The American actor said Grace Hightower believes that Elliot, 18, changed overnight after being given the jab.
De Niro asserted that “there is a link” between autism and vaccinations despite scientific consensus proving the opposite.
He became visibly upset in a US TV interview in which he made clear his support for a controversial anti-vaccine documentary. But he had withdrawn it from the Tribeca Film Festival, which he co-founded.
The star said that people should see Vaxxed: From Cover Up To Catastrophe because there was “more to this than meets the eye, believe me”.
Earlier this month De Niro pulled Vaxxed, directed by disgraced British scientist Andrew Wakefield, after a backlash in the US and the UK. In an interview on Wednesday with NBC’s Today Show, he said other filmmakers had threatened to pull out.
Father-of-six De Niro, 72, said: “I think the movie is something that people should see. There was a backlash which I haven’t fully explored, and I will. I didn’t want it to start affecting the festival in ways I couldn’t see. But definitely there’s something to that movie.” He added: “I as a parent of a child who has autism am concerned and I want to know the truth. I’m not anti-vaccine, I want safe vaccines.”
Vaxxed argues that US authorities have manipulated their own studies to hide the extent of the link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
It claims that by 2032, 80 percent of boys born in America will have some kind of autism.
Reviews have been highly critical, not least owing to issues with Wakefield’s credibility after he was struck off the General Medical Council register. His 1998 paper in The Lancet, which claimed there was a link between autism and the MMR vaccine, was retracted when it emerged it was based on just 12 cases.
But De Niro said: “The vaccines are dangerous to certain people who are more susceptible. Nobody seems to want to address that, or they say they’ve addressed it and it’s a closed issue but it doesn’t seem to be.
“There are many people who will come out and say I saw my kid change overnight. I saw what happened, I should have done something and I didn’t. There’s more to this than meets the eye, believe me.”
De Niro was asked if his son had changed overnight too. He replied: “My wife says that, I don’t remember, but my child is autistic and every kid is different. There’s something there, there’s something there that people are not addressing.”
The actor did not specify which type of vaccination Elliot was given, or at what age. Asked about Wakefield, De Niro refused to condemn him. The star admitted that “part of me” regretted pulling Vaxxed and said he was not convinced by scientists saying there is no link between MMR and autism.
He said: “I believe it’s much more complicated. There is a link and they’re saying there isn’t”.
After Wakefield’s 1998 study, UK vaccination rates plummeted. A US study found that a third of parents with children under 18 still believe that the MMR jab causes autism.
De Niro, who married Grace, 61, in 1997, had already admitted that his decision to pull Vaxxed was the first time since Tribeca was founded 15 years ago that he had intervened in the programming.
Wakefield now lives in Texas, where he is venerated by anti-vaccination campaigners and gives speeches at conspiracy theory events.