How and why potentially — and historically — life-saving vaccinations, especially those mandated for children, have become a 21st century medical and political tinderbox is deftly examined by producers and co-directors Kendall Nelson and Chris Pilaro in their provocative documentary "The Greater Good."
The filmmakers put human faces on this polarizing issue by focusing largely on three American children devastated, it is believed, by post-vaccine side effects. They include Gabi Swank, an inspiring teen who suffered neurological damage after taking the much-hyped HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer (this same vaccine put advocate Gov. Rick Perry in the cross hairs during a recent GOP presidential debate); 12-year-old Jordan King who, as a toddler, regressed into autism after routine inoculations; and infant Victoria Christner, who died at 5 months, her parents maintain, of vaccine injuries.
These profiles are frank, absorbing and heartbreaking, if also a bit inconclusive.
An articulate array of doctors, scientists and public health officials weigh in on both sides of the debate. Some cite that vaccines, often government mandated, are sound and necessary for "the greater good," while others demand further research, safety and education to help parents — and everyone else — to make more informed choices before rushing to immunize.
Either way, the film proves an effective eye-opener.
"The Greater Good." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.