Robert Kennedy Jr. has confirmed to multiple media outlets that President-elect Donald Trump has tasked him with chairing a commission on vaccine safety, after a meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
The commission will be designed "to make sure we have scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects," Kennedy told the assembled media.
Kennedy has been highly critical of vaccines, as has Trump.
In the past, Kennedy has alleged that the mercury-based chemical thimerosal, which was once used as a preservative in vaccines, is at fault for causing mercury poisoning, which turns into autism. There was and is no evidence to support this claim, but, thimerosal is no longer used in vaccines.
In 2015, Kennedy supported the movie “Trace Amounts,” which blames mercury for the “autism epidemic.”
“[Pharmaceutical companies] can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it,” The Sacramento Bee quoted Kennedy saying at the time. “[Children] get the shot, that night they have a fever of 103, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”
At a Republican presidential debate in 2015, Trump told a similar story of a 2-year-old girl of someone who he said previously worked for him. According to the story, the girl received a vaccine, developed a fever a week later, got very sick and is now autistic.
The story may find its roots in the anti-vaccine movement that began in 1998 with the publication of a paper in The Lancet, a British medical journal, claiming a dozen children had been adversely affected by the MMR vaccine. The paper was retracted in 2010, and has since been discredited many times over. In the 18 years since initial publication, studies have continually found there to be zero link between vaccines and autism.
An analysis of tweets by The Washington Post reveals Trump expressed skepticism about vaccines as early as 2012. For example, an August 2012 tweet reads, “Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism.” Other tweets refer to vaccines as the cause of “doctor-inflicted autism.”
More recently, during his presidential campaign, Trump said he advocates vaccines in smaller doses and over a longer period of time, which is what he did with his own children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics immediately issued a statement denouncing Trump’s exaggerated timeline.
“There is no ‘alternative’ immunization schedule. Delaying vaccines only leaves a child at risk of disease for a longer period of time; it does not make vaccinating safer,” the AAP statement reads. “[We] would like to correct false statements made during the Republican presidential debate…regarding vaccines. Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature. It is dangerous to public health to suggest otherwise.”
Despite all this, on Tuesday, Kennedy called himself and Trump pro-vaccine.
“President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it,” Kennedy told The Washington Post. “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.”