Graphic: Adam Niklewicz for the Center for Public Integrity
by Liz Essley Whyte – This story was published in partnership with HuffPost.
“Heather Simpson never thought to question vaccines. Her parents vaccinated her when she was a child, and she got tetanus and flu shots as an adult.
“But when she and her husband were thinking about starting a family, she saw an ad for the documentary series ‘The Truth about Vaccines,’ and ‘fear crept in,’ she later wrote.
“Simpson paid about $200 for the series, which taught her the tenets of vaccine skepticism.
“’I left that docuseries just thinking this is it. This is how autism happens. This is how allergies happen,’ the 30-year-old Texan said. ‘How else would it happen?’
“When her daughter was born in 2017, Simpson decided not to immunize her. She began posting on social media about her vaccine fears. She then went viral in 2019 for uploading a photo of her Halloween costume of, as she put it, ‘the least scary thing she could think of — the measles.’
“Scientists widely agree vaccines prevent dangerous diseases and do not cause autism or allergies. But in a few years Simpson had gone from accepting that consensus to preaching against it. And it all started with the documentary series made by Tennessee couple Ty and Charlene Bollinger, who got their start by questioning mainstream cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.”