Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not a doctor or scientist, so why is he heading up Trump’s potential vaccine safety commission?
The answer likely lies in whether Trump is sincere about his concerns over vaccine safety and why he still believes, despite a mountain of recent scientific research to the contrary, that there is a link between vaccines and autism. “Autism has become an epidemic,” Trump said during a 2015 primary debate. “It has gotten totally out of control. I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”
Kennedy has expressed similar sentiments, writing in an op-ed that thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines, is a toxin linked to neurological disorders with studies that “strongly suggest” thimerosal directly causes autism. Kennedy also stated, “I am pro-vaccine, but I want safe vaccines, robust regulators and transparent science.”
Wanting safe vaccines and focusing resources on autism are certainly not a bad thing, but the issue of vaccines causing autism has largely been laid to rest. Though many initially had concerns over a link between the two, spurred mostly by a now-debunked and retracted study published in 1998, the vaccine-autism connection has since been thoroughly researched, with study after study showing no evidence of thimerosal causing autism, directly or indirectly.
Even parents who are concerned about vaccines for other reasons (Are there too many too soon? What about harmful side effects? Is a spaced out schedule safer?) should be looking to science and evidence-based medicine to answer these questions, not conspiracy theories. Though some would have us believe otherwise, science and facts are not the enemy. We want our kids to be as safe and healthy as possible, so shouldn’t we be asking those who are experts in the field of pediatric health for the best ways to ensure that they are?
Further, there are concerns that a proposed vaccine-autism commission under a fact-resistant, anti-science Trump administration may potentially cause harm to both vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as negatively affect autism research. It could end up diverting money and resources into studying something that has already been extensively studied instead of say, a possible safe alternative vaccination schedule.
Would it be taking a majority of funds for autism research and putting it into a debunked theory of causation instead of focusing on effective therapies for autistic children? What about using those resources to find help for families struggling with extra medical costs for autism therapies and support? What about the hundreds of thousands of young adults with autism that are aging out of these services, if they were lucky enough to have access to them in the first place?
Regardless of political views, or a personal stance on vaccinations, a commission to study vaccine safety and autism should be based on robust science and backed by the medical community; not anecdotes, hearsay, and wild extrapolations. Our children’s health is at stake. Whether Trump’s vaccine safety concerns are genuine, of course, depends on if the president-elect ever meant anything he said about creating such a vaccine panel at all.
Image via: Bill Smith