Trump, With His Know-Nothing Certainty, Is A Threat To Public Health
In New York Review of Books, Daniel Smith writes:
Measles is a severe virus than can result in high fever, diarrhea, pneumonia, deafness, brain swelling, and death. It is very hardy and therefore wildly contagious; it can survive in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has sneezed or coughed. Among those who aren't immune, nine out of ten people who are exposed to measles will contract the virus. It is one of the leading causes of childhood death worldwide--and it is a growing threat to the United States.
In 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control recorded twenty-three separate outbreaks of measles in the United States, involving 668 individual cases--the highest number in twenty years and more than the previous five years combined. Many of these cases were contracted by children whose parents had refused to vaccinate them, out of a fear that doing so would cause developmental problems. And now in 2017 we have President Donald Trump, a man who is not only the most prominent and media-savvy fear-monger in the English-speaking world but also a dedicated, unabashed, very loud purveyor of myths about the dangers of vaccines.
...Trump has frequently promoted his views on Twitter, in a number of his characteristic modes: brash certainty ("Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism..."), cartoonish storytelling ("Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes--AUTISM. Many such cases!"), shameless slander ("I am being proven right about massive vaccinations--the doctors lied").
It is at the very least wearying to have to refute these claims. Diagnoses of autism have indeed increased dramatically in the past thirty years. But there is not and never has been an autism "epidemic." Nearly every reputable social scientist who has examined the data has concluded that the rise in diagnoses has mainly to do with the use of a "broader autism phenotype"--that is, we have progressively and radically expanded our understanding of what "autism" means. No child receives "ten or twenty" shots at a time. If a pediatrician is adhering to the CDC's Recommended Immunization Schedule, as most do, then the most shots a child will receive in a single doctor's visit is five. Usually it is lower. These shots are not even remotely "massive." Most contain less than one milliliter of fluid. That's four thousandths of a cup.
But now that he is vested with all the powers of the chief executive, Trump's ignorance and exaggerations could have far-reaching consequences. Since the late 1990s, anti-vaccination activists have sought allies in positions of high political power. They have been largely unsuccessful. In Trump, however, they have an obvious, even an enthusiastic, champion. In November, it was reported that Trump met over the summer with Wakefield and three other anti-vaccination activists. The activists gave Trump a copy of Vaxxed, a documentary Wakefield produced and directed, and pleaded with him to support their cause. They say he pledged to do so.
Vaccine conspiracy theorist RFK, Jr., has been asked by Trump to chair a presidential commission on "vaccine safety and scientific integrity." Because the states have the power to decide which shots a kid needs to enroll in school, Trump has limited power to do damage to public health with this commission. However, Smith explains: "But his real power as president is his ability to amplify and broadcast skepticism and fear--to sow widespread doubt about the credibility of scientific fact."