President-elect Donald J. Trump apparently believes that vaccines cause autism.
Tom Price, M.D., Trump’s nominee as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, belongs to a Phoenix-based group that promotes the belief that vaccines cause autism, and that “shaken baby syndrome” — a brain injury in infants or toddlers as a result of forceful shaking — is a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury.
In August 2016, Trump met with anti-vaccine activists, including Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 paper in Lancet — since retracted after being found to contain falsified data — first linked autism to vaccines. At that meeting, according to participants, Trump agreed to further meetings with anti-vaccine activists.
This is worrisome. Each year approximately 1.5 million children around the world die from vaccine-preventable illnesses. In 2015, measles alone killed 134,000 people, most of them children in sub-Saharan Africa. This represents a marked improvement: between 2000 and 2015, the number of global deaths due to measles dropped by 79 percent, a reduction attributable to enhanced vaccination.
We are physicians who teach tropical medicine in East Africa each year, where we witness the tragedy of illnesses and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. Our training, experiences and observations align, both here and in low-income nations: vaccines save lives.
Trump may become our president, but this doesn’t mean we need to compromise our health, especially that of our children.
I have written a book on the politics of autism policy. Building on this research, this blog offers insights, analysis, and facts about recent events. If you have advice, tips, or comments, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org