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Film poster
Directed byAndrew Wakefield
Written byAndrew Wakefield
Del Bigtree
Produced byDel Bigtree
Distributed byCinema Libre Studio
Release date
  • April 1, 2016 (2016-04-01)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States

Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is a 2016 American pseudoscience propaganda film[1]: 1[2]: 1[3] alleging a cover-up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a purported link between the MMR vaccine and autism.[4][5][6] According to Variety, the film "purports to investigate the claims of a senior scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who revealed that the CDC had allegedly manipulated and destroyed data on an important study about autism and the MMR vaccine";[7] critics derided Vaxxed as an anti-vaccine propaganda film.[8][9][10][11]

The film was directed by discredited anti-vaccine activist Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register in the United Kingdom in 2010 due to ethical violations related to his fraudulent research into the role of vaccines in autism.[4][12][13][14] It was scheduled to premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival but was withdrawn by the festival.[15] In reviewing the film, Indiewire said that "Wakefield doesn't just have a dog in this fight; he is the dog".[16]

In November 2019, a sequel, Vaxxed II: The People's Truth, was released.


In 1998 Wakefield and 12 other authors published a study in The Lancet suggesting that the MMR vaccine caused autism. In 2010 the study was retracted, and Wakefield was struck off the medical register in the United Kingdom due to "ethical violations and a failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest" and for his invention of evidence linking the MMR vaccine to autism.[4][17][18][19] A substantial body of subsequent research has established that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.[20][21][22] Wakefield went on to become a leader in the anti-vaccination movement that his discredited study helped create.[23]

Del Bigtree, a producer of Vaxxed, was formerly a producer of The Doctors, an American medical advice talk show.[24] The British Medical Journal conducted a study on The Doctors and The Dr. Oz Show and concluded with this warning about the shows: "Consumers should be skeptical about any recommendations provided ... as details are limited and only a third to one half of recommendations are based on believable or somewhat believable evidence".[25][26] As with all American medical programmes and medical teleshopping shows, the two programmes carry Food and Drug Administration-required mandatory disclaimers at the end of each episode which state their advice is not a medical endorsement and viewers should consult with a physician based on the advice given.[citation needed]

The film was produced by Autism Media Channel,[7] of which Wakefield is a director.[27]


CDC Info Statement for MMR Vaccine, 2012 - Challenged in film.

According to Variety, the film "purports to investigate the claims of a senior scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who revealed that the CDC had allegedly manipulated and destroyed data on an important study about autism and the MMR vaccine."[7] The film features the so-called "CDC whistleblower" narrative that is based on anti-vaccination activist[24] and associate professor Brian Hooker's paper describing claims by senior CDC scientist William Thompson that he and his co-authors had omitted mention of a correlation they found between vaccination and autism in African-American boys in a CDC study. However a 2011 IOM report showed that evidence favors rejection of a relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.[28][29] The film contains edited excerpts of several phone calls between Hooker and Thompson recorded without Thompson's knowledge.[24][30] Hooker's 2014 paper on the narrative was subsequently retracted due to "serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions"[31][32] and in 2015 the CDC had confirmed that any such initial correlation had ceased to exist once they performed a more in-depth analysis of the children in the study.[33]

These sometimes spliced-together[33] unauthorized phone recordings of Thompson, according to the Houston Press, form the "crux of the entire movie ... And ... that's it".[34] On the "CDC whistleblower" narrative, Philip LaRussa, a professor of paediatric medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, said the film-makers "were saying, there's this silver bullet here, and the CDC is hiding it, and no one else has looked at this issue, which is not the case".[35] Thompson does not appear in the film and did not see it before it was released.[23] Thompson had released a statement on the controversy in 2014 which the New York Times discussed in its coverage of Vaxxed; the Times described it as "saying that while he questioned the 2004 study's presentation of some data, he would never advise people not to get vaccinated."[23][36]

Premiere and distribution

The film had been scheduled to premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival but this was the subject of public outcry and widespread criticism, particularly for allowing Wakefield to distribute his discredited theories.[37][38][39][40] Actor Robert De Niro, who co-founded the festival, initially defended the decision to show the film, writing on Facebook that the film was "very personal" to him due to him having a child with autism,[41] and saying that he hoped the film would open a dialog about the controversy.[41] But shortly before the evening of March 26 De Niro announced that the film would not screen, stating that consultation with other film festival representatives, and members of the scientific community, had led him to conclude that screening the film would not contribute to or further the discussion of the topic presented.[15][42]

After the film was dropped from the Tribeca Film Festival, it was picked up for distribution by Cinema Libre.[7] The film premiered at the Angelika Film Center in New York City on April 1, 2016[43] to an audience of "a few dozen".[44]

In reaction to Cinema Libre's decision to distribute the film, Todd Drezner, the father of an autistic son and creator of a neurodiversity-themed movie that was distributed by Cinema Libre, wrote an open letter to Cinema Libre criticizing Vaxxed and Cinema Libre's decision to distribute it, writing: "By releasing Vaxxed, Cinema Libre is actively harming thousands of autistic people. While we should be discussing ways to best support autistic people and help them lead fulfilling lives, you would instead have us follow a discredited scientist and dishonest filmmaker down a rabbit hole that leads only to long-debunked conspiracy theories. I am profoundly disappointed."[45][46]

The film was given a private screening in Cannes in 2017 while the Cannes Film Festival was underway,[47] and at that time Cinema Libre said that it had earned $1.2 million and that they had signed distribution deals in Italy, Germany, Poland, and China.[48]


On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 38% based on 13 reviews, and an average rating of 4.3/10.[49]

In his film debut, Wakefield has cast himself as the victim of a massive conspiracy to hide the truth ... What drove Wakefield from being a respected researcher to a conspiracy theorist?

Paul Offit in The Hollywood Reporter.[50]

Documentary director Penny Lane stated, "This film is not some sort of disinterested investigation into the 'vaccines cause autism' hoax; this film is directed by the person who perpetuated the hoax."[1]

A review by Ed Cara from the health and science news-site Medical Daily states that "[Vaxxed] doesn't care about convincing its audience with evidence. Instead, Wakefield, Hooker, and producer Del Bigtree run the viewer through a well-trod gauntlet of emotional pleas, context-free statistics ... and shadowy conspiracies."[33] Eric Kohn from an independent film news-site Indiewire says: "Wakefield's by-the-numbers approach to didactic storytelling relies on tons of random factoids positioned out of context to drive home his agenda."[8]

Joe Leydon, a film critic from Variety magazine. describes the film as a "slickly produced but scientifically dubious hodgepodge of free-floating paranoia" and warns of its "anti-Big Pharma conspiracy mongering."[51] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

The vast majority of people who see this film will not have the scientific knowledge to assess the film's veracity. But it's fair to say that the documentary, though characterized as antivaccination, isn't quite that. The point of view is more nuanced. It's against the vaccination of children ages 2 and younger. And it's particularly against the MMR — that is, the giving of three vaccines at once ... it's a passionate advocate for its viewpoint, and that makes for compelling viewing. ... Of course, it's possible that the children would have developed autism anyway, and that one event didn't cause the other. But the parents presented here are convinced otherwise.[52]

Pete Vonder Haar of Houston Press described the film as a "tragic fraud."[34] Sarah Gill of The Age called the film "another desperate attempt to hoodwink the public for no greater purpose than making money."[12]

Vaxxed bus - Monterey, CA 2020


In November 2019, Vaxxed II: The People's Truth, produced by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was released in the US.[53] The core of the film is video of individuals telling their stories to those who drove the Vaxxed promotional bus across the US in 2016.[2]

Of the film, Newsweek stated that it "touts the myth that there is a "vaccine injury epidemic."" and that the "trailer features distressing footage of parents making anecdotal and unfounded claims that vaccines caused their children to have developmental problems, including autism."[54]

The Guardian stated that "The film makes no effort to address the scientific evidence that the parents’ experiences of autism in their children have nothing to do with vaccines, or the coincidence that symptoms of autism often appear between 12 and 24 months of age, exactly when the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is given."[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b Grinberg, Emanuella (March 27, 2016). "Robert De Niro pulls anti-vaccine film from Tribeca after controversy". CNN. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Pilkington, Ed (October 31, 2019). "Release of Vaxxed sequel prompts fears dangerous propaganda will spread again". The Guardian. Archived from the original on November 3, 2019. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  3. ^ Sun, Lena H. (June 19, 2019). "Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement". The Washington Post. Wakefield used the money to help fund a documentary film called "Vaxxed,"...Tara Smith, an infectious disease expert at Kent State University who has researched the anti-vaccine movement, called the film "an effective piece of propaganda"
  4. ^ a b c Belluck, Pam; Ryzik, Melena (March 25, 2016). "Robert De Niro Defends Screening of Anti-Vaccine Film at Tribeca Festival". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  5. ^ June, Laura (March 22, 2016). "Why Is an Anti-Vaccine Documentary by a Proven Quack Being Taken Seriously?". New York. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  6. ^ Gorski, David (July 11, 2016). "Reviewing Andrew Wakefield's VAXXED: Antivaccine propaganda at its most pernicious". Science-Based Medicine. Archived from the original on February 15, 2017. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d McNary, Dave (March 29, 2016). "Controversial Anti-Vaccination Documentary Gets Release From Cinema Libre (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Kohn, Eric (April 1, 2016). "'Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe' is Designed to Trick You (Review)". Indiewire. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  9. ^ Senneset, Ingeborg (March 28, 2016). "Robert De Niro har gjort seg til vaksinemotstandernes nyttige idiot" [Robert De Niro has become the vaccine opponent's useful idiot]. Aftenposten (Norway) (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  10. ^ Senapathy, Kavin (March 28, 2016). "No Andrew Wakefield, You're Not Being Censored And You Don't Deserve Due Process". Forbes. US. Archived from the original on March 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Gorski, David (Orac) (March 25, 2016). "Mystery solved: It was Robert De Niro who got Andrew Wakefield's antivaccine propaganda film selected for screening at the Tribeca Film Festival". Respectful Insolence. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Gill, Sarah (April 27, 2016). "Anti-immunisation movie Vaxxed is a platform for its maker, not its message". The Age (Vic. Australia). Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  13. ^ "The Lancet's Vaccine Retraction". Wall Street Journal. February 3, 2010. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  14. ^ Triggle, Nick (May 24, 2010). "MMR doctor struck from register". BBC.
  15. ^ a b Rosen, Christopher (March 26, 2016). "Tribeca Film Festival: Vaxxed pulled from schedule". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  16. ^ ‘Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe’ is Designed to Trick You (Review), Indiewire
  17. ^ Hiltzik, Michael (March 25, 2016). "Column: How Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival sold out to anti-vaccine crackpots [UPDATED]". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  18. ^ Boseley, Sarah (May 24, 2010). "Andrew Wakefield struck off register by General Medical Council". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "MMR doctor struck from register". May 24, 2010.
  20. ^ Di Pietrantonj, Carlo; Rivetti, Alessandro; Marchione, Pasquale; Debalini, Maria Grazia; Demicheli, Vittorio (April 20, 2020). "Vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella in children". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 4 (4): CD004407. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004407.pub4. PMC 7169657. PMID 32309885.
  21. ^ Taylor, Luke E.; Swerdfeger, Amy L.; Eslick, Guy D. (November 29, 2013). "Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies". Vaccine. 32 (29): 3623–3629. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085. PMID 24814559.
  22. ^ Maglione, Margaret A.; Das, Lopamudra; Raaen, Laura; Smith, Alexandria; Chari, Ramya; Newberry, Sydne; Shanman, Roberta; Perry, Tanja; Goetz, Matthew Bidwell (August 1, 2014). "Safety of Vaccines Used for Routine Immunization of US Children: A Systematic Review" (PDF). Pediatrics. 134 (2): 325–337. doi:10.1542/peds.2014-1079. ISSN 0031-4005. PMID 25086160. S2CID 514220.
  23. ^ a b c Ryzik, Melena (March 30, 2016). "Pulled From Festival, Anti-Vaccination Film Will Run in Theater". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  24. ^ a b c Scheck, Frank (April 1, 2016). "'Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  25. ^ Koronyk, C.; et al. (December 17, 2014). "Televised medical talk shows-what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study". The British Medical Journal. 349: g7346. doi:10.1136/bmj.g7346. PMC 4269523. PMID 25520234.
  26. ^ Korownyk, Christina; Kolber, Michael R.; McCormack, James; Lam, Vanessa; Overbo, Kate; Cotton, Candra; et al. (December 17, 2014). "Televised medical talk shows--what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study". BMJ. 349: g7346. doi:10.1136/bmj.g7346. ISSN 1756-1833. PMC 4269523. PMID 25520234.
  27. ^ Hannaford, Alex (April 2, 2013). "Andrew Wakefield: autism inc". The Guardian. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  28. ^ Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines; Institute Of, Medicine; Stratton, K.; Ford, A.; Rusch, E.; Clayton, E. W. (2012). Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality : Health and Medicine Division. doi:10.17226/13164. ISBN 978-0-309-21435-3. PMID 24624471. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  29. ^ "TABLE: Summary of Causality Conclusions" (PDF). National Academies. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 1, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  30. ^ Robins, Rebecca (April 1, 2016). "We watched the movie 'Vaxxed' so you don't have to". Stat News. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  31. ^ "Journal takes down autism-vaccine paper pending investigation". Retraction Watch. August 27, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  32. ^ Park, Alice (August 29, 2014). "Journal Retracts Paper that Questioned CDC Autism Study". Time. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  33. ^ a b c Cara, Ed (April 4, 2016). "Controversial Documentary 'Vaxxed' Premiered In NYC This Weekend; We Decided To See It". Medical Daily. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  34. ^ a b Vonder Haar, Pete (April 7, 2016). "Anti-Vaccination Doc Vaxxed, Booted From Tribeca, Is a Tragic Fraud". Houston Press. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  35. ^ Glenza, Jessica (April 2, 2016). "Vaxxed: an expert view on controversial film about vaccines and autism". The Guardian. Retrieved April 2, 2016.
  36. ^ Thompson, William W. (August 27, 2014). "Press Release, Statement of William W. Thompson, Ph.D., Regarding the 2004 Article Examining the Possibility of a Relationship Between MMR Vaccine and Autism". Morgan Verkamp LLC. Archived from the original on August 28, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  37. ^ Alessandra, Potenza (March 25, 2016). "The Tribeca Film Festival is screening an anti-vaccine documentary". The Verge. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  38. ^ Merlan, Annie (March 25, 2016). "Robert De Niro Defends Anti-Vax Film Screening at Tribeca; Says It Will Allow for 'Conversation'". Jezebel. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  39. ^ Haelle T (March 25, 2016). "Robert DeNiro Just Broke My Heart". Forbes. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  40. ^ Lane, Penny (March 24, 2016). "An Open Letter to the Tribeca Film Festival about Vaxxed". Filmmaker. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  41. ^ a b Tarkan, Laurie (March 29, 2016). "Why Robert De Niro Promoted - then Pulled - Anti-Vaccine Documentary". Fortune. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  42. ^ Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (March 27, 2016). "De Niro's Tribeca festival pulls anti-vaccination film". Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  43. ^ Lipkin, W. Ian (April 3, 2016). "Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won't Stop". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  44. ^ Glenza, Jessica (April 3, 2016). "Controversial Vaxxed film premieres in New York despite scientists' outcry". The Guardian. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  45. ^ Drezner, Todd (March 30, 2016). Rosa, Shannon Des Roches (ed.). "Todd Drezner's Open Letter to Cinema Libre Studio Regarding "Vaxxed"". Thinking Person's Guide To Autism. Retrieved April 4, 2016 – via Blogger.
  46. ^ Ryzik, Melena (April 1, 2016). "Anti-Vaccine Film, Pulled From Tribeca Film Festival, Draws Crowd at Showing". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  47. ^ Moody, Oliver (May 23, 2017). "Anti-vaccine film Vaxxed will be given Cannes screening". Times of London.
  48. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (May 21, 2017). "Controversial Anti-Vaccine Doc 'Vaxxed' Gets Secret Cannes Screening". The Hollywood Reporter.
  49. ^ "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  50. ^ Offit, Paul A. (April 11, 2016). "Anti-Vaccine Doc 'Vaxxed': A Doctor's Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  51. ^ Leydon, Joe (April 3, 2016). "Film Review: 'Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe'". Variety. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  52. ^ LaSalle, Mick (April 28, 2016). "'Vaxxed': Vaccination critics take their case to film". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  53. ^ Lanzarotta, Tess (December 10, 2019). "How to beat anti-vaxxers at their own game". Washington Post.
  54. ^ Gander, Kashmira (October 31, 2019). "Vaxxed 2 Tickets: Anti-Vaccine Documentary Sequel to Secretly Screen in 19 States to Try and Avoid Being Blocked". Newsweek. Archived from the original on November 4, 2019. Retrieved November 14, 2019.

External links