May 1, 2014

Invisible Threat


Invisible Threat is an eye-opening 40-minute documentary produced by California high school students that explores the science of vaccination and how fears and misperceptions have led some parents to make dangerous decisions.  In recognition of the national launch of the Invisible Threat movement on May 1, 2014, we are participating in a blog relay to raise awareness of this important issue. Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. Follow along to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.

Special thanks to NFID immediate past-president, William Schaffner, MD for this guest blog post.

I recently had the opportunity to view Invisible Threat in advance of its national launch. The film tracks a group of high school students’ investigation into the controversial topic of vaccines and autism. As someone who has participated in numerous discussions on the issue, I was instantly struck by the dedication of the students to present the story in the most unbiased way possible. Many of them were unaware of concerns about vaccines and only one believed in a connection between vaccines and autism prior to the project.

As the film unfolds, interviews with experts and parents reflect what I see happening in doctors’ offices across the country. Parents, concerned about rumors they’ve heard from friends and neighbors, research vaccines online. They find website after website filled with information both in favor of vaccines and warning about side effects, both real and imaginary. It quickly becomes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

I applaud any parent who takes the time to research medical issues for their child. Parents are naturally concerned about what is best for their children and conflicting information online makes the decision to vaccinate seem much harder than it is or should be. There are a variety of excellent resources online regarding vaccines, including NFID and the CHOP Vaccine Education Center. Any remaining questions or concerns a parent has can be easily answered by their child’s doctor. No child should go unvaccinated due to unfounded rumors and fears.

What parents do not see online today is the utter devastation uncontrolled diseases can cause. They are serious. As an infectious disease doctor, I have witnessed polio, measles, and pneumococcal disease, but many parents have no concept of these diseases. They can cause weeks of illness, permanent disability, and even death. Due in large part to misinformation online, parents are choosing not to vaccinate and outbreaks are on the rise across the country. Fortunately, they have not reached the level at which each community/neighborhood loses a child needlessly to vaccine-preventable disease. That was a reality before vaccines and I think we can all agree it’s a reality we do not want to face again.

The student filmmakers came to the same conclusion that many of us in the medical community did years ago: this is not a controversy. Vaccines do not cause autism. We must fully vaccinate our children to protect them from dangerous, sometimes deadly, infectious diseases.

You have the ability to make a difference in the fight against infectious diseases. To join the conversation, follow us on Twitter (@nfidvaccines), like us on Facebook, and join the NFID Linkedin Group. And be sure to friend the Invisible Threat on Facebook and follow the filmmakers on Twitter @InvisThreat. To organize a local screening of the film, contact the producer, Lisa Posard, at