Future of vaccines – what Donald Trump is doing and saying

future of vaccines

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know two things – my support for vaccines is unwavering, and my loathing of Donald Trump is unmatched by just about anyone in politics. Seriously, Trump makes me yearn for the days when George W Bush was running things. So when it comes to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump, I’ve reached a whole new level of abhorrence.

In case you’ve not kept up, let’s have a quick review of Donald Trump’s views on vaccines. They’re not good.

First, Trump has been tweeting about vaccines since 2012. He thinks that vaccines cause autism, and he’s been wrong on almost everything about them. He thinks that that children get too many vaccines, he’s wrong on that too, although if he has some medical background which he hid from the world, we’d be glad to hear what his research tells us about “too many vaccines.” He claims that doctors are wrong about vaccines. Oh really? Where’s the evidence.

I don’t know why I would ask for evidence from a man who spends almost all of his day denying evidence for most science.

Of course, the fraudster Andrew Wakefield has had an ongoing bromance with Trump, and explicitly endorsed Trump for President. Talk about putting the fear into the future of vaccines.

The bromance continued after the election, which has had more than a few pro-science types nervously joking that Wakefield might be appointed CDC Director. Of course, Trump wouldn’t choose Wakefield for such an illustrious position. It just doesn’t make sense. Of course, it doesn’t make sense that Betsy DeVos, who has approximately zero knowledge of the American educational system, is confirmed to be Secretary of Education under Trump. I’m laughing nervously.

Next up, Trump had a meeting with vaccine denier, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who, despite his family’s illustrious liberal name and support of science, wanted to work for Trump to investigate the safety of vaccines. Depending on the source, Trump either asked or didn’t ask Kennedy to chair a vaccine safety commission. We’re hoping Trump didn’t, but you never know.

Then, Trump named Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has the ultimate responsibility for America’s vaccine program. Price is a physician, which should be a good thing at HHS. Unfortunately, Dr. Price belongs to a radical, right wing physician’s group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). If you’ve never heard of AAPS, they are a politically conservative non-profit association founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.” Along with being opposed to many public health and right to healthcare issues, they’re not big fans of vaccines and mandatory vaccinations.

Given all of this bad news, where do we stand right now with regards to the future of vaccines and Donald Trump? Well, let’s get to the good news first. Because those of us who are appalled by Donald Trump need all the good news we can get.

Before we discuss the Trump administration’s actions on vaccines, let’s make sure everyone understands that the American public is not in sync with Trump’s views on vaccines. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans support requiring students in public schools to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella with the MMR vaccine. Moreover, Pew found that about 88% of Americans say that the benefits of vaccines outweigh any risks – an overwhelmingly positive finding about the public perception of vaccines.

On the topic of the future vaccines and Trump, not only is he wrong about the science, but he’s way outside of the mainstream of American’s feelings about vaccinations. Since Trump seems addicted to polls, maybe he’ll see this Pew poll and let the CDC do its job with being encumbered by an anti-science directive. One can only hope. But we’ll circle back to the CDC in a couple of paragraphs.

Also on the “good news” side of things, during the confirmation hearing for Dr. Price, he was asked whether vaccines caused autism – his answer, “I think the science in that instance is that it does not,” was reassuring. Price also said that he would “make certain that factual informing (of public health issues) is conveyed to Congress and the president and the American people.”

Sadly, his comments about vaccines were sometimes less than “full-throated” support. When asked if he believed that the CDC (which is part of HHS) schedule (pdf) for vaccinations should be followed by parents, he answered, “I think that the science and healthcare has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccinations.” It’s a good answer to some question somewhere, but it did not answer the question about the CDC schedule, which Trump thinks is wrong. I hope I’m not reading between the lines, but it is troubling to read these statements.

A few other pieces of good news should brighten our day with regards to vaccines. Andrew Wakefield has not been nominated to head the CDC. Of course, Trump hasn’t chosen anyone for Director as of yet.

And on the bad side of the news, the CDC seems to be under pressure to bend to Trump’s will. The CDC cancelled a conference on climate change and public health – climate change has a huge impact on public health, and the CDC should be at the forefront of the scientific information about it. Unfortunately, with a climate change denier in the White House, the CDC probably was under pressure to cancel.

I guess the news around the CDC is mostly bad these days.

As for the vaccine investigative commission (or whatever it will be called) that is supposedly going to be headed by Robert F Kennedy, Jr? Well, other than the flurry of reports when they met in early January, there hasn’t been a stitch of news since then – thus on our scale of no news is probably better than whatever horrible news we’ll get from Trump about the future of vaccines, this averages out to pretty good news. Right now, we don’t know anything, other than Kennedy and Trump met to discuss vaccines. There’s no word from the White House whether Kennedy will be heading up this investigation, even if there’s going to be an investigation into vaccines.

Right now, we’re not sure which way the wind is blowing on Donald Trump’s influence on the future of vaccines. Will the CDC quit promoting its vaccine schedule? Will Tom Price push his views about vaccines in a positive or negative way? Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr have a major role in what we perceive about vaccines? Will Trump change his mind and do nothing?

As with almost everything this administration has done, we expect the worst and hope for the best. Unfortunately, “the worst” keeps happening. But, so far, there’s nothing but rumors and suppositions about what will happen with vaccines. And for today, we’ll take that as hopeful. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week with regards to Donald Trump and vaccines. I’m hoping that the future of vaccines looks good, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

 

Vaccine skeptics – let’s be clear, they are really science deniers

vaccine skeptics

I get so tired of this, the press describing vaccine deniers as “vaccine skeptics.” I wish the press would stop doing this, but no matter how much we say it, we continue to see it. I took the cantankerous Orac’s suggestion to Google “vaccine skeptic” and “Robert F Kennedy.” And, I got over 2 million hits. Two million!!!

Now, you might be asking yourself, “self, why is this feathery dinosaur getting all cranky about whether these people are called skeptics or deniers?” Because skepticism, even to the lay person, implies that the person has some legitimate beef with the science of a topic based on a thoughtful and unbiased review of said science. That is actually the furthest thing from the truth for these so-called vaccine skeptics.

Besides I’ve been cranky and snarky about misusing the term “skeptic” in science for years. And when this feathery dinosaur sees the press lending some legitimacy to the illegitimate beliefs of Robert F Kennedy Jr, it requires some cranky commentary (although the crankier Orac took some wind out of my sails). Continue reading “Vaccine skeptics – let’s be clear, they are really science deniers”

UPDATED – Trump asks vaccine denier Robert F Kennedy Jr to chair vaccine panel

Robert F Kennedy Jr

President-elect Donald Trump has met with Robert F Kennedy Jr., a notorious vaccine denier, today. The two will discuss “the issues pertaining to vaccines and immunizations.” And whatever tiny spark of hope that maybe Trump was pandering to the anti-vaccine wing nuts for votes has been put out with a bucket of water.

Kennedy, who is a member of the family that is the icon of liberalism, has been increasingly attacking vaccines and their supposed dangers. Kennedy continues to push the trope that vaccines cause autism, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that it simply does not. Moreover, Kennedy pushed the CDC whistleblower myth, which has been debunked so many times, that I should create a macro just to respond to it whenever it appears in a comment thread.

Kennedy has also stated that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, a belief that has been rejected by real science many times. Kennedy checks off most of the key denier talking points for vaccines, including comparing the damage done by vaccines to the holocaust. He made that comment while promoting an anti-vaccine propaganda film, Trace Amounts.

Trump himself shares many of the Kennedy’s anti-science beliefs on vaccines, including claiming that there is a link between vaccines and autism. During a 2015 GOP primary debate, Trump said

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. … [in which] a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back and a week later had a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

One of the things I’ve learned, while fighting the good fight on science on the internet for over 20 years, when someone says “I am totally in favor of XYZ,” they generally will follow up with how they really aren’t. Trump does the same.

Ironically, Kennedy was a strong critic of Trump, calling the President-elect, “dangerous and deceptive.” I guess when it comes to vaccines, politics does make some strange bedfellows.

But the story gets worse. Several tweets just hit my timeline that makes me physically ill:

 

This is just incredible. Robert F Kennedy Jr chairing a panel on vaccine safety? Who is he going to put on this panel, Mr. Andrew Wakefield?

According to a news report,

Outspoken vaccine critic Robert Kennedy Jr. has accepted a position within Donald Trump’s administration as chair of a panel on vaccine safety and scientific integrity — the clearest sign yet of the president-elect’s suspicions about vaccines.

The offer, which came in a Wednesday meeting between Trump and the scion of America’s most prominent Democratic family, is likely to concern scientists and public health experts who fear the incoming administration could give legitimacy to skeptics of childhood immunizations, despite a huge body of scientific research demonstrating that vaccines are safe.

Kennedy told reporters after the meeting,

President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it. 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 that 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.

Yes, Mr. Kennedy the science dos matter and you are on the absolute wrong side of science. Face it, you’re a science denier on the facts of vaccines. Moreover, science is not subject to debate – either the evidence is solid or not, and you don’t debate. You provide scientific evidence equal to, or better than, the science presented that supports my understanding of vaccines. Claiming that yourself, or Donald Trump, are “pro-vaccine” falls on deaf ears when it’s clear that you will use any lame conspiracy theory, bad science or outright lies to support your point of view about vaccines.

Robert F Kennedy Jr – you are an embarrassment to liberal ideals on science. You are an embarrassment to the legacies of your father and your uncles. You’re just an embarrassment.

Now this science denying ignoramus might chair a panel to look at vaccine safety. Maybe I should hope that Kennedy gets shamed into accepting the scientific facts. But my hopes are starting to be delusions.

Update 1

A Trump spokesperson put out this statement:

The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission 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 individuals.

So Trump may or may not set up this panel and may or may not appoint Kennedy to chair it.

Update 2

Politico is reporting that:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told members of his environmental group late Wednesday that he expects to temporarily leave it to chair a vaccine safety commission he has been discussing with President-elect Donald Trump and his aides for more than a month.

So, RFK Jr has been discussing this panel for much longer than it appeared when this news first broke. And it kind of supports the notion that this will happen, causing unneeded confusion about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, which is beyond dispute. At least beyond dispute of that uninformed, unscientific group.

I am not alone at being appalled by this turn of events. Nearly every scientific, medical and skeptical writer has expressed either shock, alarm, humor, or crying. Maybe all four at once.

Kennedy no longer represents liberal democrats to me. He’s an unscientific traitor.



Please help me out by Tweeting out this article or posting it to your favorite Facebook group.

There are two ways you can help support this blog. First, you can use Patreon by clicking on the link below. It allows you to set up a monthly donation, which will go a long way to supporting the Skeptical Raptor
Become a Patron!


Finally, you can also purchase anything on Amazon, and a small portion of each purchase goes to this website. Just click below, and shop for everything.




Donald Trump and vaccines – should we really worry?

Donald Trump and vaccines

Yesterday, we were all focused on the huge kerfuffle with Robert F Kennedy Jr, who may or may not have been asked to chair a vaccine safety panel. But, as we’ve shown before, when it comes to Donald Trump and vaccines, it is clear where the president-elect stands – on the anti-vaccine side.

Despite the consternation with Trump’s views on vaccines, we really should examine what he can and cannot do. Because other than the tweeting out his opinions about vaccines, which constitutes modern politics’ bully pulpit, what powers does Trump really have to modify or eliminate vaccines. The answer is somewhat complicated.

Continue reading “Donald Trump and vaccines – should we really worry?”

GMO refusers and vaccine deniers cross–call Big Pharma and Monsanto

growing-vaccine-banana

There is a feeling among many scientific skeptics that the anti-GMO and the antivaccine broadly intersect. Unfortunately for simple generalizations, that assumption is not supported by rational political analysis. In fact, it’s much more complicated than that.

Those of us who are on the political left want to believe that it’s only the right wing (Republicans in the USA, but other countries have their political parties of the same general sentiment) that are science deniers.

One of the memes that I use is that those liberals who deny vaccines or think that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are dangerous, really aren’t all that much different than climate change deniers, who deny basic science, cherry pick only the data that supports an a priori conclusion, or ignore the consequences of their beliefs. But it appears that the vaccine and GMO deniers are cut from different political cloths.

Continue reading “GMO refusers and vaccine deniers cross–call Big Pharma and Monsanto”