This past August during a fundraiser in Florida, Donald Trump reportedly met with the father of the anti-vaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield, along with 3 other prominent activists who propagate the false vaccine-autism link.
According to accounts detailed in ScienceMag, Trump “chatted with a group of donors that included four antivaccine activists for 45 minutes” during the fundraising event. Participants said the then-GOP nominee promised to watch Vaxxed, an antivaccine documentary produced by Wakefield, who authored the retracted and debunked 1998 Lancet study that claimed the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was is linked to autism.”
“Trump also expressed an interest in holding future meetings with the activists,” ScienceMag reported.
One of the activists, Holland Center CEO Jennifer Larson, recently posted on the Age of Autism website that Trump assured them that he’d advance their agenda.
“Now that Trump won, we can all feel safe in sharing that Mr. Trump met with autism advocates in August,” Larson wrote. “He gave us 45 minutes and was extremely educated on our issues. [Age of Autism editor-at-large Mark Blaxill] stated ‘You can’t make America great with all these sick children and more coming’. Trump shook his head and agreed. He heard my son’s vaccine injury story. Andy told him about Thompson and gave him Vaxxed. Dr Gary ended the meeting by saying ‘Donald, you are the only one who can fix this’. He said ‘I will’. We left hopeful. Lots of work left to do.”
As is common with such events, attendees were given a time to speak and the vaccination skeptics used it an opportunity to draw Trump’s attention to the documentary Vaxxed and allegations that the CDC has discovered, and denied, a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism, according to both Larson and Mark Blaxill, editor-at-large of the Age of Autism website.
…the absence of clearly articulated proposals and policy positions creates a lacuna in which anti-scientific ideas—along with racist, antisemitic, and misogynistic ones—can thrive. People who both think they share his ideas and have thoroughly considered policy positions to back them up are now well-positioned to amass support and feel ennobled to push harder for change.
As Slate goes on to point out, vaccine mandates are determined on a state-by-state basis, but the anti-science element that surrounds Trump could still hinder the pro-science pushback against the anti-vaxxer movement.
Such possibilities include Trump’s appointing of a vaccine skeptic or anti-vaxxer to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, or Food and Drug Administration.
Trump’s history when it comes to vaccine-denying rhetoric indicates that he’s not just paying lip-service to these purveyors of pseudoscience. As early as 11 years ago, Trump was pushing bogus vaccine-autism links.
“When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor,” Trump said following a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago estate in 2007. “And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic. Everybody has their theory. My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”
Trump echoed those same sentiments during CNN‘s Republican debate in September 2015:
“Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control,” Trump said. “I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump—I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.”
All we can do is wait to see if Trump’s penchant for quack science bleeds over into his decision making-process when it comes to the nation’s health institutions.
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