Contagion: Movie or Pro-Vaccine Propaganda?
*This post may contain movie spoilers*
The latest action thriller hitting movie screens across America is Contagion – a fast-paced thriller about a deadly pandemic that sweeps across the world, killing millions as scientists race to find a vaccine. Reviewers have been impressed by the seeming reality of the scenario, many wondering how plausible it is, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the filmmakers have done nothing to soothe their fears.
In one interview, the screenwriter said that he had consulted the CDC in developing the script, and claims that the movie scenario is not all that far removed from what could happen in the real world. He added that the head of the National Institute for Health and the CDC “were big fans of the movie,” having certified that the science behind the movie was accurate.
The CDC’s Senior Adviser on Crisis Communication, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, further stressed the movie’s connection to reality. In an interview with HollywoodLife.com, she said, “I know it’s pretty surprising but yes this could happen,” adding that the movie “captures the true struggle that would take place if a real deadly virus were to emerge.” She even went so far as to mention two new cases of influenza reported by the CDC: “We found strains of pig, bird and human virus we are monitoring that always have the possibility of turning into something like Contagion.”
The movie has been hailed by pro-vaccine advocates, with Dr. Ward Robinson, medical director of the Guilford County Department of Public Health, saying that if anything, viewers should realize the importance of being vaccinated. In an interview with the News & Record, he said, “I’m not convinced all those human efforts from hand hygiene to human distancing make much difference … If anything makes a difference, it’s immunity. You have to get that flu shot.” He added that people need to think of being vaccinated as “a selfless act to help our families, our loved ones and our communities.”
Contagion takes a shot at vaccine safety advocates as well, through the character of a blogger peddling a worthless homeopathic remedy and telling his audience that the government cannot be trusted. An article at Live Science seizes on this character to further deride those of us who question vaccine safety as ignorant and motivated primarily by money. Meanwhile, the movie celebrates government authority, with at least two of the main characters (played by Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet) being doctors at the CDC), and characters being made to wear wristbands to show that they had been vaccinated at a certain point of the movie.
In all, the movie fits into a long line of pro-vaccine propaganda, using fear to market drugs that may not be as safe as they are advertised to be. The same reasoning is behind the conference on anthrax preparedness and response co-hosted by Emergent BioSolutions, the creator of the anthrax vaccine, that is taking place this month. As we have documented on this website, the anthrax vaccine created by Emergent BioSolutions is dated, dangerous, and not very effective. In order to sell it to people, the company needs to play on people’s fears – create an atmosphere of paranoia where people are less prone to asking questions. The movie does the same for vaccines in general, marketing them as the safe, proven cure, and painting those who push for greater oversight and safety as deluded at best and actively evil at worst – instead of acknowledging that the field of vaccine science is as flawed as any other, and that vaccines themselves can harm when enforcing policy is placed ahead of the science that supports the policy.