Believing that the Apollo lunar landings were faked is one thing, but cutting NASA’s budget or placing a flat-Earther over the space program is something that would get a president adjudicated incompetent. Going anti-vaxxer is in the same category.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, President-elect Donald Trump thrives on conspiracy theories. Rigged elections, birtherism, even flirting with the disgusting 9/11 truthers have marked his run for the White House. I can deal with those, since they were really just to scrub enough votes from the lunatic fringe to beat Clinton. And it worked.
But this one, if true, is over the horizon in Cocoa Puffs land for Trump. NBC News reported today that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. met with Trump and was asked by him to “chair a commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity,” which RFK, Jr. accepted.
For the record, Kennedy is an anti-vaxxer of the fact-denying, conspiracy touting, spittle-flecked beard variety.
Let’s be clear: Kennedy will tell you he’s not against vaccines themselves, but rather, against thimerosal, a vaccine preservative purportedly responsible for the rise in autism in the U.S. He’s even publishing a new book—Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak—making this frightening point. The problem is: he’s wrong—utterly wrong, so wrong it’s hard even to know what the biggest piece of that wrongness is.
Okay, okay. But here’s the most perplexing part. The part that makes me rub my chin and go “hmmmmm.”
Kennedy, more than most anti-vaxxers, really ought to know better. In his long career as a climate crusader he has had to answer the febrile claims from the denialists that the whole threat of global warming is a conspiracy cooked up by “grant-grubbing scientists” and liberal politicians looking to expand the role of government. Yet when it comes to vaccines, he clangs the same loony-tune bells.
Trump has dog-whistled both the anti-vaxxer community and the climate-change denial community. But apparently RFK Jr. just went along because his conspiracy is more true than climate change is killing the earth because we use oil.
The difference is that there’s legitimate data and scientific evidence supporting the claims that manmade global warming is overhyped and the data is manipulated. There’s no such evidence that thimerosal, which is used in flu vaccines, causes autism. And according to the CDC, childhood vaccines such as MMR, Varicella, and IPV never contained the ingredient.
Further, the CDC, and every legitimate medical authority on Planet Earth, agrees that vaccines do not cause autism.
There is no link between vaccines and autism.
Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.
A 2013 CDC study [PDF – 204 KB] added to the research showing that vaccines do not cause ASD. The study looked at the number of antigens (substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce disease-fighting antibodies) from vaccines during the first two years of life. The results showed that the total amount of antigen from vaccines received was the same between children with ASD and those that did not have ASD.
Hear that, @realDonaldTrump?
Autism WAY UP – I believe in vaccinations but not massive, all at once, shots. Too much for small child to handle. Govt. should stop NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2014
I guess not.
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014
Lots of autism and vaccine response. Stop these massive doses immediately. Go back to single, spread out shots! What do we have to lose.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
The New England Journal of Medicine published an article that thimerosal does not cause autism in 2007. Claiming it does, against true scientific agreement, is harmful.
Despite several years of reassuring studies, the thimerosal controversy continues to be emotionally charged. Physicians, scientists, government policy advisors, and child advocates who have publicly stated that vaccines don’t cause neurologic problems or autism have been harassed, threatened, and vilified, receiving hate mail and occasionally death threats. The CDC, in response to planned protests at its gates, recently beefed up security and instructed personnel about how to respond if physically attacked.
Perpetuating the worst of these conspiracies is bad policy, and an awful example to the country. Mr. Trump should stop it. Now.