Tribeca Film Festival has withdrawn Vaxxed, a controversial film about the MMR vaccine, festival founder Robert De Niro announces.
On March 25, Robert De Niro stood by his decision to include Vaxxed by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield in next month’s festival.
The link Vaxxed makes between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism has been widely discredited.
“We have concerns with certain things in this film,” said Robert De Niro.
Robert De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped the documentary would provide the opportunity for discussion of the issue.
However, after reviewing the documentary with festival organizers and scientists, the actor said: “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”
Vaxxed was directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, who described it as a “whistle-blower documentary”.
In a statement issued following the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision, Andrew 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”.
The British doctor was the lead author of a controversial study published in 1998, which argued there might be a link between MMR and autism and bowel disease.
Andrew Wakefield suggested that parents should opt for single jabs against mumps, measles and rubella instead of the three-in-one vaccine.
His comments and the subsequent media furor led to a sharp drop in the number of children being vaccinated against these diseases.
The study, first published in The Lancet, was later retracted by the medical journal.
Andrew Wakefield was subsequently found guilty of fraud by the General Medical Council and struck off the medical register.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to get vaccinated after a spike in measles cases in the US this year.
The CDC reported 288 cases of measles in the first five months of 2014 – the largest number for 20 years.
The outbreak is thought to be linked to US citizens travelling to the Philippines.
The CDC says timely vaccination is the best way to prevent measles.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Centre for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, said many US healthcare providers had never seen or treated a patient with measles because of the country’s robust vaccination efforts and rapid response to outbreaks.
The CDC reported 288 cases of measles in the first five months of 2014, the largest number for 20 years
Measles was eliminated from the US in 2000, meaning that for more than 12 months there was no longer any continuous measles transmission.
She said: “The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily US residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated.”
“Many of the clusters in the US began following travel to the Philippines where a large outbreak has been occurring since October 2013.”
Of the 288 cases, 280 were thought to have been imported from at least 18 countries.
Ninety per cent of all measles cases in the US occurred in people who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown.
More than one in seven cases has led to stays in hospital.
In the US, the CDC recommends two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for everyone starting at age 12 months.
For those travelling abroad, the CDC recommends that babies older than six months receive the MMR vaccine.
Measles is a serious viral illness that is highly contagious.
The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after infection. These can include cold-like symptoms, red eyes and sensitivity to light, a high temperature or fever and greyish white spots in the mouth and throat.
After a few days, a red-brown spotty rash will appear. This usually starts behind the ears and then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body.
Measles is still common in many parts of the world, including countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa.