With the possibility of President-elect Donald J. Trump creating a group to study the efficacy and safety of vaccines, the president of the AAFP said he wants the administration to use its time and resources on other urgent health matters.
“Science has proven time and time again that vaccines are a safe and effective tool in preventing communicable disease across the lifespan,” John J. Meigs, Jr., MD, said in statement. “A new federal commission on immunizations is not necessary and would divert much needed dollars from other, more pressing health care issues. To suggest the need for such an organization promotes unnecessary, ongoing and disproven skepticism about vaccines and public safety.”
Meigs said the Trump administration needs to move forward, not backward, on the issue of vaccines.
“The fake news of an alleged link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly debunked,” he said. “We should allow entities such as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC to continue to … do their excellent and evidence-based work on the health effects of vaccines,” he said.
Trump met last week with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has espoused scientifically unproven claims about the safety of vaccines, including the theory that the use of the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in certain vaccines is associated with neurological disorders in children, such as autism.
At that time, Kennedy told reporters, “President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it. 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, and everybody ought to be assured that the vaccines that we have — he’s very pro-vaccine, as am I — are as safe as they possibly can be.”
In interviews with Healio, infectious disease experts also expressed concern about the incoming administration’s plans to explore vaccines.
Dean A. Blumberg, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center, claimed that Kennedy’s beliefs and past statements show that he lacks an understanding of mainstream science.
“Anything that elevates the profile of fringe beliefs can make it more confusing for [infectious disease doctors] in the mainstream scientific community to convince parents — and even other health care providers — what the mainstream science is saying about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,” Blumberg said.
If this reduces the ability of children to receive vaccines or negatively affects the public’s perception of vaccine safety, harm has been done, Paul A. Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Healio.
The Trump transition team has denied Kennedy’s claim that he was asked to chair a commission on vaccine safety during last week’s meeting, saying that “The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a committee on autism…”. – by Janel Miller
Disclosures: Meigs reports no relevant financial disclosures.