News on Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump may form a federal panel on vaccine safety prompted outcry from physicians and advocates. Word of the panel came from Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who informed reporters that the president-elect had asked him to chair “a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” Kennedy has previously suggested a link between autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics responded with a public statement on the safety and value of vaccination. “Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives,” the organization’s president and vice president reiterated in the statement. The pair also addressed the issue of autism, reminding readers that, “Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature.”
- The National Coalition for Infant Health quickly followed suit. In a statement expressing concern about the potential panel, Medical Director Mitchell Goldstein, MD, remarked upon widespread misinformation. “Parents may be misled by sensationalized, anecdotal evidence. Many continue to harbor unwarranted suspicion against these routine–and vital—protections for public health,” he explained.
Dr. Goldstein emphasized that any federal panel should, “promote policies that protect the progress our country has made toward eradicating dangerous, avoidable infectious diseases.” Dr. Goldstein is a neonatologist and author of the 2015 policy paper, “Protecting Premature Infants from Infectious Diseases.”
- The World Health Organization took to social media using the hashtag #VaccinesWork. The WHO reminded Twitter followers that, “#Immunization currently averts an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year” and posted its 2016 immunization fact sheet.
Public debate over vaccine policy has reignited in recent years following a 2015 measles outbreak that began in Anaheim, California’s Disneyland. Several states responded in 2016 with laws making it more difficult for parents to bypass vaccination requirements for their children in public schools.
In the wake of current controversy, Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks has distanced the president-elect from the story. She acknowledged only that President-elect Trump is “exploring the possibility of forming a commission on autism” but explains that “no decisions have been made at this time.”