This afternoon I went to Midtown Art Cinema with my husband to see VAXXED. Over the past few years, I had begun to have more and more questions about vaccines as my blind confidence in the US healthcare system shifted. I was intrigued that a movie about vaccines was so controversial as to be blocked from the Tribeca Film Festival. When I found that VAXXED was coming to Atlanta, I knew I had to see it. Since any decision on vaccinating any future children would involve my husband, I wanted him to see it also.
I received a Masters in Public Health at the same time I worked towards my MD. I pursued a degree in public health because I wanted to do more than just impact the health of the individual. I wanted a perspective that would allow me to have a broader scope of positive influence. For many in public health and medicine in general, the individuals that work at CDC are placed on a pedestal. We view them and their research as the epitome of scientific excellence. We regard their findings and recommendations as the gospel. We trust them to pursue hard science and trust that when they publish data, they are not being influenced by anything more that the pursuit of truth. I was shattered when I saw VAXXED because this movie told the story of a situation where something other than truth motivated certain professionals involved in safety research involving the MMR vaccine. I learned for the first time about the whistle-blower Dr. William Thompson. The truth he exposed, revealed in black and white an instance where life-saving information was withheld. Information that could have saved countless lives.
My heart broke for the parents of children with autism. There was story after story of beautiful babies who were developing perfectly and engaged with their families up until they received the MMR vaccine. I fought back tears as Polly Tomey shared how she defended her choice to follow the pediatrician’s advice to give her child the MMR vaccine despite concerns expressed by her mom and a good friend. Our patient’s place such trust in us as physicians. As physicians, we place our trust in organizations such as the CDC to give us the information we need to keep our patients safe. It changes you when you find that those you thought you could trust could not be trusted.
Last fall was the first year that I declined the influenza vaccine. Previously I had followed the party line regarding immunization and encouraged my pregnant patients and adolescents to do the same. Over the past year, I had become more silent on the issue. I only mentioned vaccinations if asked directly by the patient. This is because I already had too many questions. I still have many questions. After watching VAXXED, one thing is clear, there is a definite link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Children are being damaged and something needs to be done. As an OB/GYN, I strongly encourage you to educate yourself about vaccines before you get vaccinated during pregnancy or vaccinate your children. The National Vaccine Information Center is one of many useful resources. There is much that I have learned recently that I was not taught in medical school and is not part of my Continuing Medical Education. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t settle until you have an answer. Don’t presume that physicians know everything there is to know about vaccine safety. The MMR vaccine is a case where we only knew what we had been told and that was a lie.
I definitely encourage you to go and see VAXXED this coming week while it is at Midtown Art Cinema. If you already have a child with autism, there are many resources for support such as The Autism File. Dr. William Thompson is willing to testify but can only do so if he is subpoenaed. Talk to your congressional representative and encourage them to subpoena Dr. Thompson so that the truth can get out. Autism is a burgeoning epidemic. Now is the time to take action!
* UPDATE Since writing this blog I found out about another great vaccine resource by Marcella of VaxTruth.org. This is a must read for all pregnant women, new moms and those who care for pregnant women.
About the Author:
Hi. I am Kathryn Azelia Hale, MD, MPH, a.k.a. Dr. Zeels. I’m a board-certified OB/GYN who was crazy enough to have gotten a Masters in Public Health while completing medical school at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. I’m originally from the beautiful island of Bermuda where my siblings and parents still live. For most of my life I went by my middle name, hence the childhood nickname “Zeels”. I’m married to the very handsome Keith Antoine Hale, educator, actor and musician extraordinaire. He’s the reason this island girl ended up in North Georgia.
I’ve always been a healer at heart. Around the age of 3, I reportedly told my mom’s OB/GYN that I wanted to be an “ob-ta-trishun”. I contemplated other areas in health care including physical therapy and the specialties of neurology and urology during my medical school rotations (when we get real-life exposure in a clinical setting). Life brought me back to my first love. During my clinical rotations in Poole, England, I fell in love with women’s health once again while basking in the beauty of birth alongside midwives who largely ran the labor and delivery unit. Since then, I’ve been privileged to develop strong traditional and minimally invasive gynecologic surgical skills through residency training at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.
Over the past two years, I have developed a more holistic approach to my practice of medicine. I now describe myself as a plant-strong holistic OB/GYN with herbalist tendencies. I have a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and am currently enrolled in a course on Herbal Medicine for Women’s Health by Aviva Romm, MD. I still apply conventional therapies where needed, but I now preferentially seek out opportunities to help the body heal itself through nutrition and natural therapies including herbal medicine, essential oils, and mind-body techniques.
I’ve always been inspired by the scripture “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b). Through recent experiences, I have come to see this verse as referring to more than just an esoteric spiritual concept. I believe that we are meant to thrive emotionally, physically and financially. We are meant to have a rich full life in the here and now. I believe that through a holistic approach to wellness we can get there – we can achieve an abundant health life!