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.
PRESIDENT-ELECT Donald Trump’s transition team tried to tamp down the report from leading vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that Mr. Trump had asked him to lead a new panel on the safety of childhood inoculations. The president-elect, we were told, is only exploring the possibility of forming a government commission on autism. But by even entertaining the idea, Mr. Trump — who has his own troubling history when it comes to vaccine safety — gives new life to debunked conspiracy theories tying autism to vaccines. That in turn endangers children’s lives.Alex Stuckey reports at The Salt Lake Tribune:
“It gives it a quasi-legitimacy that I frankly find frightening,” William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, told the New York Times. Theories about a link between vaccines and conditions such as autism have been thoroughly discredited in numerous scientific studies that have established — without any question — the safety of vaccines.
Eric Fombonne is worried, to say the least, about what a potential vaccine-safety commission headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could mean for science and public safety.
Putting Kennedy — who has spent years pushing the link between vaccines and autism — in such a position "shows a complete misunderstanding of science," said Fombonne, an international expert on autism epidemiology, including vaccines.
"There is no link between [autism and vaccines] and a lot of time and public funding has been going to debunking those hypotheses," Fombonne said Thursday during a visit to Salt Lake City.
The researcher was in Utah to speak at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute as well as the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center for Learning about his current genetic research on autism.Tara Haelle reports at Politico:
Even forming a commission on autism and vaccines without Kennedy’s involvement would be counterproductive at best and harmful at worst, says Mark Schleiss, division director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
“In an era where government has limited resources, any commission given the task of exploring this issue is a complete waste of time, money and resources because this issue is already settled,” Schleiss says. “If thimerosal had been a problem, we would have seen autism rates decline when we took it out of vaccines, and they didn’t. Those are resources that could be directed toward meaningful autism research or toward support for families with autism children.”
Alison Singer, co-founder and president of the Autism Science Foundation, agrees. “We need to devote our scarce resources and our energy to study what really does cause autism,” Singer says. “Instead of doing the 40th study on vaccines, let’s do the first study on something we haven’t studied.”