Controversial vaccination film debuts in Philadelphia

    A still from the controversial anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed

    A still from the controversial anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed

    Despite being pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival, the controversial movie ‘Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe’ will have its Philadelphia premiere this weekend.

    The documentary, which looks into a potential link between childhood vaccines and autism, has been widely criticized by the scientific community.

    That criticism came to a head in March, when Robert De Niro, the Tribeca Film Festival’s co-founder, removed the documentary from its lineup after initially accepting the work.

    Landmark Theatres, a California-based company which operates the Ritz Five in Philadelphia, wouldn’t comment on its decision to screen the movie. The film also opens Friday in Washington, D.C. and Santa Barbara, CA, along with other cities.

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    The film is co-directed by Andrew Wakefield, who in 1998 published a research paper suggesting a link between childhood vaccinations and the rising rate of autism. The journal that published the study, “The Lancet,” later retracted it. Wakefield’s medical license was revoked by the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council over ethical concerns in 2010.

    “The movie is not anti-vaccine and neither is Dr. Wakefield. Rather, it promotes safe vaccine protocols,” says Philippe Diaz, chairman of Cinema Libre Studio, which is distributing the film. “Tribeca’s censorship of the film has allowed a precedent that shows how film festivals are no longer a venue for free speech.”

    Though he hasn’t seen the film, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Gary Emmett, a professor of pediatrics, says he supports free speech arguments in favor of screening the move.

    However, he says the science surrounding the issue is no longer in question, citing multiple large scale studies.

    “Autism is not related to vaccination. Period,” Emmett said.

    Wakefield and the film’s producer Polly Tommey will participate in question-and-answer sessions at the Ritz Five this weekend.

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