My hospital, along with hundreds of others across the country, recently began to administer the first Covid-19 vaccines. My social media feed is filled with pictures of friends and colleagues, sleeves rolled up, writing about how much this vaccination means to them. In an otherwise dark year, it’s a moment of hope.
And yet, not everyone is celebrating the historic vaccine rollout. I stopped following my uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a noted anti-vaccination activist — on social media in 2019, when he was posting misinformation about the dangers of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in the midst of an outbreak.In May 2019, my sister Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean; my mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; and my uncle Joseph P. Kennedy II wrote in Politico about their concerns regarding my uncle Bobby’s spread of distrust in vaccines.
At that time, there was a resurgence of measles, a highly infectious disease which the United States had declared eliminated in 2000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak was largely “driven by misinformation about measles and the MMR vaccine, which has led to undervaccination in vulnerable communities.”
What’s more, a 2019 study found that the over half of Facebook advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two anti-vaccine groups, including the World Mercury Project, which was founded by my uncle Bobby. The organization has since changed its name to Children’s Health Defense, and Bobby is chairman. For its part, Facebook is no longer allowing anti-vaccination ads on its platform.
We are now bracing ourselves as in New York our Covid-19 case numbers tick up once again. The pandemic is far from over. And yet, this vaccine is our best opportunity to save lives. There is no time to waste. Being a doctor does not make me a vaccine expert, but I know whom to trust: immunologists like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who have spent their whole lives studying vaccine development.
When the vaccine is offered to you, I urge you to take it. Do it for yourself, for your family and for your friends. Do it for your country.