KHN Morning Briefing

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Anti-Vaccine Crusader Says Trump Tapped Him To Lead Vaccination Safety Commission

The meeting between Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump is alarming scientists. “It gives it a quasi-legitimacy that I frankly find frightening,” said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. However, Trump's transition team has released a statement saying he is only exploring the option of forming a committee on autism.

The New York Times: Anti-Vaccine Activist Says Trump Wants Him To Lead Panel On Immunization Safety
A prominent anti-vaccine crusader said on Tuesday that President-elect Donald J. Trump had asked him to lead a new government commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity — a possibility that spread alarm among medical experts that Mr. Trump could be giving credence to debunked conspiracy theories about the dangers of immunizations. The vaccine skeptic, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, said that Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly embraced discredited links between vaccines and autism, had asked him to lead the commission during a meeting with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Tuesday. (Shear, Haberman and Belluck, 1/10)

Stat: Donald Trump, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., And The Real Science Of Vaccines
News that President-elect Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. met on Tuesday rang alarm bells throughout the scientific community, because both have aggressively promoted discredited anti-vaccination theories...Despite these evident public health gains, skeptics have circulated a theory that childhood vaccines overtax the immune system in ways that can lead to neurological damage. People made nervous by that idea sometimes embrace an alternative vaccine schedule which recommends spacing vaccines out. But this alternative schedule is not based on science — and experts say it’s actually dangerous, because it extends the period of time during which children are not fully protected against diseases that can cause serious illness and can even kill. (Branswell, 1/11)

The Washington Post: The Truth About Vaccines, Autism And Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Conspiracy Theory
First things first: Vaccines do not cause autism. So say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with dozens of studies published in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals. The scientific consensus on vaccines and autism is thorough and solid: There is no evidence of a connection. This is not new news. But it bears repeating now that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says President-elect Donald Trump wants him to chair a new commission on vaccine safety. (Kaplan, 1/10)

Bloomberg: Trump Says He’s ‘Exploring’ Forming Commission To Study Autism 
Kennedy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Trump team’s statement. He opposes the use of a preservative called thimerosal in vaccines because it contains a form of mercury that he calls “a devastating brain poison.” He says the shots can cause autism and have created a public health crisis, disregarding scientific studies that have concluded they do not. Trump is also concerned about the issue, Kennedy told reporters earlier. (John and Cortez, 1/10)

The Hill: Vaccine Skeptic Says He's Been Asked To Lead Trump Vaccine Commission 
Scientists have repeatedly shot down any accusations about a link between vaccines and developmental disorders like autism, noting that there are various safeguards to ensure vaccines aren't dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes there is "no link" between autism and vaccines, and points to a number of studies that back up that assertion. (Kamisar and Fabian, 1/10)

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