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Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Anti-Vax Movement and the Nation of Islam

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

Previous posts have noted RFK, Jr';s antivax partnership with Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

In the summer of 2015, Kennedy enlisted the help of the Nation of Islam, a black separatist organization, in his years-long campaign to convince Americans that vaccines cause autism. According to several reports, Kennedy wanted to encourage black families to consider not vaccinating their children, based on a debunked claim that a mercury-based preservative in vaccines causes autism. At the time, Kennedy was trying to stop SB 277, a California bill which eliminated a personal-belief exemption that some parents had used to avoid vaccinating their kids. In April, in promoting an anti-vaccine movie called Trace Amounts, Kennedy referred to vaccine injuries as “a holocaust.”
[The] Nation of Islam has been anti-vaccine for decades, a skepticism that’s part of a broader distrust of the medical establishment. In the 1960s, according to Farrakhan, the NOI’s most influential leader Elijah Muhammad told his followers not to get the polio vaccine, but said others were acceptable. In 2004, a story in their official newspaper, the Final Call, suggested that vaccines could be linked to health problems from autism to diabetes. By 2013, Farrakhan was claiming children in Zimbabwe were being intentionally poisoned with vaccines from Europe and the U.S., “to limit the population of Black people in those countries and places in the world where America’s needs for their vital minerals and resources were deemed necessary.” (The idea that medicines are part of an effort to poison black people has a lot of traction in the NOI: In his 1965 book A Message to the Blackman in America, Elijah Muhammad said birth control was also a depopulation scheme and a “death plan.”)
The infamous conspiracy site InfoWars has also promoted the bogus theory that vaccines cause autism.