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.