Vaccines do not cause autism.
You wouldn't know that if you'd ever used an Amazon Prime account to watch the 2016 documentary "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe."
Following criticism from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Amazon took down the documentary from its streaming video subscription service on March 1st.
The "Vaxxed" documentary aims to draw a link between vaccines and autism, but it relies on research from a discredited British doctor named Andrew Wakefield, who also directed the film.
What the movie doesn't tell you is that Wakefield's controversial and un-replicated research on the dangers of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines has been retracted and debunked by years of rigorous studies.
One 2015 study looking at over 95,000 children across the US found no association between autism and MMR vaccines, even among kids who were already at a higher risk of developing autism.
"As the largest online marketplace in the world, Amazon is in a unique position to shape consumption," Schiff wrote in an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday.
"Amazon's recommendations are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information and, as a result, harmful anti-vaccine messages have been able to thrive and spread."
Vaccine rates are falling in rich countries around the world, prompting more measles outbreaks than health officials have seen in years, in countries including France, the US, the UK, and Japan.
Wakefield made a lot of money casting doubt on vaccine safety
"Vaxxed" was barred from the Tribeca film festival in 2016, even though it was backed by Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro, who has an autistic son.
"My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family," De Niro said at the time in a statement.
"But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for."
"Vaxxed" director Wakefield stood to potentially profit from drawing a link between vaccines and autism. The discredited doctor not only wanted to help bring a lucrative class-action lawsuit against MMR vaccine-makers, he even once "proposed starting a company that could reap huge returns from molecular viral diagnostic tests," for autism, as journalist Brian Deer discovered in an investigation published in the BMJ in 2011.
Deer revealed that Wakefield pocketed over US$750,000 in fees gathered from the UK legal aid fund for trying to prove a link between autism and vaccines – a clear conflict of interest with his vaccine research.
Wakefield has always maintained his innocence. He said that Deer's investigation was "a deliberate public relations strategy" by an "incestuous cabal" made up of pharmaceutical companies, government interests, and journalists.
"Do I feel that I was framed by the pharmaceutical industry?" he asked in a 2016 video statement. "Yes, I think I was."
Pharmaceutical companies make very little money off of vaccines, which cost an average of US$12 a dose and typically protect people for a lifetime.
Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook are all trying to combat anti-vaccine efforts
Other online platforms are also taking down content that promotes false narratives about vaccines. Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook are all grappling with how to avoid promoting a link between vaccines and autism that is not supported by science, as the Wall Street Journal first reported last month.
False narratives about vaccines may already be threatening global health. The World Health Organisation says that "vaccination hesitancy" is one of the top 10 greatest threats to the health of the world right now, and Bill Gates is warning that as measles case numbers grow in rich countries, more childhood measles deaths are inevitable.
US scientists first developed a workable measles vaccine in 1963. Before then, hundreds of American kids died every year from the measles virus.
"It is surprising to see how in the richer countries the consensus that kids should be protected has been lost," Gates said last month during a Reddit AMA. "Unfortunately this will mean some measles or pertussis deaths."
The WHO recently reported that 2018 was a banner year for measles infections around the world, and at least 72 adults and children died from the measles in Europe alone.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
More from Business Insider: