Junk Science Week: Robert De Niro gets Vaxxed

A documentary on the mother of all medical controversies.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post

Robert De Niro and media legend Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, are teaming up to produce a documentary on the mother of all medical controversies: vaccines and their potential link to autism.

Academy-award winner Robert De Niro and media legend Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, are teaming up to produce a documentary on the mother of all medical controversies: vaccines and their potential link to autism.

This movie, in a way, would be a sequel to a current movie, one in which De Niro played an unhappy off-screen part. De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival planned to screen “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” in April but under withering pressure eventually pulled the film. The Miramax film appears to be De Niro’s response to the clash in which he faced “a big reaction, which I didn’t see coming.”

The pressure, says De Niro, was anonymous, preventing him from engaging with his critics or understanding what he was up against. “I wanted to just know who they were, because to me there was no reason not to see the movie,” De Niro explained to IndieWire “The movie is not hurting anybody. It says something. It said something to me that was valid.”

The documentary has effectively been banned in most North American venues, although it was shown to trade types in Cannes last month and it will be shown at a rep theatre in Calgary this weekend.

Vaxxed describes what the producers see as a cover-up of data in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control study that was published in the journal, Pediatrics. The study, commissioned after a 1998 U.K. paper raised questions about the safety of the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella), was designed to lay to rest public concerns. The CDC study, according to senior scientist Dr. William Thompson, one of its four co-authors, examined the health of children in Atlanta, to see if vaccinating children early with MMR vaccines could result in autism-like characteristics.

To the dismay of the four co-authors, their carefully designed study found that black boys who received the MMR vaccine were 340 per cent likelier to get autism. The co-authors’ reaction? To junk their study’s design by ignoring unwelcome data and to junk, literally, the unwanted results that they had obtained. “The co-authors scheduled a meeting to destroy documents related to the study. (We) all met and brought a big garbage can into the meeting room, and reviewed and went through all the hard copy documents that we had thought we should discard, and put them into a huge garbage can,” Thompson explained in an affidavit provided in 2014 to a member of a U.S. Congressional committee on science.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .

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