AMA head calls on film festival director to pull screening in Victoria in the interest of public health

Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, directed by discredited former gastroenterologist and medical researcher Andrew Wakefield, will be screened on Saturday 8 October in Castlemaine, Victoria.

Vaxxed alleges a cover-up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a purported link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

It is part of a lineup chosen for the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival (CLIFF) by creative director David Thrussell.

Wakefield was struck off the British medical register in 2010 after being found guilty of “serious professional misconduct” while carrying out research into a possible link between MMR vaccine, bowel disease and autism.

In response, Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon is calling for the film to be pulled from the small festival.

When asked why, Dr Gannon responds that the director – who he claims is an ex-colleague – has been “entirely discredited” and his documentary shouldn’t be screened.

“Not when it’s made by a charlatan, not when it’s made by someone who’s been entirely discredited by the scientific world, the medical world, someone who was struck off the medical register for having harmed people and been seen as being a danger to the community,” says Dr Gannon.

“That’s not the kind of person I’d be getting my scientific information from.”

Dr Gannon asks festival director Thrussell to reconsider pulling the film in the interests of public health and safety.

“I think that film festivals are a wonderful bit of art and part of their job is to challenge us and to be edgy, and occasionally seek controversy. But I would say to him that even small pockets of people who choose not to vaccinate their children, there is a cost to be had there,” says Dr Gannon.

“One, two, three per cent reductions in vaccination rates harm children. They put them in intensive care, they kill them. This is not scare-mongering. It is so important to maintain vaccination rates well above 90%. It’s irresponsible to do anything that might threaten the public’s health.”

This is not the first time Wakefield’s documentary has come under scrutiny.

Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro, whose son has autism, had initially included the film in the festival but ended up cutting it from the lineup due to widespread pressure.

“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 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.”

CLIFF is so far standing by its decision, describing the film as “timely and acutely controversial” and asking audiences to “see the film and make-up your own mind”.