Donald Trump moved to question one of the signature medical
accomplishments of the 20th century Tuesday, when a leading
critic of vaccines claimed that Trump appointed him to chair a
commission on vaccine safety.
“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current
vaccine policies and he has questions about it,” Robert F.
Kennedy Jr. told the pool reporter at Trump Tower after meeting
Trump Tuesday, adding the president-elect had personally asked
him to chair the commission. “Everybody ought to be able to be
assured that the vaccines that we have — he’s very pro-vaccine,
as am I — but they’re as safe as they possibly can be.”
Trump’s team responded late Tuesday evening, saying they were
considering forming a committee on autism but “no decisions
have been made at this time.”
“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy
Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and
ideas,” they wrote, in a statement obtained by the New
York Times. “The President-elect is exploring the
possibility of forming a committee on Autism, which affects so
many families; however no decisions have been made at this
time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the
discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and
Kennedy is a longtime environmental activist and radio host, as
well as the son of the late attorney general and the nephew of
President John F. Kennedy. He gained notoriety after a 2014
book called Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, in which
he argued that the mercury-containing compound, used as a
preservative in flu vaccines, was linked to autism.
“There is no link between vaccines and autism,” the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC) clearly
states, echoing findings about the lack of a connection
between vaccines and autism made repeatedly by
“The science has already spoken on this issue,” Paul Offit,
director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s
Hospital of Philadelphia, told BuzzFeed News. “There are
seventeen studies showing that the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause
autism. There are seven studies showing that thimerosal at the
level contained in vaccines doesn’t cause autism.”
“Here’s a man who knows nothing about vaccines, nor about
vaccine safety. Why would he be the one leading a commission on
vaccine safety? That certainly won’t serve the American
public,” Offit said.
Thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in 1999 out of
concern over a paper published by British physician Andrew
Wakefield, who first argued for a link between the
measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
After numerous investigations, Wakefield’s paper was called
“fraudulent” and was retracted. His conduct was called
“dishonest” and “misleading,” and he was disbarred.
Autism rates have steadily increased since 1999, and now
45 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder,
which the CDC has ascribed to changes in survey methods that
put the diagnosis ahead of other developmental disorders.
has accused government scientists of being “involved in a
massive fraud,” manipulating studies to demonstrate the safety
of the compound. And he has claimed
that an “insatiable pharmaceutical industry” is pushing them to
do so in pursuit of boosting revenues from vaccines.
In 2005, Kennedy wrote an article for Rolling Stone and
Salon alleging that the federal government was covering
up the danger of vaccines. After making a series of corrections
about inaccuracies, Salon finally retracted
the piece in 2011.
Trump too has publicly argued for the link between vaccines and
autism. “Just the other day, 2 years old, 2 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,”
Trump said in a September 2015 Republican primary debate.
In August, the president-elect also met with
Wakefield. He said he gave Trump a copy of his 2015
anti-vaccine documentary, Vaxxed, which the
president-elect promised to watch.