Search This Blog

Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Days: Trump, Autism, Vaccines

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  This blog has often documented Trump's support for this bogus idea. (He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.) The story that Trump might appoint anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head a presidential commission -- whether on vaccines or autism -- provoked widespread criticism. Fortunately, he backed off. lists this item in "100 Days of Whoppers":
  • Feb. 14: Trump said there has been “a tremendous amount of increase” in autism among children. Actually, scientists don’t know whether the increase in reported cases is due to an increase in autism itself, or to a broadening of the disorder’s definition and greater efforts to diagnose it.
At Buzzfeed, Dan Vergano wonders would would happen during a disease outbreak.
Complicating matters is the “‘new anti-vaccine' movement,” which Trump has publicly supported, outbreak expert Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine told BuzzFeed News, which claims there is a CDC conspiracy to hide the harmful effects of vaccines. (Needless to say, he and other doctors call this erroneous.)
For antivaxxers, Hotez said, “the one thing they all get behind is a government conspiracy.”

Public support for vaccination is a key factor in stopping an epidemic because successful efforts depend on “herd immunity” where a large proportion of the population needs inoculation to act as a firebreak on the spread of a disease. Defections from vaccination help explain outbreaks of whooping cough in California, mumps in Arkansas, and measles among the Amish in Ohio.

In a big epidemic, falling short of herd immunity can lead to an outbreak lasting far longer than necessary. Since 2014, the CDC has tracked 300 dangerous outbreaks in 160 nations, and 37 dangerous bugs, according to a recent Washington Post report on the administration’s failure to fill key public health positions.