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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump, Autism and Vaccines: Some Backstory

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has warned of a nonexistent link between childhood immunizations and the development of autism, has accepted an invitation from President-elect Donald Trump to lead a commission "on vaccine safety and scientific integrity," he told reporters Tuesday.
A Trump spokeswoman would not confirm Kennedy's comment.
Kennedy, son of the late U.S. attorney general, said the president-elect "has some doubts" about vaccine policies but said both of them were in favor of vaccines.
"His opinion doesn't matter, but the science does matter and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science," Kennedy said. "Everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have ... [are] as safe as they possibly can be."
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition team, said only that the president-elect was "exploring the possibility" of a commission, but that no decision has been made.
"The president-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas," Hicks said. "The president-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of autism with many groups and individuals."
Trump has long flirted with the antivax movement. In 2007, Josh Hafenbrack reported at The South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
At a news conference Thursday in a gold-trimmed Mar-A-Lago ballroom, Trump's wife, Melania, noted her 22-month-old son, Baron, and said: "I cannot imagine what the mothers [with autistic children] and mothers all around the world go through. ... Let's get rid of autism."

In an interview, Donald Trump said he thinks the rising prevalence of autism is related to vaccinations of babies and toddlers.

One in 150 children is now diagnosed with autism, with the prevalence higher among boys.

"When I was growing up, autism wasn't really a factor," he said. "And now all of a sudden, it's an epidemic. Everybody has their theory, and my theory is the shots. They're getting these massive injections at one time. I think it's the vaccinations."
At the same paper, Hafenbrack also reported:
"When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that's a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it. Now there's a group that agrees with that and there's a group that doesn't agree with that."
Referring to his and his wife Melania's 22-month-old son Baron, Trump continued: "What we've done with Baron, we've taken him on a very slow process. He gets one shot at a time then we wait a few months and give him another shot, the old-fashioned way. But today they pump the children with so much at a very young age. We do it on a very, very conservative level."
 "Spreading out" vaccinations is a bad idea.  When parents delay vaccinations, their kids can get the diseases that vaccines prevent.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says:
Q5: Why can’t the shots be spread out over a longer period of time? There are 25 shots recommended in the first 15 months of life; why not spread these out over 2 or 3 years?
A: First, you would not want your child to go unprotected that long. Babies arehospitalized and die more often from some diseases, so it is important to vaccinate them as soon as it is safe. Second, the recommended schedule is designed to work best with a child’s immune system at certain ages and at specific times. There is no research to show that a child would be equally protected against diseases with a very different schedule. Also, there is no scientific reason why spreading out the shots would be safer. But we do know that any length of time without immunizations is a time without protection.
In 2014, Tara Haelle reported at Scientific American:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention annually updates its recommended childhood immunization schedule, the only schedule endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations. Following the CDC guidelines means children may get as many as five vaccines at one visit. But some parents space out vaccines, leading to delays in shots such as the first measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) dose, recommended when a child is between 12 and 15 months old.
The new study, published in the May 19 Pediatrics, found that administering the MMR shot or the less frequently used MMRV one (which includes the varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine) later, between 16 and 23 months, doubles the child’s risk of developing a fever-caused, or febrile, seizure as a reaction to the vaccine. The risk of a febrile seizure following the MMR is approximately one case in 3,000 doses for children aged 12 to 15 months but one case in 1,500 doses for children aged 16 to 23 months “This study adds to the evidence that the best way to prevent disease and minimize side effects from vaccines is to vaccinate on the recommended schedule,” says Simon Hambidge, lead author of the study and the director of general pediatrics at Denver Health. Otherwise, he says, an undervaccinated child is left at risk of infectious disease for a longer period. “Delaying also makes for increased visits to the doctor’s office,” he says, “along with the time and hassle and risk of exposure to other infectious diseases in the doctor’s office.” Hambidge’s previous research found that pediatric office visits might increase the risk of gastrointestinal illness (symptoms then potentially misinterpreted as a vaccine reaction).