Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kennedy Continues to Spread Fake News On Vaccines

Last month, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. held a press conference accompanied by Nico LaHood, Bexas County, TX district attorney, Del Bigtree, the producer of an anti-vaccine movie, Tony Muhammed, a reverend from the Nation of Islam, and actor Robert DeNiro.

As reported by Paul Offit on the Daily Beast, LaHood explained that one of his children had suffered hives following a vaccine, which he characterized as an autoimmune reaction that led to autism.  Never mind the fact that hives isn’t an autoimmune reaction-- it’s a histamine-mediated reaction.

Tony Muhammed claimed that a monkey virus that had contaminated early lots of a polio vaccine had caused more than 90 million Americans to develop cancer.  Don't worry about the fact that more than 30 epidemiological studies have since shown that this contaminating virus never caused cancer in people.

RFK Jr. continued to advance the debunked hypothesis that thimerosal in vaccines caused autism.  He also conveniently ignoring the fact that during the last 15 years-- when thimerosal has been out of vaccines given to young children— the incidence of autism has actually increased.

Robert DeNiro thanked everyone for being there, said he agreed with RFK Jr., and sat down. If nothing else, this press conference proved that the best way to learn about science and medicine probably isn’t from a panel consisting of two lawyers, one filmmaker, an actor, and a reverend.

RFK Jr. also said that Trump, king of alternative facts, is considering appointing him to head a commission to oversee vaccine safety and scientific integrity—commissions that already exist.   RFK Jr. said that his commission would be made up of “Americans of the highest integrity” that might include corporate CEOs and “doctors on television.” In other words, people with no experience in the design, research, manufacture or testing of vaccines and no expertise in areas like immunology, virology, microbiology, statistics, biology, or epidemiology.

A federal vaccine safety commission of the type described by RFK Jr. is unlikely to have much of an impact-- most of the important decisions about vaccines are made at the state level. What's more likely is that such a commission would give RFK Jr. yet another platform for more fake news that could cause more parents to avoid vaccines and lead to further suffering by the nation's children.

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