Sadly, the selection of Robert Kennedy Jr. by Donald Trump to head some kind of vaccination commission should not be a suprise. After all, Trump evidently met with prominent anti-vax leaders back in August; one whom described Trump as being "extremely educated on our issues." (In contrast, I have explained that Trump is an "idiotarian" with regard to vaccine safety science.) Kennedy is similarly "educated." During a promotional tour for the anti-vaccination "documentary" Trace Amounts in 2015, Robert Kennedy Jr. once declared, ""They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone," Kennedy said. "This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country." We can all look forward to the scientific conclusions reached by fellow Kennedy commission panelists Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey.
After his meeting with Trump today, Kennedy reportedly said, "President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it. Kennedy added, "He says 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." Yes, the science does matter, and perhaps once Kennedy is exposed to it, he might change his mind about the enormous benefits of vaccination versus the minor risks.
Vaccination has been critical in preventing the all-too-natural holocaust of death by contagious diseases that has afflicted humanity throughout the ages. For example, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death in the United States up until 1920. A 2007 Journal of the American Medical Association review article reported that "a greater than 92% decline in cases and a 99% or greater decline in deaths due to diseases prevented by vaccines recommended before 1980 were shown for diphtheria, mumps, pertussis, and tetanus." New vaccines developed and deployed after 1980 continued this trend toward lower disease and death rates from contagious diseases. The JAMA review noted, "Declines were 80% or greater for cases and deaths of most vaccine-preventable diseases targeted since 1980 including hepatitis A, acute hepatitis B, Hib, and varicella. Declines in cases and deaths of invasive S pneumoniae were 34% and 25%, respectively."
The Tycho Project at the University of Pittsburgh estimates that vaccination has prevented as many 103 million cases of infectious diseases since 1924 in the United States. That's the kind of science that Kennedy and his commission will need to look at. Finally, the notion that vaccinations somehow cause autism has been thoroughly debunked many times. I will be following the Kennedy vaccine commission's deliberations with considerable interest. We do live in interesting times.
*Apparently Kennedy has since apologized for likening vaccination to the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis.
UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that Kennedy may have read too much into his chat with Trump. A tweet from the Times' White House correspondet Maggie Haberman reports this statement from Trump: "The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy, Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a committee on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals."
We do live in interesting times, don't we?