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Vaccine safety is at the forefront of many parents’ minds lately.

Like many of Donald Trump’s tweets, this caused outrage and controversy across the country. How could someone possibly reject the accepted science of vaccinations? Well, Trump has long been a vocal opponent of vaccinations, purporting that there is a link between vaccines and autism. During a 2015 Republican primary debate he declared:

You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks like just it’s meant for a horse and not for a child … We had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, two 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.

To that end, it appears as though Trump has asked Robert Kennedy Jr. (a man famous for his vaccine safety skepticism) to lead an investigatory body into any health risks that could be associated with vaccinations. Several news outlets reported Kennedy accepting the position, but later a Trump spokesperson said a decision has yet to be finalized.

Immediately following a phone conversation with President Trump discussing his new position, he told Global Research (a research center on globalization) that Trump simply wants to ensure that the U.S. has the safest and most effective vaccine safety science in the world. He made it clear that “nobody is trying to get rid of vaccines,” however, with the fears of concerned parents to deal with, there is a need to investigate.

Vaccine Safety: Scientific Links To Autism

The idea that there is a link between vaccines and autism was first published by the now discredited physician-researcher Andrew Wakefield in 1998. He was accused of providing fraudulent evidence, manipulating his research results, and was subsequently fired and stripped of his medical license.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Institute of Medicine, there is no evidence that indicates a link between thimerosal and any brain disorders, including autism. The journal JAMA looked at the cases of almost 100,000 children, finding “no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD,” while a study of almost half a million children (one of the most thorough studies to be conducted thus far) concluded that the MMR vaccine had no impact on levels of autism in children.

However, a 2009 report by Generation Rescue, a nonprofit dedicated to treating autism, examined the relationship between vaccination rates, the number of vaccinations given to children, and infant mortality rates. In 1983 the CDC recommended 10 vaccines for children aged 5 and under, while today that number has risen to 36 (40 under SB277) – the reasoning is the increase would force infant mortality rates to drop. There is debate as to why they are so high, with some suggesting that preterm births are to blame, though there is no consensus at the moment.

The results showed the U.S. recommends double the number of vaccines compared to the average “Western nation,” and yet these countries have lower mortality rates for children under five, despite having lower vaccine mandates. On top of this, the U.S. has the highest autism rate in the world — one in 150 children — that’s 10 times the rate of some other Western countries.

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Vaccine Safety

Robert Kennedy Jr’s Record And Vaccine Safety

Media outlets have arguably been unfair in covering this story. News outlets — even those considered to be liberal and open-minded such as Vox — have vilified Robert Kennedy Jr. Vox for instance describes him as a “a dangerous anti-vaxxer advocate,” while Forbes declared that “putting Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in charge of a commission on vaccines is akin to putting Josef Stalin in charge of prison reform.”

This is far from the truth. While Robert Kennedy Jr. has been a vocal opponent of mandatory vaccinations and has campaigned heavily for the removal of the mercury-containing preservative known as thimerosal from all vaccines, he is not an “anti-vaxxer” as he has been labelled. In fact he is openly in support of vaccinations.

“We are very pro-vaccine … Vaccines save lives,” he said recently in a Washington Post interview. “We don’t want to alarm the public by showing them the science. We have a publisher lined up, ready to publish it. But we said no.” Kennedy is referring here to his book that he has since published about his concerns about the safety of some vaccines — one that would cause waves in the scientific community. His main concern is mainstream consensus in the scientific community that trace amounts of thimerosal (a neurotoxin) in vaccines is little cause for concern.

Thimerosal, an anti-fungal and antiseptic agent, was previously used in children’s vaccines, but was removed in 2001 as it was considered to be unsafe. It is, however, still used in some flu vaccinations. Kennedy has long questioned why this was considered dangerous enough to remove from pediatric vaccines, and yet is still administered in others. This view is shared by Functional Medical Practitioner Mark Hyman, author of Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, who believes that ethylmercury, a component of thimerosal, can be harmful to human health. Although scientists at the CDC have concluded that this is unlikely to be the case in trace amounts, Hyman was quoted by the Washington Post in a conversation with Senator Barbara Mikulski as saying:

“The bottom line … We shouldn’t be injecting a neurotoxin into pregnant women and children.”

It is a compelling point, if there is even a small chance of possible side effects (something they implied by removing thimerosal for pediatric vaccines), then why would you continue to use it in flu shots? Kennedy himself has said he doesn’t want to fan the flames of fear, just to dispute the opinion that thimerosal isn’t potentially harmful. Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist and autism researcher at Harvard University, is one of the few researchers standing beside Kennedy’s argument about vaccine safety.

“We know from the biological literature that extremely low doses [of mercury] are harmful,” she commented. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. Why would you put a neurotoxin in vaccines?”

According to the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine, no evidence supports a link between thimerosal and any brain disorders, including autism. However, the plethora of anecdotal evidence and parents’ fears and concerns should not be taken so lightly by the scientific community. Perhaps this study, performed by someone who, to an extent, shares their worries, will go a ways to remedying the medical debates surrounding vaccinations.

The scientific community has nothing to lose by conducting a vaccines study; either they will be proven right if the vaccines are shown to be harmless, or public health concerns will be addressed if any dangers are found with vaccines.

At the time of writing  unconfirmed reports were released indicating that President Trump has ordered an FBI raid on the CDC headquarters with vaccination research in mind, but as of yet there has been no official proof of this.

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton is an aspiring journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, living in London, Ontario. Lover of music, politics, tech and life.

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