Randolph County Herald Tribune - Chester, IL
  • Trump asks vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. to lead commission on 'vaccine safety'

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  • Donald Trump met Tuesday with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent skeptic of vaccines for children, and asked him to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, suggesting that the president-elect continues to believe a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.
    Speaking to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, Kennedy said that Trump called him to request the meeting, and he accepted the position on the new commission. It is unclear exactly what role the commission would play.
    "President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it," Kennedy said. "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 that everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have - he's very pro-vaccine, as am I - but they're as safe as they possibly can be," he added.
    Spokesmen for the transition did not immediately provide additional details about the commission.
    Earlier, the meeting had been announced by a spokesman for the Trump transition team, Sean Spicer, who said that the two would discuss vaccines at Trump Tower, in New York.
    Trump notably expressed support for the theory at a Republican presidential debate in 2015.
    "You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump . . ." he said of vaccinating children. "We had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, 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."
    The comments were widely denounced by medical professionals who say that there is no evidence that vaccines lead to autism. In fact, the study that popularized the idea has been retracted and discredited as fraudulent. Multiple high-quality studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.
    But Trump's views date back several years.
    In tweets as early as 2012, Trump expressed skepticism about vaccines, and in 2014 said that "doctors lied" about vaccines.
    Kennedy has been a notable proponent of nonmedical exemptions for parents who seek to prevent their children from being vaccinated, which is mandatory in most states.
    He has argued that mercury-based additives in vaccines explain the link to autism.
    "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 at the premier of an anti-vaccination film screening in California in 2015. "This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country."
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