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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Cruelty of the Antivaxxers

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrongA leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

What many do not understand is that for a significant number parents of children with autism, anti-vaccination beliefs carry the pernicious and agonizing false hope of a cure. Blaming vaccines for a child’s autism is cruel and misleading, and preys on parents and families at their most vulnerable. Currently, there is no medical “cure” for the core symptoms of autism. Children with autism typically receive behavior and educational interventions for skill development.


Behind the vaccine-autism myth is a multimillion-dollar industry dedicated to reversing autism. The autism recovery industry is populated by a number of entrepreneurs and businesses, but most common are specialized laboratories, compounding pharmacies and purveyors of experimental treatments.

The majority of these experimental treatments lack scientific support and, in some cases, are incredibly harmful as well as wildly expensive. During my study, I observed parents of children with autism experimenting with parasite therapy to address inflammation, hormone therapy to delay puberty, and even stem cell therapies in Mexico and India.


We cannot afford to think of RFK Jr.’s campaign as just a possible election spoiler. Kennedy and Shanahan are sowers of misinformation and the lasting damage they may have on vaccine trust should not be underestimated. As a researcher and an educator, it is my hope that enhanced public scrutiny will help reveal how this movement is based on debunked research, lies and delusions.