Physicians fear Trump will spark antivaccine resurgence

A number of physician organizations are afraid that comments from President Donald Trump will refuel the antivaccination movement and are urging doctors to be ready to educate patients and answer their questions about vaccine safety.

During his campaign, Trump continued to voice concerns about the safety and timing of vaccines, giving credence to the antivaccine movement. Before taking office, Trump met in January with vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who said he talked to Trump about chairing a committee to study vaccine safety.

A Trump spokeswoman said he was considering creating a commission on autism. The antivaccine movement has used the argument that the rise in autism cases may be linked to vaccines, despite the fact that the theory is based on a fraudulent study that has long since been debunked by medical experts. 

While the Trump administration has not taken any further action on vaccine safety, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and other groups are keeping an eye on the issue, according to Medical Economics.

The organization is monitoring a number of vaccine exemption bills introduced in state legislatures, but is watching to see if the battle over vaccines moves to the federal level, R. Shawn Martin, the AAFP’s senior vice president of advocacy, told the publication.

Physicians should be prepared for questions from patients, he adds: “I think it’s important our members be equipped to have meaningful conversations with patients. You never want to say ‘just do this.’ Patients want to feel informed." 

Part of the problem in convincing patients, and especially parents, about the need for vaccines is that most people have not lived through a time when people were dying from what are now preventable diseases, said Margot Savoy, M.D., medical director of family medicine centers at Christiana Care and AAFP’s liaison to the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices. However, the antivaccine movement has led to a resurgence in some vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Since the election, antivaccine groups have been revived and are planning a march for later this month in Washington. Some 350 organizations, including physician groups, sent a letter to Trump in February in support of vaccines and the science that deems them safe.