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The Greater Good: A Mother’s Review

By Stephanie Dawn

A new documentary urges debate on vaccine safety.

A dear friend who doesn’t have children asked me (a mother of two) to watch a new film about the vaccine debate, because she trusted my take on it. Fifteen minutes into The Greater Good, I called my friend and I called the director, Chris Pilaro, to tell them my thoughts on what I’d seen thus far. I hadn’t known what to expect, but what revealed itself was so stellar, I couldn’t wait until the film was over to urge my friend to support it.

What I appreciated most about this film was its balanced stance. This deeply emotional debate has divided far more than it has united, but it’s clear that unity is important here. I have been tuned in to the vital information of evidence-based medicine that Barbara Loe Fisher has been sharing via the NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center) for years now, including in the Summer 2010 issue of this very magazine. So immediately I was pleased at the substantial amount of time devoted to her in The Greater Good.

Similarly, in the true craft of creating the delicate balance that this film does so beautifully, Dr. Paul Offit is philosophically to the right of Barbara Loe Fisher, and Dr. Lawrence Palevsky is to the left. As the central triad of the film, what each offers is solid. Dr. Offit and Dr. Palevsky represent the medical field, sharing different experiences and perspectives. The contrast between these doctors illustrates that the vaccine debate exists in medicine, not just in living rooms and at well-baby visits.

The Greater Good was clearly designed to educate, and challenge popular consensus in the process. It seriously questions the seemingly unquestionable (to most American pediatricians) ways in which we vaccinate our children. The film, first and foremost, calls for more research, and will hopefully help start a much-needed rational discussion on the topic.

Each personal story in The Greater Good was positively riveting, as well as heartbreaking to witness; I imagine they will be so for any parent watching. It’s not hard to connect the dots here: I have been connecting them for years. While the film doesn’t come right out and say it, to me, there is absolutely no question that there is a link between vaccinations and autism and ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). I’ve seen it with my own dear friend, whose child now registers as ASD. My friend, whose journey toward ASD had been gradual, is certain her boy was vaccine injured. The guilt she feels is enormous. Her story reminds me of the mother of the young girl in The Greater Good whose desire to be “one less” was sold by Merck’s seductive, MTV-like advertising of Gardasil, and whose health declined severely with each Gardasil shot.

Just like my friend, the parents in The Greater Good aren’t crazy, and they’re not to be subjugated and written off as “fringe.” They are people just like you and me, who trusted what they were told by their pediatricians and whose decisions had dire consequences. In the end, the takeaway is that vaccination is a deeply personal choice that absolutely deserves thoughtful, informed decision-making between parents’ minds and hearts and their pediatrician. As a parent, this type of film is vitally necessary to bring to life the articles, the scientific studies and the statistics. This film is bound to be a game-changer in the vaccine debate, and I, for one, am deeply grateful for that.

The Greater Good began screenings in Los Angeles and New York City in November. For more information about finding or creating a screening event in your area, go to

How can I affect my state’s vaccination policy?

Check out NVIC’s Advocacy Portal:

Achieving and protecting the right to informed consent to vaccination is more important now than ever before, and the National Vaccine Information Center needs your help to make that happen. The NVIC wants to help its members organize and make a difference in their home states to protect and expand vaccine exemptions. It is at the state level that mass vaccination policies are made, and it is at the state level where your action to protect your rights can have the greatest impact. Also, when national vaccine issues occur, you will be plugged in to the information and action items necessary to make sure your voice is heard.

At the NVIC Advocacy Portal, you can register to be an NVIC Advocacy Team Member. Just minutes of your time spent writing letters, sending e-mails and making phone calls to your state legislators and the media can make the difference. NVIC will send you advocacy alert e-mails when action is needed to support efforts in your own state and nationally on important legislation and policy to protect and expand vaccination exemption laws. It provides the steps, tools and connection to leaders and organizations to help you make a positive impact on your right to exercise informed consent in the vaccination decision-making process.