One of the many ways in which President-elect Donald Trump has already shown signs of being a disaster for the science community is how he talks about vaccines. Not only did his foundation once give $10,000 to Jenny McCarthy‘s anti-vaccination organization, he has consistently perpetuated the lie that vaccines lead to autism, a conspiracy that has never been confirmed with evidence and which has been firmly discredited by experts.
He tweeted his support of the conspiracy a couple of years ago:
And during a Republican primary debate last year, he made this bizarre statement suggesting the link was real:
Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.
With all that in mind, Rebecca Robbins at STAT (a science-focused publication) says that anti-vaxxers feel emboldened with Trump, fully believing they now have an ally in the White House:
“For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry,” movement leader Andrew Wakefield told STAT in a phone interview.
Wakefield, of course, is the discredited researcher whose fraudulent (and later retracted) paper linking vaccines and autism began this whole misinformation movement.
Wakefield and a small group of like-minded activists spent nearly an hour with Trump in the closing months of the presidential campaign. “I found him to be extremely interested, genuinely interested, and open-minded on this issue, so that was enormously refreshing,” Wakefield said.
If Wakefield believes Trump is open-minded and “genuinely interested” in anything but himself, he’ll believe anything, won’t he…?
The fear here, from the pro-science side, isn’t that one of Trump’s appointments will change federal recommendations against vaccines (or when they’re supposed to be administered), but that a President who openly sows doubt about their efficacy will lead to a public health crisis. We thought a celebrity like Jenny McCarthy was bad enough? The President spreading the same lies would lead to even more parents refusing to properly vaccinate their kids, allowing diseases we thought were on the verge of eradication to thrive once again.
There’s another indirect concern as well:
Trump’s plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act could also have an indirect effect on childhood vaccination rates, if families lose insurance and become disconnected from primary care, including visits to pediatricians. If that happens, “they’re less likely to engage regular opportunities for their children to get vaccinated. Simple as that,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the School of Public Health at Boston University.
Elections have consequences. And 60-some-million Americans foolishly voted for a candidate who knows so little about public policy that he’ll believe anything you tell him about it, even if it creates a health hazard, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.
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