If you have been following what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr has been up to lately, you can probably predict that most of his new film, Medical Racism: The New Apartheid, isn’t actually about medical racism…
As we noted when we fact checked the trailer for the movie, it is just more misinformation and propaganda from Kennedy, mostly about vaccines.
A Review of Robert F Kennedy, Jr.’s Medical Racism Film
That’s not to say that medical racism isn’t an extremely important topic!
“Among recycled false narratives from other anti-vaccine films, including one that asserts that childhood vaccinations cause autism, it offers up conspiracy theories about Bill Gates and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interspersed with them, however, are reputable doctors and historians who talk about America’s real history of medical racism as represented by the Tuskegee Study and early gynecological experimentation on enslaved Black women without anesthesia.”Covid’s devastation of Black community used as ‘marketing’ in new anti-vaccine film
Of course it is, which makes it even more sickening that Kennedy is using it as a way to push his agenda about vaccines and try to scare people in Black communities from getting vaccinated and protected.
He does highlight some real instances of medical racism, including the Tuskegee study, Henrietta Lacks (her cells have been used for medical research for over 70 years without her consent or compensation), and Dr. J. Marion Sims (a 19th-century gynecologist who experimented on slaves).
The Tuskegee Study
But wasn’t the Tuskegee Study bad enough that his movie doesn’t have to lie about it to make it sound even worse?
“I’ve heard of Tuskegee Institute… Program, where they took African American men and shot them up with syphilis. And they wanted to study and experiment on all these black men and they were constantly telling them that we are giving you this to cure you, but all they were doing was making black men sicker and sicker until they died. So once again, the Government of the United States wants to study you. Whatever they are trying to give to you. And that’s how I feel about the COVID-19. I’m not going to be their guinea pig to be studied on.”Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
As most people hopefully know, the Tuskegee study, as bad as it was, didn’t actually give anyone syphilis.
Instead, in 1932, the plan was to study untreated syphilis in 600 black men, including 399 with syphilis – a time when there wasn’t yet a cure of syphilis and the few treatments available, including elemental mercury, were rather toxic.
Tragically, they weren’t told that they weren’t being treated.
“Multiple times throughout the experiment researchers actively worked to ensure that their subjects did not receive treatment for syphilis. In 1934 they provided doctors in Macon County with lists of their subjects and asked them not to treat them. In 1940 they did the same with the Alabama Health Department. In 1941 many of the men were drafted and had their syphilis uncovered by the entrance medical exam, so the researchers had the men removed from the army, rather than let their syphilis be treated.”40 Years of Human Experimentation in America: The Tuskegee Study
Even worse, they still weren’t treated later on, after 1945, even as penicillin became a safe and accepted treatment for syphilis. And to top it all off, as folks started to raise ethical concerns about the study in the 1960s, the CDC pushed to keep it going, saying it was too late to treat the men.
“It wasn’t until a whistleblower, Peter Buxtun, leaked information about the study to the New York Times and the paper published it on the front page on November 16th, 1972, that the Tuskegee study finally ended. By this time only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. 128 patients had died of syphilis or its complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had acquired congenital syphilis.”40 Years of Human Experimentation in America: The Tuskegee Study
The Tuskegee study only ended after the first news articles appeared in 1972.
“The CDC wasn’t going to stop the Tuskegee experiments. What happened is that they had a whistleblower who came forward and told one of the Kennedys. – Hey this is what we’ve been doing. I feel really bad about it. Watching these guys with syphilis. We’re just monitoring them. They think they’ve been treated, but they haven’t.”Dr. Rachael Ross, MD, PhD in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
Senator Ted Kennedy did lead the investigation into the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment in the Hearings on Human Experimentation in the Subcommittee on Health of the Committee of Labor and Public Welfare, but only after the Tuskegee Study had already ended. He did not put an end to the Tuskegee experiments as the film implies.
Most importantly, the men in the Tuskegee study were not “shot up with syphilis” as stated in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid!
After Tuskegee, Medical Racism: The New Apartheid introduces us to Dr. Sarah Bridges and her son.
Apparently, Sarah Bridges received compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program for her son’s vaccine injury.
What does this have to do with medical racism?
“Her son had gotten autism from a mercury vaccine.”Robert F. Kennedy, Jr in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
Nothing, but apparently it was Sarah Bridges and her “big pile of scientific studies” that started Robert F. Kennedy, Jr “down the rabbit hole” against vaccines back in 2005.
“I began asking questions and it became very clear to me very fast that either the top regulators in the country were either completely unfamiliar with the vaccine safety science or in some cases they were lying about it.”Robert F. Kennedy, Jr in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
Although the vaccines her son received back in the 1990s did contain thimerosal, that’s not the same as mercury, so it is unclear why Kennedy would characterize them as a “mercury vaccine,” except to make them sound scary. And all evidence still states that vaccines are not associated with autism.
Since the 1990s, when the DPT vaccine was replaced with DTaP, studies have shown that the DPT vaccine didn’t actually cause most of the serious reactions as folks feared.
In fact, many children who were once thought to have vaccine injuries, developing seizures after getting the DPT vaccine, have now been found to have Dravet syndrome instead.
Small Pox Vaccine
It probably isn’t well known, because the small pox vaccine is rarely used anymore, but the small pox vaccine is one of the vaccines that is contraindicated in pregnancy.
“I remember a story my grandmother told me once. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what she meant, but I listened. The last child she had, he was born with intellectual disabilities. So I asked her, how did that happen? And she said, I’ll tell you how it happened. My grandparents were sharecroppers and they still lived on a plantation in the 60s and early 70s. And she told me, she said, everyone was in the field, except for eight of us. The eight women who were about to deliver – all pregnant. The white coats came around, and she called white coats, she referred to doctors as white coats. She said that when the white coats came around, they gave us a pox shot. And she said, as we all delivered, we all had children with affliction. Every last one of them, those eight babies, ended up with intellectual disabilities. And she said we had never seen that before in our community. ”Sheila L. Ealey, EdD in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
It is contraindicated because it can cause fetal vaccinia.
“There is no evidence from these studies that smallpox vaccination of women in the first trimester of pregnancy has any deleterious effect on the developing embryo.”The Effect of Smallpox Vaccination During Pregnancy On the Incidence of Congenital Malformations
Now who knows what was in the shot that those women were given or even what happened to those children, but there is no evidence that a vaccine given to them in pregnancy would have led all of them to develop “intellectual disabilities.”
It is rather unbelievable that Kennedy presents these types of anecdotes as evidence in what is supposed to be a documentary.
“When I was a kid I had three vaccines. Today’s kids get 72 doses of 16 vaccines.”Robert F. Kennedy, Jr in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
As it is unbelievable that his film is basically filled with PRATTS, or anti-vaccine points refuted a thousand times already.
Just as kids don’t get 72 doses of vaccines today, they got more than three vaccines in the 1950s.
And no, there was no big change to the immunization schedule with the passage of National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Instead, new vaccines have been slowly added to the schedule since then, after fraudulent lawsuits almost put many vaccine manufacturers out of business.
The CDC Measles Study
Are you still watching???
“The Tuskegee experiment that took place from 1932 to 1972 . The CDC promised us that an experiment like this would never happen again. But yet, in 1989, there was a Los Angeles Times article that came out that revealed a startling truth. That the CDC admitted that they experimented on 1500 Black and Latino boys in Los Angeles without the parents knowing that this was an experimental test.”Minister Tony Muhammad in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
Next, Kennedy gets Minister Tony Muhammad to equate a measles vaccine study to the Tuskegee experiments.
What happened in the measles vaccine study?
In 1989, during a major US measles epidemic, some children were given a different formulation of measles vaccine – a high titer version of the Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine that was recommended by the World Health Organization and given in many countries outside the United States. A high titer version of the Edmonston-Zagreb (EZ) measles vaccine that studies were finding to be more effective than the standard measles vaccines, especially in younger children.
The mistake was that the parents in the study were not told that they might be getting the experimental, high titer version of the vaccine, a vaccine that was approved for study by the FDA and CDC. Because the vaccine was used elsewhere and recommended by the WHO, they didn’t think to label it as experimental.
These parents did know that they were in a measles vaccine study and that they were receiving a vaccine different from the one used normally in the US though.
To equate this study with Tuskegee, the parents would have had to have been told they were getting a measles vaccine, but then their children would have been given saline to study the effects of a natural measles infection, a life-threatening infection.
Of course, that’s not what happened.
“None of the Los Angeles children, most of whom are now 5, was injured by the unlicensed vaccine, the CDC said.”U.S. Measles Experiment Failed to Disclose Risk
The study was eventually stopped after studies in Guinea-Bissau, the Gambia, and Senegal associated the high titer vaccine showed a decreased survival rate in girls.
The CDC Whistleblower
Next comes the CDC Whistleblower story…
If you kept up with the story, you know that no data was destroyed.
And you know that African American boys are not at greater risk to get autism from the MMR vaccine.
Are we behind on autism research? Only because folks like Kennedy has kept the focus on vaccines!
And you can see that in the rest of his film that is supposed to be about medical racism, but essential ends up being a series of vaccine injury stories.
Shamefully, Kennedy also includes a clip of Gregory Poland talking about one of his vaccine studies.
Of course, Kennedy mischaracterizes what the study found!
“A Mayo Clinic Study has revealed that African Americans have double the antibody reaction to some vaccinations. Scientists believe that this hyper immune response may make Blacks more vulnerable to autoimmune disease.”Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
The study, Associations between race, sex and immune response variations to rubella vaccination in two independent cohorts, did indeed find “consistent evidence for racial/ethnic differences in humoral immune response following rubella vaccination.”
The study did not conclude that African American children need about half of the dose of the rubella vaccine, as Charles Pennick says in the film.
That study and most others also did not find more side effects in one race vs another. That there might be is why they are doing those types of studies though!
Kennedy even goes back to the Somali community in Minnesota. A community that was hit hard by measles outbreaks because of low immunization rates.
“Black American-born children and Hispanic children in Minneapolis had much lower autism rates: one in 62 for the former and one in 80 for the latter.”Study Links Autism and Somalis in Minneapolis
Surprisingly, the study Kennedy links to found much lower rates of autism in Black American-born children than in white children. The study also was not about vaccines and had no explanation for the higher rates of autism in Somali and white children in Minneapolis.
More Vaccine Misinformation
Kennedy’s film also pushes misinformation about other vaccines.
“The World Health Organization admitted that it’s all coming from Gates’ polio vaccine.”Minister Tony Muhammad in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
In addition to mischararacterizing why the oral polio vaccine is still being used in Africa and other parts of the world, Kennedy pushes the myth of a sterilization campaign in Kenya via a tetanus vaccine program.
This myth started because labs found low levels of hCG-like activity in some tetanus vaccines. Labs that used analyzers that were supposed to be testing blood and urine.
“Nonetheless, because of this, low levels of hCG-like activity was detected in the vaccines. But when proper lab tests were conducted on the vaccines in six laboratories around the world – including a lab chosen by the Vatican – no hCG was found.”ANALYSIS: Why does an old, false claim about tetanus vaccine safety refuse to die?
But while the idea of a 2014 population control campaign was debunked long ago, it keeps coming up, leading people to avoid getting vaccinated and protected. And leading to people actually getting and dying with tetanus!
Kennedy isn’t done yet…
“We know mercury causes severe brain damage and permanent IQ loss. In the 1990s, the United States and Europe stopped using mercury in childhood vaccines. Yet, the World Health Organization is still giving many mercury vaccines to a lot of African children. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines were banned in Europe and the United States in the 1980s because it was killing or causing brain damage in 1 in 300 children. So why is the World Health Organization… they continue to give this to 160 million African children every year.”Minister Tony Muhammad in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
Yeah, so while mercury, especially methylmercury, can cause severe brain damage, fortunately no vaccine has ever contained mercury.
Some vaccines do contain thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that is broken down to ethylmercury.
Anyway, the DPT vaccine was never banned. It was replaced with the newer DTaP vaccine which was thought to have fewer side effects. Again, most of the severe side effects that folks blamed on DPT were later found to not actually be caused by DPT.
“Thiomersal allows millions of people worldwide to have access to life-saving vaccines and to date, no other safer and equally efficacious alternative has been identified for many vaccines.”Thiomersal in vaccines
And since all of the studies about thimerosal also found it be safe, many vaccines with thimerosal are still used throughout the world, especially in the developing world where it is still critical to use multidose vials with thimerosal as a preservative.
Most importantly, none of the vaccines that are still in use in the developing world were ever banned in the United States or Europe or found to be unsafe!
What about the study saying girls who got the DPT vaccine were more likely to die? This is the Peter Aaby study about the non-specific effects of vaccination. This idea has been thoroughly investigated and the studies are thought to be weak and at high risk of bias.
Are Vaccines Needed in Africa?
What was one of the most outrageous statements in Kennedy’s film?
“I can tell everyone, without fear of contradiction, that the vaccination that is taking place in Africa has nothing to do with any disease. We do not need it!Dr. Stephen Karanja
Did Dr. Karanja miss that over 6,000 people recently died in the Democratic Republic of Congo with measles?!?
“Despite these achievements, national and subnational immunization coverage rates have stagnated in many countries, and the African Region still lags behind other regions of the world in access to vaccines. Approximately 1 in 5 African children do not receive all the necessary and basic vaccines. As a result, more than 30 million children under five still suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) every year in Africa. Of these, over half a million children die from VPDs annually – representing approximately 58% of global VPD-related deaths.”Immunization | WHO | Regional Office for Africa
If anything, we need to get more vaccines into Africa. And we should recognize that Bill Gates has played a critical role in helping to get kids vaccinated and lowering childhood mortality, both in Africa and other parts of the world.
Vaccine Roulette Redux?
But Kennedy didn’t make a film to feature Peter Aaby, Tony Muhammad, and Bill Posey, etc.
They are just filler for the vaccine injury stories…
“Is playing Russian Roulette with the rest of your child’s health worth that injection in the dark?”
After all, if you truly want to scare people and ensure that they don’t vaccinate and protect their kids, films like this have to keep going back to the vaccine injury stories.
They have to exploit parents who believe that their children have been injured by vaccines, getting them to tell their stories, but never ever telling the stories of anyone who gets sick or loses a family member to a vaccine-preventable disease.
Kennedy even uses noted HIV denialist Curtis Cost to try and fool you with a graph about measles mortality!
Fortunately, we know vaccines work. Can you guess how many lives were saved just between 2000 and 2018 as more and more people were vaccinated and protected against measles in Africa?
Up to 12 million deaths were averted by measles vaccinated between 2000 and 2018 in Africa!
Kennedy don’t mention that in his film…
And the film talks about vaccine choice, leaving out the fact that no one is being forced to get vaccinated and when parents intentionally don’t vaccinate their kids, it takes away the choice from the rest of us who want to keep our kids protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, including those who have kids too young to be vaccinated or with true medical conditions who can’t be vaccinated.
“You’ve been deceived to think that that vaccines are the holy grail to health. Ask any of us who had all of our childhood infections and viruses and we will tell you that a week of measles, where we were fine at the of the week with chicken soup and vitamin A isn’t worth a lifetime of disability.”
Hopefully parents have already gotten used to the tricks Kennedy uses in his new film and they won’t be deceived.
“Take responsibility for your own healthcare. Don’t listen to me…”Robert F. Kennedy, Jr in Medical Racism: The New Apartheid
Especially as we are in the middle of a pandemic, hopefully every one will see that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and very necessary.
We should also keep in mind that we need to improve access to vaccines in Black and Latino communities, not try and scare people away from getting vaccinated!
So hopefully folks won’t listen to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., especially as he seems to liken getting kids vaccinated and protected from life-threatening diseases to a “New Apartheid,” something that minimizes what was done under apartheid laws.
And don’t forget, even his own family says that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr is wrong about vaccines…
More on Medical Racism Film
- Ask 8 Questions Before You Skip a Vaccine
- Why Is Lying About Vaccines Not Criminal?
- Why Are You Still Worried About the MMR Vaccine?
- Is a Family History of Altered Immunocompetence a Contraindication to Getting Vaccinated?
- Vaccines and Autism Redux
- Explaining the Correlation of Autism After Vaccines
- If It’s Vaccines, Then Why Are There Autistic Kids Who Are Unvaccinated?
- Where are the Saline Placebos?
- Educating Legislators About Vaccines – Anti-Vax Edition
- Slogans of the Anti-Vaccine Movement
- Understanding Immunization Signs That Protestors Carry
- Whose Rights Are Taken Away By Vaccine Mandates?
- Show Me the Vaccine Insert!
- Which Vaccines Contain Aborted Baby Parts?
- Did Better Hygiene and Sanitation Get Rid of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?
- The Moral Responsibility of the Anti-Vaccine Movement
- Vaccine Injuries vs Coincidences
- RFK Jr. Video Pushes Known Vaccine Misrepresentations
- Covid’s devastation of Black community used as ‘marketing’ in new anti-vaccine film
- Vaccine hesitancy is not the problem among people of color. It’s vaccine access.
- CDC – The Tuskegee Study Frequently Asked Questions
- Syphilis Victims in U.S. Study Went Untreated for 40 Years
- 40 Years of Human Experimentation in America: The Tuskegee Study
- Tuskegee Truth Teller
- The Effect of Smallpox Vaccination During Pregnancy On the Incidence of Congenital Malformations
- ‘Father Of Gynecology,’ Who Experimented On Slaves, No Longer On Pedestal In NYC
- U.S. Measles Experiment Failed to Disclose Risk
- Trial of high-dose Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine in Guinea-Bissau: protective efficacy
- Trial of high-dose Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine in the Gambia: antibody response and side-effects
- Successful immunization of infants at 6 months of age with high dose Edmonston-Zagreb measles vaccine.
- Immunization of six-month-old infants with different doses of Edmonston-Zagreb and Schwarz measles vaccines
- Child mortality after high-titre measles vaccines: prospective study in Senegal
- Child mortality following standard, medium or high titre measles immunization in West Africa
- Minneapolis Somali Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Project
- Understanding The History Behind Communities’ Vaccine Fears
- Reckoning with histories of medical racism and violence in the USA
- When a doctor calls a patient a racial slur, who is hurt?
- In Focus: Reducing Racial Disparities in Health Care by Confronting Racism
- Ending systemic racism in medicine
- #RevealTheGap to End Systemic Racism in Health Care
- AMA Must Work Harder to End Racism in Medicine, Delegates Say
- 5 Ways the Health-Care System Can Stop Amplifying Racism
- Racism and discrimination in health care: Providers and patients
- AMA: Racism is a threat to public health
- ANALYSIS: Why does an old, false claim about tetanus vaccine safety refuse to die?
- How to get up to 3,000 more Black people in physician pipeline
- Immunization | WHO | Regional Office for Africa