Trump Taps Vaccine Skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. to Lead Vaccine Safety Panel
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump has asked him to head a panel that reviews the safety of vaccines. Kennedy is the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and a well-known vaccine skeptic. This news has worried vaccine experts and health workers, as they believe that the president creating such a panel could strengthen vaccine opponents’ beliefs that vaccines cause autism.
“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policy, and he has questions about it,” Kennedy said on Tuesday. Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks later said that Trump is considering forming a committee on autism, but that nothing is certain yet. Kennedy has previously spoken out against vaccinating children, calling it a “holocaust.” In 2015, he spoke at the screening of a film that claimed a link between autism and vaccines, and said:
They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.
— Reuters Politics (@ReutersPolitics) January 10, 2017
The conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism in children is believed to have its origin in a British study that was published in 1998. That study specifically named the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, MMR, as the villain. That study has been debunked. But in recent years, there have been some serious outbreaks of measles since some parents have declined to vaccinate their children.
Appointing RFK Jr. to head vaccine safety panel is like appointing David Duke to head panel on race relations. Disgusting & irresponsible.
— Seth Mnookin (@sethmnookin) January 10, 2017
Kennedy wrote an article on the subject in 2005 for the Rolling Stone magazine, in which he argued that the government is covering up the connections between autism and thimerosal, a preservative that used to be an ingredient in vaccines. But there is no evidence for that theory, and thimerosal was never used in MMR vaccines. The article was later deleted because of factual errors.
This theory has been debunked several times, and vaccine experts warn that delaying vaccinating children poses a real danger. Infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Johnson, said that there are many systems constantly overseeing and reviewing the safety of vaccines, so it would be a waste of taxpayer money to create one more. He said denying vaccines could lead to “increased harm, illness and potentially death” from diseases that would easily be prevented by a shot.