The world changed for the better in 1798, when Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine against smallpox. Today, smallpox remains the only disease that has successfully been eradicated from the entire planet via a worldwide vaccination effort—no small feat for a pathogen that killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. Despite this, the Trump administration is swimming in controversy surrounding its vaccine position. Let’s explore.
In Trump’s defense, this tweet was published before he declared his candidacy. However, linking vaccines to autism is one of the most profoundly ignorant claims anybody could make. This feeble argument has its roots in a 1998 study published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who eventually lost his medical license for ethical violations and fraudulent data.
Despite the inaccuracy of the Wakefield paper, vaccines did not come out of this unscathed. President Trump fell victim to the media frenzy surrounding this study, with no semblance of understanding for how many lives vaccines save every single year. While alarming, a competent group of advisors could step in and remediate this problem. Of course, this requires that he surround himself with men and women of strong scientific backgrounds who understand the gravity of the looming public health crisis. How do President Trump’s choices hold up?
At the Senate confirmation hearing for Dr. Tom Price, the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) bluntly demanded a position on the phony autism-vaccine link. When Dr. Price dismissed that notion, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) inquired if he believed in the vaccine schedule for children set by the CDC. The answer was not up to par.
“I think that the science and healthcare has identified a very important aspect of public health, and that is the role of vaccinations.” The fact that Dr. Price refused to explicitly agree to upholding the recommended vaccine schedule is absurd at best and alarming at worst. California’s experiment with un-vaccinated children was an abject disaster. In three months, 115 patients were diagnosed with measles—and 88% of them were either un-vaccinated or lacked adequate vaccination records.
Some may argue that a parent has the right to choose whether or not their children receive vaccinations. Fine, but this attitude comes at the expense of human lives —while that measles-inflicted child may survive, others will not. Infants are too young to receive vaccines. Immuno-compromised individuals cannot receive vaccines. So many deadly infectious disease are entirely preventable in the modern era, and allowing parents to refuse immunization before sending their children to public school/daycare is an ignorant choice with potentially lethal consequences.
As of now, all 50 states have laws requiring some level of vaccination before entering school. There are currently no overarching federal regulations, but the new Trump administration has the power to do so. One can only hope that President Trump and Dr. Price will not abuse this power by reducing the standards for vaccination—if they do, the ensuing public health crisis is on them.