Kill This Idea—23gh.,b58
And they worried he wouldn’t be bipartisan! Last week, President-elect Donald Trump met with that scion of America’s premier Democratic dynasty, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The confab, which reportedly occurred at Trump’s request, centered on the issue of childhood vaccines and their (nonexistent) relationship to autism. When Kennedy emerged from the meeting, he was exultant: He told reporters that the president-elect had 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 [them],” Kennedy said.
If Trump does indeed form such a commission—not an inherently terrible idea, given the rapid increase in autism cases over the past decades—he’d do well to keep people like Kennedy as far away from it as possible. Because for more than a decade, Robert Kennedy Jr. has been a prominent proponent of a discredited and dangerous conspiracy theory that links common childhood vaccines to autism.
The conspiracy theory dates back to February 1998, when the British medical journal the Lancet published a paper linking the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) to the appearance of autism. The finding was an explosive one and was dutifully recounted through much of the mainstream press in Britain and the United States.
Immediately, however, various scientific organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, ran their own studies on the matter. None found any such connection. Thanks to the dogged work of investigative journalists at the Sunday Times of London, meanwhile, the Lancet piece was retracted; partially in 2004, and then fully in 2010. Its author had numerous conflicts of interest, the Times found, and worse, had manipulated the data in order to reach its tendentious conclusion. The article, frankly, was a fraud.
In the year 2000, the CDC declared that measles had been eliminated in the United States; in 2014, 667 came down with the illness, many thanks to an outbreak that began at Disneyland. Happily, that number fell last year, though we must remain vigilant:
Nonetheless, we are encouraged that the Trump transition team quickly batted down Kennedy’s suggestion that he will lead a presidential panel to investigate vaccines. Perhaps Trump’s advisers or family members have talked sense into him; perhaps he was pandering all along with his antivaccine sentiments. Either way, there should be a bipartisan consensus to keep RFK Jr. far from the microphone. And if the new president wants to let him down easy, perhaps there could be a plush consolation prize. Ambassador to Fiji sounds nice.
source–weekly std, ethan epstein, Sunday times of lonmdon,