A controversial anti-vaccination documentary has been withdrawn from the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival.
The festival committee says it faced a firestorm of abuse after announcing Vaxxed would be included in the October event, and last night issued a statement because some members felt “personally and professionally threatened’’.
“This is unacceptable,’’ the statement read. “It is with the utmost regret therefore that CLIFF is compelled, for clear reasons of personal and public safety, to withdraw the screening from the CLIFF 2016 programme,” the statement said.
Vaxxed explores allegations of a cover-up by the US Centre for Disease Control and a link between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine and autism.
The decision to include the film in the festival drew widespread criticism, including calls from Australia’s peak health association for it to be pulled from the program.
Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Michael Moore said the decision showed a lack of understanding of the impact the film could have on parents.
His sentiments were echoed by Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy, who said it was dangerous to promote a message against vaccination.
“I have no hesitation looking the anti-vaccination movement in the face and condemning what they do as being unsafe, unhelpful and scientifically wrong,” she said.
"We've got to keep challenging the anti-science myth pedalling that goes on around vaccination and a film that goes out there to say ‘vaccinations aren't safe’ is really, really unhelpful, particularly in communities where the vaccination rates are in many circumstances lower than what the state average is."
The CLIFF committee said it was “a sad reflection on the state of Australian democracy that legitimate questions cannot be raised in a public forum without inciting a campaign of ill-informed and dishonest intimidation”.
“(Vaxxed) raises potential questions about one specific vaccine. The film makes this clear repeatedly,” the statement read.
“A film festival screening, and the accompanying discussion arguing the merits of both sides, is an important contribution to presenting information about this issue so the public can make an informed judgement.
“Unfortunately, at this time, Australians will no longer have the opportunity to make that judgement for themselves.”