New York’s Tribeca Film Festival will not show Vaxxed, a controversial film about the MMR vaccine, its founder Robert De Niro says.
Until last Friday, De Niro stood by his decision to include the film by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield in next month’s festival. The link the film makes between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism has been widely discredited.
British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in 1998 in the prestigious journal The Lancet, linking the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine to autism. The problem was, Wakefield was accused offalsifying the data. By the time the Lancet retracted the study in 2010, the damage was done. It had helped fuel the anti-vaccination movement, and that, in turn, is being blamed for an increase in measles and whooping cough, diseases that had been completely or virtually eradicated in the U.S.
According to the film’s website, Vaxxed focuses on a scientist, William Thompson, who claims to be a whistleblower and confessed that “the CDC had omitted crucial data in their final report that revealed a causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.”
“We have concerns with certain things in this film,” said Mr De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped the film would provide the opportunity for discussion of the issue. But after reviewing the film with festival organisers and scientists, he said: “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”
In a statement issued following the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision, Wakefield and the film’s producer Del Bigtree said that “we have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art and truth”.