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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Most Undereported 2017 Story: Trump Betrays Antivax Movement .. So Far

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

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump thrilled the antivaccine movement by suggesting that vaccines cause autism.  He met with some of its leaders including the notorious Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose fraudulent research fueled antivaccine sentiment and eventually led the UK's General Medical Council to strike him from the medical register.  After his victory, he reportedly asked Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., another antivaccine leader, to chair a commission on "vaccine safety."  It appeared that the movement's hour had come round at last.

Then Trump failed to follow through.  He never established a vaccine safety commission.  His nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration said at his confirmation hearing that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism.  Similarly, his nominee for director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that studies purporting to show a link between vaccines and autism had been "debunked." In his greatest affront to the antivaccine movement, he named the former president of Lilly USA to be secretary of Health and Human Services. The company is a subsidiary of Eli Lilly, which not only makes vaccines, but also developed thimerosal, the preservative that the movement falsely identified as the culprit.

Trump probably has not seen the error of his previous position.  It is more plausible that he just does not care one way or the other. Amid all the drama of his administration, it is unsurprising that his quiet betrayal of a fringe group has not gotten much attention.  He has betrayed nearly everyone who has ever trusted him.  In this one case, though, that is a good thing.