One of the nation’s most vocal anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists now has the government’s stamp of legitimacy, thanks to incoming president Donald Trump.
According to reports, Robert Kennedy Jr. has accepted Trump’s offer to head the panel on Vaccine Safety and Scientific Integrity after meeting with the president-elect this Tuesday. The move confirms many in the scientific community’s worst fears — that Trump, an admitted anti-vaxxer himself, would give a platform to a growing minority of people who reject established science based on fraudulent theories that link vaccines to autism.
“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it,” Kennedy told reporters after the meeting. “His opinion doesn’t matter but the science does matter and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science. And that everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have—he’s very pro-vaccine, as am I—but they’re as safe as they possibly can be.”
Kennedy, like many in the anti-vaccine movement, uses the disclaimer that he is actually pro-vaccine but simply wants more studies to be done on their safety. He has repeatedly pushed debunked theories that vaccines are connected to autism and has claimed that the mercury-based preservative thimerosal is harmful to human health, a claim that has been widely debunked by numerous studies.
From Scientific American:
Public health agencies did suggest manufacturers eliminate or reduce the amount of thimerosal in vaccines and many have done so. But a number of studies have also discredited the idea of thimerosal is a cause of autism.
Kennedy’s work on autism has created controversy over the years. In 2005 he wrote an expose, co-published by Salon and Rolling Stone, contending that scientists were hiding the link between thimerosal and autism. Years later, Salon retracted the story, noting its basic thesis was inaccurate. Rolling Stone deleted it.
But Kennedy was not finished with the subject. He edited a 2014 book called “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury—a Known Neurotoxin—from Vaccines.” The volume makes the case that thimerosal is still causing autism and other neurological problems, and should be eliminated worldwide.
This isn’t the first time Trump has met with leading figures in the anti-vaccine camp. This summer, he met with Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced pediatrician who authored the now-debunked study that launched the movement. After Wakefield’s study was discredited, his medical license was revoked.
Trump’s misinformed views on vaccines are well-documented. In September of 2014, he tweeted, “I’m not against vaccinations for your children, I’m against them in 1 massive dose. Spread them out over a period of time & autism will drop!” During the following March, he declared, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!”
Kennedy is the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy.
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