Organisers have removed it from the lineup after widespread criticism including from the AMA
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, directed by Wakefield, was to be screened in early October as part of the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival (CLIFF) based in Victoria.
After learning about the screening, Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Michael Gannon had called for the movie to be withdrawn due to its association with discredited former gastroenterologist and medical researcher Andrew Wakefield.
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.
“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 [festival director David Thrussell] that even small pockets of people who choose not to vaccinate their children, there is a cost to be had there,” said 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.”
After receiving widespread criticism following Dr Gannon’s comments, CLIFF has decided “with utmost regret” to withdraw the screening of Vaxxed from its lineup.
The group put out a statement saying that since announcing its screening, the festival “has suffered a campaign of highly co-ordinated abuse and intimidation”.
“It has come to the point where members of the CLIFF team feel personally and professionally threatened. This is unacceptable,” says the group.
“It is a sad reflection on the state of Australian democracy that legitimate questions cannot be raised in a public forum without inciting a campaign of ill-informed and dishonest intimidation.
“What can’t be contained, however, is people’s desire to see the film and, given this controversy, that will eventually happen in much greater numbers.”
The CLIFF team disagrees with Dr Gannon that putting out the film is dangerous to public health.
“A film festival screening, and the accompanying discussion arguing the merits of both sides, is an important contribution to presenting information about this issue so the public can make an informed judgement,” they wrote in their statement.
“Unfortunately, at this time, Australians will no longer have the opportunity to make that judgement for themselves.”
However Dr Gannon’s response people getting information from the documentary was clear.
“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. That’s not the kind of person I’d be getting my scientific information from,” he said.