Harkins Theaters Cancel Arizona Showing of Anti-Vaccine Film

Amid complaints from pediatricians, Harkins Theatres has canceled a planned screening of a film alleging a connection between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe will complete its week-long run at Harkins single-screen Valley Art theater in Tempe this evening. But Harkins has pulled the film from its 18-screen theater at the Arrowhead Fountains Center in Peoria.

Harkins did not respond to requests for comment.

In response to initial complaints about the film on Twitter last week, the company stated: "We try not to be an arbiter of the content and/or censor what we play. Simply put, we are the screen, not the content." 

The film previously was booted from the Tribeca Film Festival and the WorldFest-Houston Film Festival.

Vaxxed, directed by Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor whose fraudulent 1998 study kicked off the debate about an autism-MMR vaccine connection, is billed as a whistle-blower film. It claims to chronicle how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control omitted crucial data from its 2004 study on the safety of the MMR vaccine (Read New Times' review of the film.).

But the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which lobbied Harkins to cancel the showings, argues Vaxxed is spreading false information about vaccine safety.

Wakefield was stripped of his license in 2010 after an investigation by Sunday Times reporter Brian Deer revealed he had used falsified data in his research. His study alleging an MMR-autism link has been officially retracted.

Numerous follow-up studies with no link to the CDC have shown no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.

“This film does not add anything to the discussion on vaccines and autism,” said Dr. Delphis Richardson, president of the Arizona chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He saw the film twice.

Furthermore, he argued, “it’s dangerous.”

“If people believe this stuff, they’ll stop vaccinating,” he said. “If enough kids don’t get immunized, viruses and bacteria will start making a comeback.”