Virulent: The Vaccine War
A brand new kind of warfare
About the Film
Virulent: The Vaccine War examines the consequences of vaccine hesitancy and denial. It’s a war anti-vax activists have been fighting for more than a decade. And Covid-19 is what they practiced for—a national conversation about vaccine safety and mandates.
I have a lot of patients who may be hesitant about vaccines, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it brings reality and smacks you in the face. Sadly, the anti-vaccine community began to co-opt the pandemic and started spinning conspiracy theories.
—Dr. Todd Wolynn
I don’t need any conspiracy to create job security for infectious diseases. Nature and the world create that just fine.
—Dr. John V. Williams
Mother Nature has been trying to kill us ever since we crawled out of the ocean onto land. The only reason we live 30 years longer than we did a hundred years ago is because we fought back actively and hard.
—Dr. Paul Offit
If you have the power to not cause harm to anybody else, you should use that.
—Hannah Grinnan (heart transplant recipient)
Laura Davis (Producer) &
Tjardus Greidanus (Director/Editor/Cinematographer)
Laura and Tjardus specialize in making impactful documentaries about science and medicine. Their latest project, Virulent: The Vaccine War, examines the history of vaccine hesitancy and the galvanizing effect Covid-19 has had on anti-vaccination activists. It is their follow-up to the CINE Golden Eagle-winning A Shot to Save the World about the creation of the Salk polio vaccine which featured an exclusive interview with Bill Gates and streamed on Paramount+ throughout 2020.
A Shot to Save the World originally premiered on the Smithsonian Channel and BBC Four and was honored by the CDC Foundation on World Polio Day 2013.
Another feature documentary, Burden of Genius, an exploration of Dr. Thomas Starzl’s pioneering work in organ transplantation, is heading to public television in 2023 following weeks of sold-out screenings at the Carnegie Science Center and hundreds of screenings at top transplant centers including Stanford, Columbia, Harvard-Mass General, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, UPMC, Duke and the University of Chicago as well as at transplant conferences around the world.
Before turning to documentaries, Laura and Tjardus made hundreds of marketing featurettes for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. Over two decades, they worked for some of the world’s most respected directors producing over 30 projects for Martin Scorsese, James L. Brooks, Mike Nichols, Cameron Crowe and Michael Mann. They also made the narrative features Hellbent (2018) and A New York Heartbeat (2013), which gave Emmy Award-winner Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) her first starring role.
Laura also produced the documentaries Everest: On Location in the Death Zone (Miramax) and The Chef & The Architect (Food Network), and the telefilms, Someone Else’s Child (ABC) and Still Holding On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack (CBS). She got her start as an interviewer on NBC Radio and later for Showtime/The Movie Channel following her graduation from Cornell University.
Dutch-born Tjardus is currently prepping The Shot, a narrative feature about Dr. Jonas Salk and his creation of the polio vaccine, based on A Shot to Save the World. He successfully straddles documentary and narrative filmmaking bringing to both a love for authenticating detail and character-driven stories.
Mark Jonathan Harris (Executive Producter)
Mark Jonathan Harris is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and Distinguished Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, where he holds the Mona and Bernard Kantor Chair of Production.
Among the many documentaries he has written, produced and/or directed are The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary (1968); The Long Way Home, Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary (1997); and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2000 and was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry. Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003), a documentary that he wrote on slavery in America, was nominated for an Emmy for a Nonfiction Special and Harris was nominated for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. Foster, which he wrote and directed, aired on HBO in 2019 and was nominated for Best Documentary Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America. In 2021, Asian Americans, a 5-part PBS series for which he was Consulting Producer, received a Peabody Award.
Dr. Paul Offit (Project Medical Advisor)
Paul A. Offit, MD, is Director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of virology and immunology.
Dr. Offit was a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is a member of the Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, and a founding advisory board member of the Autism Science Foundation and the Foundation for Vaccine Research, a member of the Institute of Medicine and co-editor of the foremost vaccine text, Vaccines.
He is a recipient of many awards including the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics from the University of Maryland Medical School, the Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development from the Infectious Disease Society of America, a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health, and the Sabin Vaccine Institute Gold Medal.
Dr. Offit has published more than 150 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety. He is also the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq®, recommended for universal use in infants by the CDC. For this achievement, Dr. Offit received the Luigi Mastroianni and William Osler Awards from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the Charles Mérieux Award from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and was honored by Bill and Melinda Gates during the launch of their Foundation’s Living Proof Project for global health.
Dr. Offit is the author of seven medical narratives which have received numerous accolades:
- The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to Today’s Growing Vaccine Crisis (Yale University Press, 2005)
- Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases (HarperCollins, 2007), for which he won an award from the American Medical Writers Association
- Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure (Columbia University Press, 2008)
- Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All (Basic Books, 2011), which was selected by Kirkus Reviews and Booklist as one of the best non-fiction books of the year
- Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine (HarperCollins, 2013), which won the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking from the Center for Skeptical Inquiry and was selected by National Public Radio as one of the best books of 2013
- Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Clashes with Modern Medicine (Basic Books, 2015)
- Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information (Columbia University Press, 2018)
Gary Lionelli (Music Composer)
Three-time Emmy-winning composer Gary Lionelli received a 2017 Primetime Emmy nomination for his score for the 2017 Academy Award-winning film O.J.: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edelman, depicting the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson from football legend to murder suspect.
He also scored Rory Kennedy’s 2015 Academy Award-nominated film Last Days in Vietnam and HBO’s dramatic series Luck, helmed by Michael Mann and David Milch and starring Dustin Hoffman, and the forthcoming romantic comedy Poor Greg Drowning, for director Jeffrey Scott Collins. Most recently he scored Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, for Brian Grazer and Ron Howard at Imagine Entertainment, directed by Rory Kennedy. The film premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Gary’s other work has included the HBO films Foster, by Academy Award-winning filmmakers Deborah Oppenheimer and Virulent Executive Producer Mark Jonathan Harris, and A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks, directed by John Maggio. Recent credits also include The Clinton Affair by filmmakers Blair Foster and Alex Gibney, and Nuclear Family, for director Ry Russo-Young.
As an addition to working with orchestra, Gary performs on many of the instruments heard in his scores. These include many strange and unusual instruments from all over the globe such as a glass euphone, dulcitone, guitar-viol, and many more.
Gary currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
October 2023 College of Physicians of Philadelphia
October 2023 American Society of Consultant Pharmacists National Meeting
October 3, 2023 Wabash College
September 21, 2023 Northern Utah Immunization Coalition
September 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics Illinois
in collaboration with Illinois Dept of Public Health
September 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics Alabama Chapter
September 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics Wyoming chapter
August 2023 Cornell Intercampus Vaccine Symposium
Presented by Cornell University and Weill Cornell Medicine
June 2023 American Society for Virology Annual Meeting
University of Georgia, Athens, GA
May 2023 McGill University
Office of Science and Society, Montreal, Quebec
March 2023 Immunize.org
in collaboration with the National Networks of Immunization Coalitions
March 2023 City University of New York, Graduate School of Public Health
New York, NY
February 2023 Humanistic Medicine Program
Grossman School of Medicine, New York University
October 26, 2022 Carnegie Science Center
July 2023 National Nurse-Led Care Consortium
Co-sponsored by Nurses Who Vaccinate
June 2023 Immunize Colorado
May 2023 Meningitis B Action Project
May 2023 Vanier College
Annual Nursing Conference, Saint-Laurent, Quebec
April 2023 North Dakota State University
Department of Public Health, Fargo, ND
April 2023 Morristown Medical Center
April 2023 Valley View Hospital in partnership with Grand River Health & Aspen Valley Hospital
Glenwood Springs, CO
February 2023 Pediatric Practice Management Conference
Watch our Q&A with Science-Based Medicine’s Drs. Steven Novella & David Gorski
THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER PRESENTS: Laura Davis & Tjardus Greidanus
Request a Screening
Book your Virulent: The Vaccine War screening for:
- National and regional conferences
- Grand Rounds
- National Vaccination Day (March)
- National Public Health Week (April)
- Fundraisers to support vaccination services
- Medical school courses and presentations concerning bioethics and patient communication
- Law school courses on vaccination law
- College and high school courses in ethics and countering the spread of internet disinformation
Press & Quotes
“Informative as well as moving, and frankly quite a bit disturbing.”
“Virulent: The Vaccine War shows us what the modern anti-vaccine movement looks like and pushes back with stories of its own ... People need to see it.”
“This is a well-done portrait of the American anti-vaxx movement as it’s developed over time … The personal stories offer food for compassion.”
“Virulent explores the history of vaccines and the perspectives of those who oppose them in light of the recent pandemic [including] that they cause autism (spoiler: they do not.)”
“The antivaccine movement is more powerful than ever. To paraphrase Virulent, they have been practicing for just such a cataclysmic event [as COVID.] That’s why we’re happy to be holding a virtual screening of Virulent: The Vaccine War. It is very good indeed.”
“Carnegie Science Center was honored to feature the premiere of Virulent: The Vaccine War in The Rangos Giant Cinema. There couldn’t have been a better fit for our aspirations to serve as a town square for community dialogue on scientific topics and to showcase regional science and technology advances.”
“Our coalition members were delighted to have the opportunity to view Virulent, and more than 170 individuals came together on a live webinar the day after the virtual screening ended to discuss the documentary. The film was received with much enthusiasm with many urging more screenings to a wider audience.”
“Virulent does such an effective job combatting vaccine skepticism on so many different fronts.”
“We made the fortunate decision to host a showing of Virulent: The Vaccine War, as a centerpiece of our conference, being the event for the first night. Our attendees were deeply moved by the film and the thoroughness with which it addressed the current contention over vaccination, and it provided a strong point of discussion and motivation for the remaining work of our conference.”