News that President-Elect Donald Trump not only believes vaccines can be linked to autism but is considering legitimizing that theory is alarming physicians.
Trump expressed those beliefs during the campaign debates last year, saying his employees had told him of instances of their own healthy toddlers becoming autistic after getting routine shots.
On Tuesday, vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, met with Trump in Manhattan and immediately afterwards announced that Trump was considering setting up a new commission to look into the supposed dangers of routine vaccinations. Kennedy, who has written about his beliefs that vaccinations cause autism in some children, said Trump had asked him to lead the proposed group. He is a nephew of the late president, John F. Kennedy.
Reaction came swiftly.
At the American Medical Association, Patrice Harris, MD, chair of the group’s board of trustees said, the AMA “fully supports the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are among the most effective and safest interventions to both prevent individual illness and protect the health of the public.”
She added that Kennedy’s account of his meeting with Trump raises concerns that “creating a new commission on vaccine safety would cause unnecessary confusion and adversely impact parental decision-making and immunization practices.”
The American College of Physician's issued a statement from it's President Nitin Damle, MD, MS, saying "Immunization is one of the great public health victories in the last 100 years," and that vaccines are safe, effective, and have made "once-feared diseases like polio, rubella, and pertussis virtually unknown as routine vaccinatio cut rates to almost zero."
At the Autism Science Foundation, Alison Singer, the organization’s president, agreed.
"Creating a commission makes it look like scientists have not already studied this issue for many years, and it may lead people to think this is still an open question — it is not," Singer told USA Today.
Kennedy has edited a book on the dangers of thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, and is co-author of a book called “Vaccine Villains.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, thimerosal has not been used in routine childhood vaccines since 2001, though it is still use in flu vaccines.
Social media accounts have fueled beliefs that vaccination can cause autism. States have varying policies
on permitting children to attend school if they have not been vaccinated, but following an outbreak of measles in California in 2014-2015 the trend has been toward disallowing “philosophical” exemptions.
Trump has cited anecdotal reports, ones he says have come from his own employees, linking autism in toddlers to vaccinations.
The only credible medical journal to present a study on the topic is The Lancet
, but the journal later retracted the 1998 study—one based on accounts of cases in 12 children—and UK authorities later revoked the medical license of its author, Andrew Wakefield.
The CDC does list legitimate medical reasons
for not vaccinating children and adults, mostly if in cases of people with compromised immune systems or past allergic reactions to initial doses of vaccines meant to be given in a series.