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Controversial 'Vaxxed' film comes to Utah

Controversial vaccination film "Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe" will be shown at the Megaplex Theaters at Thanksgiving Point and in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 6, 2016 through Thursday, June 9, 2016.
Controversial vaccination film "Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe" will be shown at the Megaplex Theaters at Thanksgiving Point and in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 6, 2016 through Thursday, June 9, 2016.
Cinema Libre

SALT LAKE CITY — Three months after Utah lawmakers rejected a bill requiring parents to watch an educational video before exempting their children from vaccinations, a controversial film arrived in Utah theaters this week that raises claims of a government coverup of a connection between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism.

"Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe," which was released in April in New York City, began playing in Utah at the Megaplex theaters in Lehi and Salt Lake City Monday. The film was originally scheduled to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival but was pulled from the lineup by actor and festival founder Robert De Niro after reviewing the film with members of the scientific community, according to USA Today.

The theory linking vaccines to children developing autism has been widely debunked by health professionals and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The controversial "Vaxxed" movie highlights allegations of possible CDC research fraud and shares stories of families who believe they have been affected by the MMR vaccine.

Kristen Chevrier, an advocate of vaccine choice, was instrumental in bringing the film to Utah, receiving nearly 1,000 "likes" on her Facebook page titled “Bring 'Vaxxed' to Utah.” “Vaxxed” producers have encouraged supporters across the country to petition theaters to bring the film to their area.

Chevrier wrote in an email to public officials that "Vaxxed" is "pro-safety, pro-transparency, pro-accountability and pro-vaccine. It is anti-corruption."

On top of fulfilling local demand for the film, Chevrier and her colleagues say they have also worked hard to reach out to the "fence-sitters" in the community.

Nurse practitioner Beth Luthy, who advocated for HB221 earlier this year that would have required an education program for parents who decide not to immunize their children, said she believes the film may negatively affect those "fence-sitters," causing especially fearful parents to accept the allegations portrayed in the controversial film as being true.

“If you have something that is just a guess or a theory and you pass it off as truth, that scares people, and that’s irresponsible,” Luthy said.

The 2013-14 school year data released by the Utah Department of Health shows that about 95 percent of Utah children are immunized. Of the 5 percent who are not immunized, 95 percent of exemptions are for personal beliefs, about 4 percent claim medical reasons and 1 percent of exemptions are for religious reasons.

Luthy said she worries that these numbers may change as more and more fearful parents are affected by "Vaxxed" and what she calls its "propaganda."

The final Thursday night showing at the Thanksgiving Point Megaplex theater, where "Vaxxed" director Andrew Wakefield will be available for a Q&A session following the showing, is nearly sold out.

Opponents and advocates of vaccines for children agree that parents should be as informed as possible about the issue.

"If you don't have accurate information, you cannot be informed," Chevrier said. "The goals are to create truly informed consent, to make sure that vaccines are as safe as they can possibly be."

Email: ahobbs@deseretnews.com