It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump expressed doubts about the safety of vaccines. His position on this issue did not receive much coverage until this week when Trump announced he was appointing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a known proponent of the anti-vaxxer theory, to head a commission to study the safety of vaccines.
For those who may not be familiar with this thoroughly disproven notion, there are individuals, none within the medical community, who believe there is a direct link between childhood vaccinations and autism. For the record, no reputable peer-reviewed medical journal has published any studies supporting this theory.
On March 28, 2014, Donald Trump sent out the following tweet: “Healthy young child goes to the doctor, gets pumped with a massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” In light of recent suggestions that his youngest son Barron might be autistic, this tweet certainly makes a lot more sense. Any parent of a child with disabilities spends countless hours wondering “How did this happen to my child?” “Why did this happen to my child?”
Since the causes of autism are not completely understood at this point by the medical community, it is comforting and easy for parents to blame an external cause, i.e., vaccines, for their child’s problems. As the mother of a child born with significant birth problems, I can certainly sympathize. In the thirty years since my son was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), the research indicates that the cause may be genetic. As my first cousin has a child born with the identical problem, this is most likely true.
Research also points to genetics as a possible cause of autism. While most parents, like myself, might find comfort in the idea that it was an unlucky roll of the genetic dice that led to their child’s problem, this would be totally unacceptable to Donald Trump. Why? Because Trump is also an outspoken proponent of eugenics – the idea that somehow his genes are superior to others.
In a 2010 interview with CNN, which is on video, Trump said: “Well I think I was born with the drive for success because I have a certain gene.” He also believes in the “racehorse theory.” He said “I’m a gene believer…..Hey, when you connect two race horses, you usually end up with a fast horse.”
With this type of thinking, the idea that he would be responsible for trying to find a cause for autism is not only frightening, it is downright dangerous. Donald Trump could never, ever accept that his “superior genes” could somehow be responsible for his own child’s problem. As with every other problem he encounters, he must blame someone or something else.
Should Trump proceed with this harebrained commission, headed by RFK, Jr. (who also said he believes air pollution causes Down Syndrome) the results will be a foregone conclusion and would be a grave disservice to responsible medical research as well as the children who suffer from autism and their parents. We need to know the real causes of autism, and not play the blame game against vaccines.