Environmentalists, infectious disease specialists, and public health experts now share something in common—concerns over the views on widely accepted scientific findings on the part of officials within the incoming administration of president-elect Donald Trump.
While the role of so-called “climate-change deniers
” in the new commander-in-chief’s cabinet has received significant coverage in the mainstream media, until now relatively little attention has been paid on the views of newly appointed—assuming they are confirmed by the Senate—officials to the administration’s healthcare team as they pertain to medical research. That all changed with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s announcement
on January 10th that he is under consideration by the president-elect to chair an as-yet-to-be-created committee on “vaccination safety and scientific integrity.”
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Kennedy and Trump met to discuss, “issues pertaining to vaccines and immunizations.” However, the new administration has yet to make a formal announcement concerning what role, if any, Kennedy will have in the new cabinet.
Kennedy’s potential involvement in federal policy on vaccinations for vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), tuberculosis, and pertussis is of concern to many experts on infectious diseases and public health because the son of the former attorney general and presidential candidate has been called a “vaccine skeptic.” Among other safety concerns, the former environmental activist has argued in the past that vaccines containing thimerosal may cause autism. This theory has since been debunked
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others.
Assuming it’s true about the appointment, the news about Kennedy is particularly alarming, given that president-elect Donald Trump has also reportedly met
with former physician Andrew Wakefield, whose study linking the MMR vaccine to autism, which was published
in The Lancet
in the late 1990s, has since been declared fraudulent
“I am very concerned about this appointment,” Davidson H. Hamer, MD, from the Center for Global Health and Development and Professor of Global Health and Medicine at Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine told Contagion
. “Mr. Kennedy has a strong history of supporting anti-vaccine efforts. The evidence of an association between vaccines—specifically MMR—and autism has been refuted by multiple high quality population-based studies. I am very worried that he is going to strengthen anti-vaccine campaigns, potentially through incorrect, non-evidence-based information. Mr. Kennedy’s appointment may give legitimacy to the incorrect claims of the anti-vaccine advocates and thereby exacerbate an already concerning situation.”