Trump Panders To Vaccine Deniers, Risks U.S. Public Health

Though Donald Trump has previously declared support for universal health coverage, during his Presidential campaign, he vowed to “repeal all of #ObamaCare, including the mandate, period.”

Even more disconcerting, during the closing months of Trump’s Presidential campaign, a small group of vaccine deniers, among them Andrew Wakefield, the former physician from Great Britain who had his medical license revoked after his fraudulent study asserting that measles, mumps and rubella vaccines cause autism was found to be riddled with conflicts of interest and other unethical practices,  met with Trump and formed an alliance, hoping that Donald Trump would use his bully pulpit to reinforce their assertion that vaccinating children will cause them to become autistic.

In a telephone interview with medical news website STAT, Wakefield stated:

“For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry. “He didn’t rely upon [drug makers] to get him elected. And he’s a man who seems to speak his mind and act accordingly. So we shall see.”

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has been involved with the anti-vaccine movement. During one of the Republican Primary Debates, he declared:

“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. 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.

“Just the other day, 2 years old, 2½ 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.”

Trump has also posted groundless, paranoid Tweets linking vaccines with autism in prior years.

However, Trump’s hands may be tied. There is overwhelming evidence that vaccines are generally harmless.  It also has been indicated that the apparent increase in the number of autism cases is due to improved diagnosis methods. Therefore, if Trump attempted to hire vaccine deniers to work in federal agencies, there would be a loud and shrill backlash from both Democratic and Republican politicians and particularly from the scientific community. On the other hand, Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Georgia Congressman Tom Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a conservative group whose journal has published articles claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and childhood autism.

According to Wakefield, he and his fellow anti-vaccine advocates plan to convince the U.S. Congress to strike down a law dating from the Reagan years that kept vaccine injury lawsuits out of civil courts by setting up a separate compensation system that awards people who can offer absolutely air- and watertight proof that their health problems resulted from a faulty vaccination and to persuade Trump’s Presidential administration to gut the U.S. Centers for Disease Control – an organization viewed as patently corrupt by vaccine deniers – and replace it with an independent oversight board.

Unfortunately, because of the popular but false opinion that vaccines cause autism, there have been a resurgence of diseases that are potentially fatal to children. For example, although measles was declared eliminated in North America at the turn of the millennium, in 2014 alone there were 23 outbreaks of measles in the U.S., resulting in a total of 667 cases.