Speechless. Surprised. Dismayed.
Those were just some of the reactions from the medical community after well-known vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said President-elect Donald Trump has asked him to lead a panel on vaccine safety.
Kennedy, who believes in the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, held a news conference Tuesday to announce he met with Trump to discuss the new panel and the president-elect offered him the chair position.
Since then, Trump’s transition team has said that Trump “enjoyed his discussion with Kennedy” and may establish a special autism commission, but no decisions have been made, Bloomberg reported. Kennedy offered no comment to the latest development.
But the reaction from the medical community that Kennedy was under consideration for such a panel was swift.
The American Medical Association sent a prepared statement via email to show its support for vaccines based on overwhelming medical evidence that vaccines are the most effective and safest interventions to prevent individual illness and protect the health of the public.
“We are deeply concerned that creating a new commission on vaccine safety would cause unnecessary confusion and adversely impact parental decision-making and immunization practices,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., chair, AMA Board of Trustees.
Kennedy is not only a vaccine skeptic, but a “science denier," Harvard’s Marc Lipsitch, M.D., told MedPage Today. “Appointing someone like Kennedy who counters established facts with his own unsupported 'hunches' to head this commission not only puts children's lives and health at risk, but also shows an alarming disrespect for science, which echoes the incoming Administration's deliberate obfuscation of facts on climate change, the environment and health in many other areas,” he told the publication.
And in a separate interview with the publication, William Schaffner, M.D., professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said he was “surprised and dismayed” that Trump would consider naming Kennedy to such a panel. He worries that such a platform will give legitimacy to Kennedy’s unproven ideas.
One pediatrician told MedPage Today simply, “I am speechless.”
And on Twitter, medical professionals worried that Trump’s questioning the safety of immunizations could lead some parents to refuse vaccines for their children.
This is a unalloyed disaster for public health. https://t.co/5UVfEas6xx— Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande) January 11, 2017
Now, Trump doesn’t have the power to change the guidelines for vaccination schedules recommended by Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to STAT. But he can appoint vaccine doubters to his administration.
He also can’t change the requirements about which vaccines children must receive before they enroll in school. Those requirements are under state domain, the publication noted.