of people are ‘stuck’ on the idea that vaccines cause autism despite this being extensively looked into and found to simply not be there. There is no good evidence for it, and a many large careful studies showing there is no link.

    We’d love to know the causes of autism, but it’s not vaccines. We do know the causes of a small fraction of autism cases; they’re due to genetic differences. Vaccines have never been a likely cause of autism: in addition to being strongly genetic, evidence indicates autism starts very early – prenatally, before the child is born (before they receive any vaccines).

      • Mischele: Like Siouxie I paused when my children were scheduled for their immunizations and like her they are fully immunised. I am so comfortable that my wife and I made this decision, it is the correct one, especially when I see news of so many unnecessary illnesses in the news; mumps in Auckland and Waikato and on it goes.

        The video is a standard Gish Gallop by a antivacer; just rubbish.

        • In its court filing,[PDF] Chatom alleged:

          Merck fraudulently represented and continues to falsely represent in its labeling and elsewhere that its Mumps Vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95 percent or higher.

          In reality, Merck knows and has taken affirmative steps to conceal — by using improper testing techniques and falsifying test data — that its Mumps Vaccine is, and has been since at least 1999, far less than 95 percent effective. …

          Merck designed a testing methodology that evaluated its vaccine against a less virulent strain of the mumps virus. After the results failed to yield Merck’s desired efficacy, Merck abandoned the methodology and concealed the study’s findings. You can find Court details under Chatom Primary Care, Alabama Corporation.. vs Merck & Co

        • Reuters…copy and pasted, but as I have said, you can find the Court details on line..

          By Brendan Pierson

          Two former Merck & Co Inc scientists accusing the drugmaker of falsifying tests of its exclusive mumps vaccine said in a court filing on Monday that Merck is refusing to respond to questions about the efficacy of the vaccine.

          Attorneys at Constantine Cannon, who represent the scientists, asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne Sitarski of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to compel Merck to respond to their discovery request, which asks the company to give the efficacy of the vaccine as a percentage.

          Instead of answering the question, the letter said, Merck has been consistently evasive, using “cut-and-paste” answers saying it cannot run a new clinical trial to determine the current efficacy, and providing only data from 50 years ago.

          “Merck should not be permitted to raise as one of its principal defenses that its vaccine has a high efficacy, which is accurately represented on the product’s label, but then refuse to answer what it claims that efficacy actually is,” the letter said.

          A representative of Merck could not immediately be reached for comment.

          The two scientists, Stephen Krahling and Joan Wlochowski, filed their whistleblower lawsuit in 2010 claiming Merck, the only company licensed by the Food and Drug Administration to sell a mumps vaccine in the United States, skewed tests of the vaccine by adding animal antibodies to blood samples.

          As a result, they said, Merck was able to produce test results showing that the vaccine was 95 percent effective, even though more accurate tests would have shown a lower success rate. The plaintiffs said these false results kept competitors from trying to produce their own mumps vaccines, since they were unable to match the effectiveness Merck claimed.

          In 2012, Alabama-based Chatom Primary Care and two individual doctors, all purchasers of the vaccine, filed a proposed antitrust class action based on the allegations in the whistleblower suit. The two suits are now being coordinated before U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones and Magistrate Judge Sitarski.
          Also In Intel

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          U.S.-Russian ceasefire deal holding in southwest Syria: Observatory, rebels

          The case is United States ex rel Krahling et al v. Merck & Co Inc, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 10-4374.

          For whistleblowers: Gordon Schnell of Constantine Cannon

          For Merck: Lisa Dykstra of Morgan Lewis & Bockius

  • I doubt very much that Dr. Wiles had actually seen VAXXED. Please see it for yourself and you will find a very interesting documentary based on facts that will make you think about vaccine safety. Highly recommended.

  • I read this bit of drivel with gritted teeth because as usual the “scientific” community feels the need to behave like they’re the be all end all answer to all our medical woes. What this group of people DON’T tell you is that many children ARE damaged from vaccines and some die. And while I’ve never had to get the TB vaccination as I’m in the USA; we don’t vaccinate here because the RISKS outweigh the number of people who could be exposed. To start with; many of the damaged kids and adults are not diagnosed with a vaccine injury either because the doctor is unaware of the symptoms (although they surely should be) or because he/she doesn’t want to admit to the family that this was the cause of the damage done. SIDS a rather vague term for an unexplained death is on the uprise ; coinciding with the rise in vaccinations in the last ten years. What I DO know is this. My daughter was damaged by the whole cell Dpt in the 1980’s and never recovered her immune system; sickly until the day she died of an asthma attack a year and a half ago at 33. She had allergies to all fruits, most veggies, all trees, grasses and weeds. She had round the clock screaming for months (the dpt scream) from what we found out later in her life to be a brain injury. She had asthma so bad went flight for life 4 times in 5 years. This is a family that ate well, exercised, drank water; very little junk food or sweets. But she was at the clinic an average of every 3 weeks for the first TWO YEARS of her life. My daugher never broke a 100 lbs and never weighed over 95 lbs. Her death was not diagnosed as vaccine injured but was very much in fact that very thing. Vaccines kill the immune system causing allergies, asthma, skin conditions, neurological issues and sleep apnea of which many to believe the cause of SIDS. Before you listen to a self important white coated “scientist” I suggest doing your homework and taking the action you find best for your child. It may well save their life.