• Watch the film at


    Praise for Vaccines - Calling the Shots

    Vaccines – Calling the Shots "cuts through the misinformation and acrimony surrounding the vaccine debate." — Discover

    "An engrossing, evenhanded documentary…" Science News

    "For anyone who may be on the fence but willing to be convinced, this special is well worth their time.” — The Daily Beast

    "If you care about science, it's something you should watch.” — Mother Jones

    “An informative and illuminating documentary.” — Examiner.com

    “I would encourage any parent who questions the wisdom or safety of immunizing children – completely, and on time – to watch this program.” — Pediablog

Vaccines – Calling the Shots


Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago – whooping cough, measles, mumps – are returning, in part because nervous parents are skipping their children’s shots. Vaccines – Calling the Shots takes viewers around the world to track epidemics, explore the science behind vaccinations, and shed light on the risks of opting out.

More than 90 percent of Americans vaccinate their children, and most do it on the recommended schedule. Yet many people have questions about the safety of vaccines, and some are delaying or skipping their children’s shots. In some communities, vaccination rates have fallen below the threshold level needed to maintain “herd immunity” – allowing outbreaks to take hold and spread. Highlighting real cases and placing them in historical context, Vaccines  Calling the Shots  tracks outbreaks of communicable diseases and demonstrates just how fast they can spread – and how many people can fall sick – when a community's immunity barrier falls.

While the majority of Americans support vaccination, some parents are concerned about the risk of adverse reactions of immunizations. The film acknowledges that there are risks, but puts those risks in perspective. For example, the film uses a football stadium to illustrate how rare severe reactions really are: You’d need about ten stadiums, each with around 100,000 people, to find a single serious allergic reaction to a vaccine.

Throughout, Vaccines – Calling the Shots relies on science to put vaccines in context, sometimes shattering misconceptions. The film chronicles the discovery that many cases of supposed vaccine-caused chronic seizures are in fact Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic form of epilepsy. The film also sheds light on one of the greatest misconceptions about vaccines, the supposed link between vaccines and autism. The film explores how numerous studies have provided evidence that there is no such link. It also digs deeper, exploring new genetic evidence that autism begins in the womb.

A one-hour NOVA special, Vaccines – Calling the Shots is produced by Emmy-winning Australian documentary filmmaker Sonya Pemberton and Tangled Bank Studios. 


2016 SMASH Award Laurels

Houston Worldfest Laurels


Writer, Director and Producer:
Sonya Pemberton

Executive Producers:
Michael Rosenfeld
Sonya Pemberton

Director of Photography:
Harry Panagiotidis

Wayne Hyett, A.S.E., Mark Atkin, A.S.E.

Sharon Washington

Scientific Advisors:
Joseph Buxbaum, Lauri Markowitz, Glen Nowak, Walter Orenstein



For Genepool Productions


Line Producers: 
Josephine Wright, Malvina Martin, Roslyn Walker

Director of Production: 
Toni Malone

Associate Producer:
Harry Panagiotidis

Associate Producer/2nd Unit Director:
Faye Welborn

Production Coordinator:
Sally Storey



For HHMI Tangled Bank Studios


Executive in Charge:
Sean Carroll

Director of Operations:
Lori Beane

Senior Producers: 
David Elisco, Anne Tarrant

Senior Researcher:
Laura Helft




Senior Executive Producer:
Paula S. Apsell

Managing Director:
Alan Ritsko

Senior Series Producer:
Melanie Wallace

Senior Producers:
Julia Cort, Chris Schmidt

Download a full list of credits.