Presidential candidate TV reality star Donald Trump clearly does not care whether or not what he says has a close relationship to real reality. In the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, Trump asserted:
TRUMP: Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.
I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I've seen it — and I've seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year 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.
Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.
I only say it's not — I'm in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount.
First, Trump keeps telling us, ad nausem, how smart he is, but if he is so smart he should know that the claim that vaccines cause autism has been completely discredited. One of the more recent studies was published last year in the journal Vaccine that reported:
Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the components of the vaccines (thimerosal or mercury) or multiple vaccines (MMR) are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.
Trump's suggestion that vaccinations need to be spaced out was more or less endorsed by fellow candidates Ben Carson and Rand Paul. All three need to read up on the data which show that spacing out vaccinations does not improve safety, but does leave children unnecessarily exposed to the risk of disease.
Finally, is autism becoming an epidemic? Many researchers note that the diagnoses have been going up, but argue that does not mean that there has been an increase in actual cases. For example, the PLoS public health blog has a good summary of a recent Swedish study that found:
- The rise in prevalence was reported during the same time period that the diagnostic criteria widened;
- Increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorder causes 'diagnostic substitution': when children who would have previously been diagnosed with a learning disability or other mental illness or retardation are now diagnosed with autism;
- Patient referral and availability of services increases due to increasing awareness; and,
- Differential availability of case records and the way in which cases are diagnosed between similar geographical regions leads to wide variation in measured and actual prevalence.
The folks at PLoS concluded …
…that their data do not support a secular increase in the rate of autism spectrum phenotype, meaning that the way in which autism cases are diagnosed and recorded may explain the rising cases of autism observed over recent decades.
This is just another instance of Trump proving that he is a know-nothing blowhard, but in this case his nonsense could end up hurting children.