ATLANTA - About 100 anti-vaccine protestors marched Friday morning just outside the gates of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Atlanta headquarters. Some were parents, some members of the Nation of Islam.
Marching in the crowd was Del Bigtree, the producers of “Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe,” a new documentary that claims the CDC covered up a purported link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and Autism.
“We are making our children sick because they're putting too many toxins, too many vaccines, into our kids,” said Bigtree. “We need to take a look at this program, we need to take vaccine safety away from the CDC and create a totally new health agency that investigates vaccines and makes sure they’re safe because this establishment, the CDC, has failed the American people and failed the world.”
Less than a mile away inside Sage Hill Pediatrics, new parents Alex Brown and Todd Benjamin say they drove past the vaccine protesters, on their way to get their 7-week old daughter Adrienne her first shots.
“It definitely didn't stop me from coming,” said Brown. “If anything, it kind of motivated me to come.”
Brown and Benjamin both grew up being vaccinated, and believe vaccinating Adrienne is the best way to protect her.
“And we want to do everything we can to make sure she stays healthy, and doesn't get anything that we have vaccines for,” said Brown.
Todd Benjamin said they have no reservations about vaccinating their baby.
“Really, didn't even talk about it,” said Benjamin. “We were both on the same page before she was born. And we chose a physician based on those same beliefs.”
Their pediatrician, Kevin Rodbell, said he vaccinates his 7 children on the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule, and the recommends it to his patients.
Rodbell said he’s seen what vaccine-preventable diseases like meningitis and measles can do to children.
“If we didn't give these vaccines, we'd have kids who would literally die,” Dr. Rodbell said. “We'd have children whose lives would be changed, whose parents’ lives would be changed, permanently, in catastrophic ways.”
Several major studies, including a 2015 study that tracked 96,000 children, have failed to find a link between vaccines and Autism.
But with the number of Autism cases growing, so are the concerns.
The CDC says about 1 in 68 US schoolchildren has Autism.
A recent agency survey of parents put that number at closer to 1 in 45 children.
In 2000, only 1 in 150 U.S. children were thought to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
So why the jump in cases?
Some researchers believe parents and providers are becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorders, so more children are getting tested and diagnosed.
But, outside the CDC, it's pretty clear the debate over vaccine safety isn't losing steam.
“And we are not going to go away,” says Tony Muhammad, Student Leader of the Nation of Islam. “This is going to get bigger.”