Vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says Trump has asked him to look into safety of immunizations
President-elect Donald Trump met Tuesday with Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental activist (and Democratic political scion) who opposes mandatory vaccination laws because he believes in discredited conspiracy theories that immunizations are dangerous. Kennedy told reporters that Trump had asked him to lead a commission on vaccines.
Though Trump transition aides later said that the decision wasn’t final, the meeting was alarming to doctors, epidemiologists and public health experts such as myself. Kennedy is neither a physician nor a scientist; he has been at the forefront of pushing bogus assertions that vaccines cause autism — they do not — and he has compared side effects of immunizations to the Holocaust.
Which makes Tuesday’s encounter just the latest indication that the next president might be willing to discard science and medical research on vaccination in favour of debunked myths. There’s a real risk that Trump could politicize vaccines, undermining trust in one of the great public health interventions in human history.
Success of immunization programs in the United States should not be taken for granted. It took decades of hard work by doctors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments to get vaccination rates to where they are today — over 90 percent for vaccines against polio, hepatitis B, chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella.
The modern era of immunization programs began in the early 1960s when President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s uncle, signed into law the Vaccination Assistance Act. This law allowed the CDC to support health departments in immunization-related activities.
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