Looking to push back at mandatory vaccination policies, about 150 concerned parents from around the country turned out in Washington, D.C., on Friday for a rally dubbed the Revolution for Truth. At the event, a roster of speakers took shots at established vaccine science and voiced their concerns about what they see as vaccine risks.
The parents' calls for action—and vaccine conspiracy theories—aren't new, but their voices have been magnified by statements made by President Donald Trump that the United States' current vaccine schedule exposes children to too much at once. Trump doesn't have any medical or scientific credentials, but has made the claim that vaccines can cause autism on a number of occasions.
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014
Researchers have repeatedly debunked the theory, but a vaccine risk perception still exists for some, boosted by statements from high-profile activists such as Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
On Friday, the attendees heard from speakers including Kennedy, Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree, and National Vaccine Information Center president Barbara Loe Fisher.
Kicking off the event was Fisher, who told the audience that the “government has betrayed the public trust by forging business partnerships with the chemical and pharmaceutical industries that put profits—not people—first.”
“The public-private partnership between industry and government is moving to strip citizens of the human right to informed consent,” she continued.
Commenting on the event in a statement to FiercePharma, Sabin Vaccine Institute president of global immunization Bruce Gellin echoed the medical community's position that the “evidence confirming the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is overwhelming.”
“But in these times,” he said, “that information may not reach every parent. It is our responsibility—from the media to health professionals and scientists—to make sure every parent understands how vaccines protect their children and communities from devastating diseases that once affected so many families.”
Earlier this year, vaccine skeptic and environmental activist Kennedy drew a rebuke from the pharma industry and medical experts when he said President Donald Trump asked him to chair a commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” Trump’s team denied that claim, but Kennedy recently said the plans are still in the works.
Since then, Trump has tapped Scott Gottlieb to run the FDA, and the nominee has said theories of a link between vaccines and autism have been “thoroughly debunked.” The FDA does not set U.S. vaccination policies, however. That’s up to the CDC, and Trump has not named a nominee to run that agency.
RFK Jr. has called the CDC a “cesspool of corruption.”
Back in February, 350 medical and patient groups wrote to Trump to stress that "vaccines are safe," enclosing dozens of pages of scientific studies that support vaccine safety in their letter.
The rally takes place as states including Washington and Colorado report an increase in mumps cases and after California experienced a measles outbreak in 2015 that affected at least 147 people. Sabin Vaccine Institute president Dr. Peter Hotez previously predicted that Texas will see measles outbreaks due to antivaccine sentiments there, adding that the disease is the "canary in the coal mine" for other risks.