Today, we sit down with filmmaker Jennifer Sharp. After being injured by a COVID-19 vaccine shot and meeting others in the same boat, she made the documentary film, “Anecdotals.”
“I was told specifically by somebody: Your story is just an anecdote… So it’s really irresponsible for you to talk about it because you could stop people from being vaccinated, and you could be responsible for their death,” Sharp says.
Her film “Anecdotals” tells the stories of the vaccine-injured, many of whom are being gaslighted and ostracized by friends, family, and the medical community for associating their symptoms with the vaccine.
“A lot of people learned that when they went to the doctor that they could not even tell the doctor that it was a vaccine reaction. And they’ll get better care,” Sharp says.
FULL TRANSCRIPT Jan Jekielek:
Jennifer Sharp, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Thank you. It is so great to be here.
Let’s start with this. When I read the words safe and effective, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
The vaccine, the Covid vaccine. Obviously, it’s like the manipulation of it.
Okay, the manipulation of the vaccine or of the messaging?
The messaging. Catchphrase messaging. It’s funny because when I first heard safe and effective, at the beginning of the pandemic I didn’t put it with any catchphrase or anything. I’m like, “Of course they’re saying safe and effective because they have to be.” But then more and more as I’m hearing more and more people and they’re all saying the exact same thing, safe and effective, safe and effective, celebrities, television hosts, just tons of people, and then I’m like, “Wait, this is actually a manipulation, because that’s what they’re told to say.”
Did you know at the time that there was a lot of money behind that, and that it was a marketing campaign?
I didn’t know that there was. No, honestly, I feel like if somebody would have really had a conversation with me, I probably would have figured it out in that conversation, but I just wasn’t even trying to put two and two together like that. I never thought like, “Oh, there’s this huge campaign for safe and effective.”
However, this is a tiny bit of a jump, but I just saw the documentary on Hulu, Dopesick with Michael Keaton, and it’s about the Oxycontin crisis. It talks about how when they were trying to up the dosage of Oxycontin, they would call something breakthrough pain. And if you have a patient that has breakthrough pain, that’s a reason to give them a higher amount of Oxycontin, instead of realizing that the Oxycontin wasn’t actually working or it was becoming addictive.
There was a whole campaign. I saw this in the Hulu series, and I was like, “Breakthrough pain.” And it was like, “Breakthrough infection.” Like in the Covid we have this breakthrough infection, therefore you need a booster. Now, I’m more aware and I’m seeing that all these words are marketing campaigns, and now right away I’m like, “Oh, that’s what it is.” But at the beginning I was not.
Well, here we are. You’ve made this wonderful, wonderful, and sometimes heartbreaking film, Anecdotals. You went on quite a journey from, like you said, not really thinking about it to these days really thinking about it quite a lot and talking to a lot of people who’ve been forced to think about it. How did you get here?
It was a slow and fast process. I’ve always been somebody who asks questions. When I was a kid, I always had a hard time on true/false tests because I’d be like, “Well, true if this, but false if this.” That was me in second grade. I’ve always wanted to look at different sides and had a hard time with black and white.
But it was my vaccine injury, basically. I got vaccinated, and I had a vaccine injury. I couldn’t get my second shot, and that put me on the outside of society, it put me not in the mainstream. The mainstream was saying, “Safe and effective.” The mainstream was saying, “Get vaccinated. It’s the only way to live, otherwise you’re going to die.” And then, I was like, “Wait, they’re not talking about me. I can’t get vaccinated.”
I started to really question everything when I was told I wasn’t allowed to speak about my reaction. I was told it was irresponsible and unethical. I was specifically told by somebody, “Your story is just an anecdote. It’s just anecdotal. It’s really irresponsible for you to talk about it, because you could stop people from being vaccinated and you could be responsible for their death.”
That was the first time I asked, “When is it ever not okay to tell the truth? When is it ever okay? When is your truth not okay?” And then from that, everything was a question, everything. The whole pandemic has been a lot of questions. What about natural immunity? Why is getting the vaccine better than natural immunity?
Why am I in a support group with thousands of people who have been vaccine injured, whose lives have been ruined, and yet it’s safe and effective? It’s safe, it’s safe. I just started seeing more and more wrong things being said, and I started questioning more and more. Yes, now I question every single thing that anybody says to me, regardless.
Something that strikes me about what you just said is there was this total loss of a risk-benefit analysis. Someone told you that if you even make a suggestion that there could be harm from this vaccine, maybe someone won’t be vaccinated. It’s like everybody should be vaccinated. That’s the a priori assumption. There’s no conception that there could be another side, that there is a risk, as with any vaccine. It just completely got lost. Was there a moment when you realized this?
Yes. When I started telling people about my reaction, and it really was from the start of my reaction, I would say, “Oh, I had a reaction from the vaccine.” And they would say, “Oh, well, it’s rare. Oh wow, sorry you had that. It’s going to happen to a few people, it definitely happens. We know vaccine reactions happen. We know they’re rare.”
And then it’s like, “How do you know they’re rare?” Because nobody’s following me, my data is nowhere. I entered it on VAERS, but once enough knowledge and enough facts came up on VAERS, they started discounting VAERS. No one is studying me, no one’s calling me, no one’s calling anybody in my group. So, how do we know it’s rare? I would just see these mechanical reactions from people. “Oh, it’s rare.”
Can you tell me a little more about what specifically happened to you?
Yes. So, I got vaccinated. The night of the vaccine I had a reaction. It was the left side of my face, left arm, left leg, pins and needles buzzing, left ankle, left knee swollen, and it hurt to walk. I woke up in the middle of the night, the bed was dripping in sweat. Then when I woke up, I was just drenched in sweat on my left side, but my right side was totally dry, and my left side had a fever. It was hot to touch. My right side was cool.
There is this weird reaction happening all on the left side. I couldn’t feel my face. It was pretty bad. I called my mom. I’m like, “I can’t feel my face. This is weird. You can’t really feel it.” But then I just thought, “Well, maybe it’s a reaction that will go away, but it never went away.”
It definitely got a lot better, but by the time it was my third week to get the second shot, I was just like, “I can’t get the second shot.” And it never got worse than that. It was the worst during the first six weeks, and then it slowly got better.
So, I’m really lucky, but what that did was it allowed me to be a part of a support group and be a part of this community and seeing people who were way worse, who’ve lost their houses, people who are homeless, people who cannot work anymore, and they’re getting no help and no acknowledgement.
I was just blown away. On the support group, every day there’s somebody who’s like, “How do I deal with my life? How do I deal with my new life? Everything is broken down. Since I got the shot, it’s been horrible.” And these are true stories, people talking, and nobody knows about it.
So anyway, I was in the group and mine were not nearly as bad as most of the people. But I think that happened to inspire me as a filmmaker, and also to have this access to this group, and to have the energy to make a movie. Because if I was as bad as a lot of these people, I wouldn’t have had the energy to put this together.
It’s been almost two years this March, and I actually had a flare up the last week. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so stressed out with this movie. I don’t know what has made it happen, but the last three nights I couldn’t go to sleep, I was in so much pain. My whole left arm, my whole left leg, it was electric. Like when you fall asleep and your leg falls asleep and then it’s waking up. When it’s waking up it has that super buzzing and it’s like, “Ah, this really hurts.” I was like that on my whole left arm, my whole left leg for five hours and I couldn’t sleep. That was four nights ago.
Then the next night I had the same thing, but a different pain. It was more pins and needles, like stabbing, and sometimes I just have to get the stabbing away. I’m like, “Oh, there’s a pin, or there’ll be a prick right here, and if I don’t do this it won’t go away.” I still have this, and this was the last four days. Also, my palms itch a lot.
I say mine wasn’t that bad, and I say it’s not that bad because I’ve seen way worse, but still to live like this, I wonder, am I going to develop multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s, or what’s going on with my nerves? I don’t know, and this is still two years later.
I’m totally functional though. I was able to make a movie. I was able to do all this stuff, so I feel lucky. I downplay what happened to me. But the thing is there’s actually a lot of people like me who have this random neurological stuff, and a lot of people who don’t even know it, they don’t even realize it’s a vaccine reaction.
There’s a lot of people just on the milder side walking around with this stuff that we don’t know what it is. And then there’s the people we’re really trying to highlight, which are the really horribly hurt people who can’t walk and all that stuff, but there’s levels.
So, that’s my reaction, but still, the fact that it’s two years later and I’m still having symptoms. These last few days have been worse than it’s been in a really long time. All I can think of is either the stress of the movie or it was raining in California. The rain.
It’s amazing to be able to laugh about these things. I have a friend who reached out at one point who I haven’t talked to in ages and told me, “Thanks for what you’ve been doing. By the way, I have tinnitus, and I’m pretty sure it just started immediately after I was vaccinated.” This is one of these common signals, it’s strong in the safety signals. It’s one of these common reactions, but it can be incredibly bad.
In the movie, I remember you have at least one person who describes this.
An inability to think almost or hear anything, it’s that bad.
Immediately after dose one, I developed paraesthesias in my right arm. The numbness and tingling traveled to my right side of my face, my eye, and my ear. I saw a neurologist, one of the top neurologists in New York City. He said, “Oh, if it subsides, get the second shot. We just don’t know. It’s all new.” Those two sent me into a tailspin. Within four days, I developed debilitating tinnitus. The month of February, I curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, wondering, how will I ever live with this?
Yes, the tinnitus, really it’s debilitating. I also have had it since I got the vaccine. It never happened before, but I hear this ringing in my ears. But for me, it never lasted longer than 30 seconds. I’ll have a wave of a sound, long enough that I can say, “What’s going on?” And then it goes away. So, I’ve experienced it a tiny bit.
But for the people who have it in a debilitating way, that’s one of the things that drives people close to suicide. It’s hard to imagine if you don’t have it. You can’t hear, you can’t hear conversations, and for your whole day and your whole life there is this ringing.
Yes, it’s weird. It’s weird things that are hard for people to imagine and from the outside look normal. People are like, “Oh, okay. It’s a reaction. Oh, it’s tinnitus.” Or tinnitus, however we want to pronounce it. Yes, it sounds really bad, but you can’t really relate. Now, if I’m limping along in a wheelchair with a bag, then suddenly people can get a little more empathetic. Tinnitus is actually a really, really horrible side effect.
I can’t help but remember right now there’s one medical practitioner in the film who describes this sort of sense of abandonment. There’s this whole social element, and I really want to talk about that, because basically anybody who’s been affected by these vaccines, either through injury or even simply deciding they’re not going to get it, there is this bizarre social reality that they have to face.
Yes. Abandonment is a really important word, and I have gotten so many messages from other vaccine injured people after watching my movie. A lot of them echo the word abandonment, and they’re like, “I have felt so abandoned as well.” And they say, “Thank you for helping me not feel so alone.” But that’s a key word for them as well.
And for me, and for us, that’s a key word, abandoned. A society you thought you were a part of, you’re now abandoned from. It’s exactly like you said, even if your choice was just not to get vaccinated when the mandates came, it’s like everybody in the mainstream was like, “Oh yeah.” Even Don Lemon says, and it’s in the movie, you should be left behind. If you don’t go with it, you should be left behind.
The people who are not getting vaccines, who are believing the lies on the internet instead of science, it’s time to start shaming them. What else? Or leave them behind.
And then, I would tell people, “I actually got vaccinated, but I can’t get my second vaccine.” I didn’t choose not to be vaccinated, which I actually don’t have a problem with either. I don’t like separating myself from the people who chose not to. But just in terms of talking to the people that are so pro-vax, I can say to them, “Hey, I actually got vaccinated. You should have compassion for me.”
And their compassion lasted about 10 seconds with, “Oh, I’m so sorry, you’re one of the rare ones. Can you come to my birthday party next week? Oh, that’s right. You’re not allowed. You don’t have a card. You can’t go to the restaurant. Sorry.”
I’d be invited to things, and I’m like, “I’m not allowed to go to that restaurant. I live in Los Angeles.” There were a couple things I was invited to, and I was like, “I’m not allowed.” They’d be like, “Really?” And I’m like, “Do you realize there’s a lot of people right now that are not allowed to participate in society?”
And they were like, “Oh, I never really thought of it like that. Well, that sucks.” And then they go on with their life. They care at that moment, or they’re interested, but they don’t care enough to be like, “Hey, this is wrong,” and make a stand.
I have to ask the most stereotypical question about film. Why did you make this film? The reason I’m asking is because it didn’t occur to me. I can see you’re making this film to raise awareness about the reality of people who have been vaccine injured and have been left behind by the system.
I want you to tell me later a bit more about how that plays out. But it seems like you also made it for people who have been vaccinated and realized, “Oh wow, there’s others like me out there, and there’s a whole community of people.” You show that community in the film as well.
Yes. When I started editing it together and showing cuts, Josh Stylman, who is one of the producers, was really great about watching the cuts. The first cut is dangerous to show people, because they change first cuts. He asked me, “Who’s your audience? What is your point?” You have to really formulate that when you’re editing it and when you’re creating it—what exactly is my point?
There’s three reasons I’ve made this film. One is to open the eyes of people whose eyes could still be opened. For people who are very pro-vax who don’t believe there are injuries, it’s really because of the stuff they haven’t seen. If they’re willing to watch it, I think that I can open eyes with this movie. I think I can bring us together. Some people just won’t watch it, but the people who don’t believe there are reactions, the people who are still very pro-vaccine, it’s just to kind of see the nuance. That was one.
The other one was because if nothing else as an artist, in 100 years, I want somebody to watch this movie and feel a slice of what life was like in this time period. I want this to be a historical piece. This is what it was like for a lot of us.
And then three, obviously, for the vaccine reaction people I wanted to make something for those of us who have been outcasts. I heard a story of this woman who joined our group who actually had already planned her suicide, and it was in Switzerland or somewhere, and she already had it planned. She was going there to do the medically assisted suicide, because she couldn’t take it anymore.
She had her plane ticket, she had it all. Then somehow, she found our support group on Facebook. She thought she was alone, and she thought she didn’t know there was anybody else who had been going through what she had been going through. This was only like seven months ago.
If she hadn’t found the support group on the day she found it, she would’ve been on a plane a week later. So, I want people who are injured to not feel alone and to not get to that point and know that there’s a lot of us, and hang in there. If we all speak up enough, we’ll get help, and you’re not so alone.
I want to highlight this because I recently had a conversation with Brie Dressen who features prominently in your film.
She is one of the co-chairs of React 19. She mentioned to me that she’s aware of a number of these types of situations where people can’t take it or are looking to take their life. The thing that stops them is the family support, or some kind of support system. It’s the people that somehow are gaslit or don’t have that support that often go through with this. It’s a horrible reality to contemplate.
Yes. Especially when you’re so bad, like those people who have committed suicide. A few of them had specifically noted, “I had no support from my family, nobody believes me, and I just can’t do this anymore.” I understand that. My family is great, and on the spectrum of family they care and they made it clear they believe me.
But they don’t believe me enough to ask me before they get their booster. Or they say, “Oh, sorry this happened to you, we hear you, but I’m still going to vaccinate my children.” I’m not saying anybody should not be vaccinated either. I’m not here to preach, I’m just here to show things. But it’s kind of like at least ask me. Ask me what I know. Listen to the anecdotes. You don’t have to full heartedly believe them, but there’s a lot of truth in there.
For the record, in speaking with Dr. Martin Kulldorff very early in the pandemic, he was aware of this risk-benefit analysis that you always have to do around any medical intervention. There’s always a cost and nothing is cost-free. For children, the risk of Covid was always so small for healthy children that there was never any credible reason for an intervention that had a non-zero risk. It’s one of these things that was a casualty, this kind of nuanced thinking. It was a casualty in the pandemic, and that also comes through in your documentary.
Yes. I’m trying to bring the nuance back to this conversation, so that things aren’t so polarized, left and right, anti and pro. There is a lot of nuance in the center, and I’m hoping to just bring that up. Nuance comes from asking questions, and nuance comes from questioning yourself, and that’s everybody in this whole thing.
But nuance also in the vaccine. How does this vaccine program spread? Like you talked about children. And it’s like, does a child need to get vaccinated? Does an 80-year-old need to get vaccinated? They are different groups and they have different risk factors. Maybe it really makes a lot of sense that college kids don’t need to be vaccinated if myocarditis is a high thing, but there was none of that. There was none of that nuance. A lot of the answers were, “We were afraid that people wouldn’t get vaccinated. If we said kids don’t need to be vaccinated, then that might make other people think they don’t need to.”
As soon as you admit there’s an adverse reaction, as soon as you admit there’s a signal, as soon as you admit that children aren’t dying of Covid and might not need to get vaccinated, then you suddenly are making people afraid to get vaccinated, and that’s the worst thing ever. So, let’s just get everybody vaccinated across the board.” And it makes total sense that not everybody should be vaccinated. There is a risk. There is a risk, and maybe some people should, but these are conversations that should be had, instead of blanket statements.
You were a filmmaker before you made this film.
Yes. I was a filmmaker. I am a filmmaker. And that was scary too. I had just finished right at the end of Covid my last feature film, it’s fiction. It was actually my life goal as a filmmaker. It’s like my own story. So before I made this current film I made Una Great Movie. Una Great was my great life’s work as a filmmaker. It was very personal to me.
I shot it in Mexico in a town that I’ve been going to for 20 years that I love, and I used a lot of local Mexicans.