The Best New Documentary You’ve Never Heard Of

Recently, I was lucky enough to get to see a new documentary that has been making the rounds of film festivals throughout the nation. The Greater Good is a film that truly provides a balanced perspective on the issue of vaccine safety, showcasing a variety of views on the subject.

The movie blends together the stories of three families who believe that their lives have been dramatically changed by vaccine injuries. Gabi Swank was an all-American honor student, a cheerleader from Kansas, who suffered seizures and strokes after receiving the Gardasil HPV vaccine. Jordan King regressed into autism after a routine vaccination, and his parents worry about what the future holds for him. Meanwhile, the Christners lost their five-month-old daughter after she suffered a severe reaction to a vaccine.

Contrasting with these heart-rending stories are interviews with a number of experts in the field of vaccine safety – experts from both sides of the debate. We hear from dedicated vaccine advocates such as Dr. Paul Offit (Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Dr. Norman W. Baylor (Director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review), and Dr. Melinda Wharton (Deputy Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases). At the same time, the filmmakers also present the scientific arguments presented by those calling for greater vaccine oversight, including Dr. Bob Sears (author of “The Vaccine Book”), and Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center. The film brings attention to the issues with drug companies that do not adequately test vaccines, preferring instead to fast-track them; as well as the legislators who protect pharmaceutical companies and the advertisers who frighten people into getting vaccines by creating an atmosphere of paranoia.

As a sign of its sensitive and balanced handling of the subject, The Greater Good has won a number of awards, including the Cinematic Vision Award at the Amsterdam Film Festival. Most recently, the movie received the Second Annual Koroni Award at the Sidewalk Film Festival for a documentary addressing a critical public health issue from the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

This is hardly surprising to those who have seen the movie. The Greater Good highlights the essential dichotomy in vaccine safety: mandatory vaccination for “the greater good” of the population at large versus the right of people to have control over what is introduced into their bodies and those of their children. If there is a chance that vaccines can have horribly debilitating, or even fatal side effects, shouldn’t people be allowed to choose whether or not to receive those vaccines? Or does the possibility that vaccinating everyone will prevent greater numbers of people from having that disease trump their right to decide what is best for their lives and their families?

Everyone must reach their own answers on this issue, and The Greater Good provides a solid starting point from which to begin forming that decision. For more information, check out the official film website here, or other reviews of the film here, here and here.

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