AFP, New York – A documentary by a former British medical researcher who claimed a link between vaccines and autism has been withdrawn from the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, event founder and actor Robert De Niro said.
“Vaxxed: From Cover-UP to Catastrophe” had drawn protests from critics who said including the film in the festival line-up amounted to siding with the anti-vaccine movement spawned by the discredited research.
“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family,” De Niro, who has a child with autism, said in a statement.
“But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”
The film’s director, Andrew Wakefield, is the researcher whose 1998 paper claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism set off an anti-vaccine movement that medical authorities say has led to deaths from outbreaks of preventable childhood diseases like measles.
A probe by the British General Medical Council found that Wakefield had acted “dishonestly” in publishing his results.
British medical journal The Lancet retracted its publication of the study, saying parts of it had been falsified. Wakefield was subsequently barred from practicing medicine in Britain.
“The festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy,” De Niro said.
“However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”
The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 13-24.