Saturday, April 26, 2014

Invisible Threat: Speaking Up

In recognition of the national launch of the Invisible Threat movement on May 1st, 2014 the Moms Who Vax blog is participating in a blog relay to raise awareness of the threat the film explores—the anti-vaccine movement. Each day, a different blogger discusses his or her personal perspective of the film as part of an exciting ten-day countdown to a kick-off event for the film, which will be attended by national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, D.C.  You can follow along to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening of Invisible Threat, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.

Karen Ernst

Teenagers are amazing people. If you want to view the world through a lens of optimism and idealism, ask for a teenager’s perspective. My other career--the one I began long before I had children or embarked on my mission to get parents to pitch in and help prevent disease outbreaks--is teaching. I began my adult life as an English teacher and became who I am today because I spent my hours learning along with the teenagers who populated my classroom and my life.

So I am difficult to surprise with news about how incredible teens can be. Stories in the media detailing how these young people are transforming our world through their activism and creativity often feel like merely revealing the spirit of what it means to be on the cusp of adulthood.

But a group of student-film-makers has surprised me. By delving into the world of vaccine-preventable disease and rationally examining the claims of the anti-vaccine movement, the student-creators of Invisible Threat have done what many adults fail to do: discover the objective facts about vaccines. Before all of us pro-vaccine parents go patting ourselves on the back for arriving at the truth about immunization, we need to recognize that these teens have also gone above and beyond what most of us do. They’ve chosen to speak publicly about the importance of vaccination.

Most vaccinating parents are not telling their stories. Some of us are afraid to cause discord in our families and so we don’t speak up. We have looked at the science, but don’t want to start debate because it’s just not our area of expertise. So we remain silent, and by our silence we allow the anti-vaccine voice to be the default voice of parents.

The Invisible Threat filmmakers faced steep challenges when creating their documentary. They came to the topic green: with no experience with any vaccine-preventable disease, and largely unaware of the anti-vaccine movement, they read materials both for and against vaccines. They sought out experts and got their opinions. The interviewed anti-vaccine parents. They discussed among themselves what all the information meant and came to a conclusion that was both reasonable and in line with the scientific consensus: vaccines are safe and save lives.

Invisible Threat follows the evolution of their thoughts on vaccines, but behind the scenes, these students faced the same obstacles that we vaccine advocates face. Lisa Posard, parent volunteer and executive producer, explained that when news about the topic of this documentary first came out, anti-vaccine bloggers wrote about the teenagers. Anti-vaccine activists even called their school to try to convince them not to do the film.

Despite this harassment, the students were adamant that they would not be bullied out of tackling vaccines. These young people have done the hard part, and we can do something easy right now. We can invite our senators and representatives to an event on May 1st at 10am in Washington D.C. to discuss the issues behind the documentary.

Invisible Threat is a fantastic documentary, and we are fortunate the filmmakers had the moral fortitude to stand up to those who were trying to shout them down. Next time we are tempted to be quiet about vaccines because we don’t want to make enemies or because we aren’t up-to-date on all the latest science or because it takes effort and we are busy, we need to remember that making a difference means taking a risk. It might mean we have to hearken back to our youth and our days of idealism, when standing up for something was critically important. And what could be more critically important than the health of our children and our communities?

You have the ability to make a difference in our fight against infectious diseases. Follow the Invisible Threat Blog Relay and find out how you can be a part of the movement. Tomorrow's post will be hosted by MOMentumNation.  And be sure to like the Invisible Threat Facebook  and follow the filmmakers on Twitter @InvisThreat.

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