Via The New Yorker, Michael Specter writers: Trump’s Dangerous Support for Conspiracies About Autism and Vaccines. Click or tap through to read the complete article (and you'd better), and to use the many links. Excerpt:
In 2005, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., published an article in Rolling Stone, and online, at Salon, called “Deadly Immunity.” It was, he wrote, “the story of how government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal’’—a preservative once widely used in vaccines—and “a chilling case study of institutional arrogance, power and greed.”
Kennedy’s article was largely based on a famously discredited and retracted study, published in The Lancet, in 1998, that linked autism to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. In 2010, the British Medical Council found the principal author, Andrew Wakefield, guilty of dishonesty and of “callous disregard” for the pain of the children in his study.
The Lancet article fuelled a powerful anti-vaccine movement in the United States and in England, led by people convinced that the vaccine causes autism. Many major studies have compared children who have been vaccinated with children who have not. Both groups develop autism at the same rate; nobody has ever discovered a causal relationship between the vaccine and the disorder.
But the damage Wakefield has done cannot be overstated: vaccine denialism became a central issue in American public health as a result of his study. And Kennedy, along with the actress Jenny McCarthy, became one of the cause’s most famous supporters.
I wrote extensively about Kennedy and his misbegotten war on the health of American children in my book, “Denialism,” and others, most notably Seth Mnookin, in “The Panic Virus,” have also written about his role in the anti-vaccination movement. “Deadly Immunity” was riddled with so many errors, misconceptions, and falsehoods that Salon and Rolling Stone published multiple corrections. In 2011, Salon retracted the article. It was not simply a bad piece of journalism; it was so dangerously inaccurate that the problems with the article earned their own Wikipedia entry.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Kennedy told reporters yesterday that Donald Trump—who has, over the years, issued a stream of inaccurate and conspiratorial tweets on the subject of vaccines and autism—has asked him to “chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.’’
“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it,’’ Kennedy said on Tuesday, in Trump Tower. “His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter. And we ought to be reading the science, and we ought to be debating the science. And 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. He asked me to chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.”
Later in the day, Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said that no decision on forming an autism commission had been made.
Outrage is a lot like a drug: the more we are exposed to, the more we require to keep us angry. But the Trump vaccine commission is not simply a bad idea—it is a deadly one. Asking Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., to chair a commission on scientific integrity is like asking Ted Kaczynski to run the United States Postal Service.