Trump’s choice for a commission on vaccine safety is an anti-vaxxer and a Kennedy

Measles rates will be going up.
Measles rates will be going up.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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President-elect Donald Trump stoked conspiracy theories throughout his campaign. Now he wants to make them official policy, it seems.

Trump just tapped Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent peddler of anti-vaccine non-science, to “chair a commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity,” Kennedy told reporters. (He also said he accepted.)

The idea for this sort of commision comes as no shock to those who’ve seen Trump share his belief that childhood vaccines cause autism:

The team-up, though, may surprise those who know Kennedy as the eldest son of Democrat demigod Robert F. Kennedy, or as an ardent environmentalist. But for more than a decade, Kennedy has advanced the same specious claim as Trump, albeit in far more specious detail. Here’s a snippet of what Kennedy said in a 2015 speech:

“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…. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

(Kennedy later apologized for using the word “holocaust,” clarifying that he was merely struggling to “convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families.”)

Though vaccines do harm a very tiny percentage of children, the benefits of immunity to devastating childhood diseases like measles, mumps, and whooping cough vastly outweigh those risks. However, Kennedy accuses the US government of lying about the safety of vaccines, covering up kiddie brain-evaporation in order to protect Big Pharma’s vaccine industry. He and other anti-vaxxers oppose laws that require children to be vaccinated in order to attend public school.

The problem is, the lower the overall vaccination rate, the more easily pernicious childhood diseases spread. Take for instance the measles virus, which the US stamped out back in 2000. In the last few years, as the anti-vaxxer movement has gathered steam, the number of cases has risen, hitting 667 in 2014. The following year, health officials traced a large, multi-state outbreak back to a contagious tourist’s visit to Disneyland.