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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Further Pushback Against Trump & RFK Jr. on the Autism-Vaccine Myth

Many posts have discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  (He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.) The story that Trump might appoint anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head a presidential commission -- whether on vaccines or autism -- has provoked widespread reactions.

So basically, antivaccine activists, led by Polly Tommey, who also co-produced VAXXED, are collecting stories of “vaccine injury.” One could say that the movie VAXXED consists, to a large degree, of stories of “vaccine-induced” autism, and the VAXXED team has been busy collecting such stories and posting videos to its website, grouped by state. For instance, here is Michigan, which as of last night included six videos. Not surprisingly, California has many more. So far, the VAXXED team claims it’s received over 650 e-mails from people who have submitted their stories.
This could be a very effective technique with this particular President for the simple reason that he does not understand science, shows little interest in science, and clearly values anecdotes over data. He is very easily influenced by flattery. He has a long and sordid history of antivaccine views. He’s been very consistent in this, dating back to at least 2007. He became antivaccine because of stories told to him by parents just like this, according to RFK Jr.
At STAT, Sheila Kaplan proposes question for HHS nominee Tom Price.
Do you share the president-elect’s concerns about the safety of US vaccines?
Trump has made a number of remarks indicating that he is concerned about vaccine safety, seemingly lending credence to debunked theories suggesting vaccines can cause autism. He also met recently with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an outspoken anti-vaccine figure, who later said he had been asked to lead a committee on vaccine safety. (Trump’s transition team did not confirm he had been asked to do so.)
As the head of the nation’s top health agency, Price would be in a position to, at the very least, set the administration’s tone on vaccines.
At The Sacramento Bee, Karin Klein writes that RFK's California campaign against vaccination mandates focused on thimerosal, which has been out of vaccines for more than a decade.
Kennedy says that his mission would be to look at the science, but how could he be trusted to do that when he thinks any science that doesn’t fit with his preconceived notions is a plot? This is how he voiced his fringe vaccine belief: “They get the shot, that night they have a fever of 103, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

He later apologized for that insulting and wildly inaccurate description of autism, but it proves the point: This man is not a scientist or anything remotely resembling a medical expert. He doesn’t belong anywhere near a scientific inquiry.

Want an example of a holocaust? In 1990, measles killed 872,000 people worldwide. A global vaccination effort reduced that to 158,000 people by the year 2011. A recent study found that the measles vaccination campaign had saved the lives of 20 million children from 2000 to 2015 – and even so, missed measles inoculations mean that 400 children a day continue to die from the disease.

The danger isn’t vaccines. Measles and many other diseases are highly contagious, potentially fatal, but preventable. The danger is from people who throw around scare words, paving the way for its comeback.