Ignore Anti-Vaccine Hysteria, Mr. Trump Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s conspiracy theories have no place in the White House. By Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell
Mr. Berezow is a senior fellow at the American Council on Science and Health, of which Mr. Campbell is president.
The environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a vaccine skeptic, told reporters Tuesday in the lobby of Trump Tower that the president-elect has asked him to lead a commission “to make sure we have scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects.” Mr. Kennedy also suggested that Donald Trump “has some doubts about the current vaccine policies” and that “we ought to be debating the science.” This is insane.
Mr. Kennedy in the past has raised doubts about thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative used in some vaccines, which has been wrongly accused of causing autism. The notion that vaccines cause autism was decisively rebutted in a 2002 paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study examined data on more than 537,000 children in Denmark, most of whom had been received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Researchers concluded that it provided “strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.”
Thimerosal has since been removed from most vaccines, yet autism rates continue to increase. It’s clear that the preservative isn’t to blame.
Anti-vaxxers have also latched onto the idea that children are given too many vaccines at one time. This, too, is bunk. The immune system is capable of handling countless foreign substances. When children stick their dirty fingers into their mouths, they are “vaccinating” themselves against whatever germs are in their environment.
Fifteen years after the New England Journal of Medicine study, the evidence has grown only stronger that vaccines are safe and that autism is caused by something else, such as genetics. But it shouldn’t be surprising that Mr. Kennedy would back strange ideas about vaccines. He has even flirted with conspiracy theories about the assassination of his uncle John F. Kennedy.
After the 2008 presidential election, Mr. Kennedy’s name came up as a potential chief for the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet he was quickly taken out of the running.
Why? Mr. Kennedy had made plenty of controversial statements over the years that would have caused severe blowback for the Obama administration. For instance, he had co-written an article for Rolling Stone magazine and Salon.com purporting that “government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal from the public.” The article contained serious factual errors, and Salon eventually retracted it. Clearly, this would not mesh well with President Obama’s pledge to “restore science to its rightful place.”
Although it is encouraging that Mr. Trump is reaching out to people who did not support him, Mr. Kennedy belongs nowhere near the reins of power. We encourage the incoming president to follow his predecessor’s lead—and stay far away from this nonsense.
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