Vaccine skeptics have voiced frustration over an apparent change of heart by President Donald Trump on vaccine safety, but after the president's first CDC chief Brenda Fitzgerald stepped aside due to stock purchases in office, his new pick recently voiced unequivocal support for immunizations.
In a speech to CDC staff, new director Robert Redfield said "vaccination is important and needs to be fully utilized," according to The Washington Post. He told staff about his time as an Army doctor, when he convinced leadership to vaccinate "every individual in the armed forces" against hepatitis B.
That was "probably the most important thing I did in my life," he said, according to the report.
Redfield's nomination came after former CDC head Brenda Fitzgerald resigned earlier this year due to a scandal over stock purchases in office. Fitzgerald previously voiced support for vaccines, as has FDA head and Trump pick Scott Gottlieb. Gottlieb has also called theories of a link between vaccines and autism "thoroughly debunked."
Numerous scientific studies agree with that assessment, but still the theory perpetuates on social media that vaccines can cause autism.
But all the administration's personnel picks came after a campaign in which Trump questioned vaccine safety on multiple occasions. After the election, prominent vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. said the Trump administration had a plan to set up a commission to review vaccine safety.
That news rattled the scientific and healthcare communities, but Kennedy maintained one month later that the president wasn't going to "back down" and that the commission was still set to go ahead.
This year, though, Kennedy told British newspaper The Guardian that he hasn't heard from the White House in six months. He said there's been "zero progress" and that the administration has cut off communications. At the time, vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez told FiercePharma he was glad the commission wouldn't come to fruition because he "didn't see how it filled a need."
"I think we have enormous checks and balances in place through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System [and an] incredibly robust system through CDC and ACIP for ensuring vaccine safety that has a track record of catching problems," he said.
Aside from touting the importance of vaccines, Redfield also talked up the CDC's mission to protect Americans against conditions such as the flu and MERS, The Washington Post reports.