An infectious disease expert is warning that president-elect Donald Trump‘s coddling of the anti-vaccine movement is paving the way for more disease outbreaks.
“When someone takes a public policy position that weakens vaccine programs, they are threatening everybody’s health,” University of Toronto medical professor David Fisman said to Global News. “They are threatening my health.”
Robert Kennedy Jr., one of the nation’s most vocal vaccine “skeptics,” has reportedly accepted Trump’s offer to head the panel on Vaccine Safety and Scientific Integrity after meeting with the president-elect last Tuesday. The development has many in the scientific community worried that Trump, who’s voiced anti-vaccine sentiments in the past, will give a platform to a growing minority of people who reject established science based on fraudulent theories that link vaccines to autism.
As DeadState reported earlier this month, Trump’s misinformed views on vaccines are well-documented.
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 After Wakefield’s study was discredited, his medical license was revoked.
In September of 2014, [Trump] 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!”
Fisman says that these views coming from an incoming president could further lower vaccination rates.
“I think it’s extremely irresponsible,” Fisman says. “He bears the responsibility for outbreaks and epidemics that occur as a result of these signals, because he’s in a leadership position.”
“There is no doubt about what happens when a disease like measles, which is highly, highly infectious, and you decrease vaccine coverage for that disease,” Fisman added. “There is no mystery about what is going to happen next. What is going to happen next is that you’re going to have outbreaks and epidemics.”
According to Fisman, anti-vaccine ideology getting a stamp of approval from the White House is the worst-case scenario.
“When anti-vaccinationists get credibility, and when they are actually able to influence policy, vaccination rates drop,” he said. “What happens when vaccination rates drop is that diseases, especially highly infectious diseases like measles and mumps and rubella, resurge. What happens when those diseases resurge is that real children are sickened and real children are killed.”
Ultimately, new outbreaks will terrify people and renew support for vaccination, “but that comes at the cost of sick kids and potentially dead kids.”
Featured image: Gage Skidmore