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 science and disability issues more generally.
Trump has frequently promoted his views on Twitter, in a number of his characteristic modes: brash certainty (“Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism…”), cartoonish storytelling (“Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes—AUTISM. Many such cases!”), shameless slander (“I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied”).
As of now, most Americans do not share Wakefield’s, Kennedy’s, or Trump’s paranoid views. A survey published this month by the Pew Research Center found that some 82 percent of Americans support requiring all students in public schools to receive the combined vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. In the realm of infectious disease, however, “most” isn’t adequate for full immunity, and there remain pockets of resistance. Rates of vaccination in affluent areas such as Orange County, where the Disneyland outbreak began, are significantly lower than average. The Pew study found that African Americans are particularly skeptical about the safety of vaccines. So, too, are younger parents. More than 40 percent of parents of children under the age of four believe that the risk of side effects from routine vaccinations are medium or high.
The danger we face—the grave danger—is that Trump’s support for the anti-vaccination position will expand these pockets of resistance. Children will get sick and die, needlessly and avoidably. The evidence is clear: vaccines are safe. They are also necessary. The facts are the facts, nonpartisan and empirical, and scientists will continue to espouse them. But Trump is Trump, heedless and stubborn in his ignorance. The health of our children is in his tweeting hands