In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the issue's role in presidential campaigns. In this campaign, a number of posts discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.
“For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry,” movement leader Andrew Wakefield told STAT in a phone interview.
“He didn’t rely upon [drug makers] to get him elected. And he’s a man who seems to speak his mind and act accordingly. So we shall see,” said Wakefield. A former doctor whose medical license was revoked, Wakefield launched the movement to question the safety of vaccines nearly two decades ago with a fraudulent study (which has since been retracted) suggesting that a widely administered vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella can cause autism.
Wakefield and a small group of like-minded activists spent nearly an hour with Trump in the closing months of the presidential campaign. “I found him to be extremely interested, genuinely interested, and open-minded on this issue, so that was enormously refreshing,” Wakefield said.
Robbins notes that HHS secretary-designate Tom Price has note been vocal on the issue.
But Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative group that publishes a journal that has promoted discredited views — including the supposed link between vaccines and autism. The group’s executive director, Dr. Jane Orient, confirmed Price’s current membership in an email to STAT.
Wakefield told Robbins that he has two goals at the federal level:
The first is to convince Congress to repeal a Reagan-era law that effectively moved vaccine injury lawsuits out of the civil courts by setting up a separate compensation system. That system awards compensation to people who can meet strict requirements for showing their injury was caused by a vaccine. Autism is not on the list of recognized injuries that can sometimes stem from vaccines— so activists have long wanted to do away with the system.
A second goal: to get the administration to appoint an independent board to oversee vaccine safety. Many anti-vaccine activists see the CDC, which currently oversees safety, as a corrupt agency in league with drug makers, though they have not produced evidence to back up that allegation.