Anti-vaccination activist Robert Kennedy Jr. met with President-elect Donald Trump last Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Trump Tower. He claims to have been asked to lead a panel on immunization safety, a move that caused alarm in the medical community.
Kennedy is a proponent of the theory that says vaccinations cause autism on children. Experts are concerned that the new administration may entertain the idea of the alleged hazards of immunizations that have long been refuted. Kennedy spoke to reporters and revealed some details after the meeting.
According to Kennedy, he will lead a commission on vaccination safety and integrity.
"President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it," Kennedy said. "He says 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," Kennedy added.
A representative from the new administration, Hope Hicks, later confirmed to NBC that the meeting between the President-elect and Kennedy indeed took place. Hicks, however, emphasized that as of today, no final decision has been made.
Trump's Vaccination Policy
Hicks also added that the President-elect is looking at different groups and individuals and not just Kennedy alone. The anti-vaccine activist, despite his controversial status, reiterated that Trump and even himself are supporters of vaccines provided that the vaccines are "as safe as they can possibly be."
If his appointment pushes through, medical experts fear the dangers of having a conspiracy theorist in an authoritative position will bring, especially one that can drastically influence vaccination policies.
For one, the appointment of Kennedy may confuse parents when deciding whether or not to have their children vaccinated. Without proper vaccines, kids may be exposed to certain diseases.
"It gives it a quasi-legitimacy that I frankly find frightening," William Schaffner, preventive medicine and infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University, said in an interview with New York Times. "This is going to be a sad struggle as we try to protect as many children as possible," Schaffner added.
Vaccination in the United States has long been clouded with issues such as the conspiracy theory, which suggests that doses of vaccines cause autism. In January 2016, for example, the vaccination of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's daughter, Max, sparked a debate between pro and anti-vaccination supporters.
The issue is already widespread that some anti-vaccination activists have even resorted to misinformation to support their claims. Last September, during the candidacy period, President-elect Trump, joined by two medical professionals, discussed their vaccine claims in a Republican debate that made medical experts "cringe" in disbelief.