As many experts wait anxiously to see how President Donald Trump might act on vaccines, a new survey documents strong support by Americans that the benefits of childhood immunizations outweigh any potential risks.
Pew Research Center reports that 88% of Americans think the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks, while one in 10 believe the risks aren’t worth the benefits.
The survey—conducted from May 10 to June 6 last year—found that 82% of Americans are in favor of MMR vaccination requirements for healthy schoolchildren.
As Pew notes, discourse on a link between the vaccine and autism runs back to a retracted 1998 Lancet study authored by Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield, now an antivaccine activist, has been banned from practicing medicine in the U.K., and BMJ editors said the study was based on falsified data. Wakefield reportedly met with Trump over the summer and attended an Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., last month, according to a post on Facebook.
Since his election, Trump has met with vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr., who told reporters afterward that he was asked to chair a commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.”
Trump’s team denied that assertion and hasn’t announced any such commission.
The president, who has no scientific or medical credentials, has stated for years his belief that the current vaccine schedule subjects children to too much at once. During a Republican primary debate, he said, “autism has become an epidemic.”
“I am totally in favor of vaccines,” Trump said. “But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”
His comments, plus reports of the meetings with Kennedy and Wakefield, have created an unease in public health circles as some experts worry about growing antivaccine sentiments around the country. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, recently told FiercePharma that he and others are “apprehensive” about Trump’s plans on vaccines, but that he’s waiting to see more details.
Hotez said he’s witnessed the antivaccine movement pick up strength in Texas and predicts the state will soon see measles epidemics.
To combat vaccine misinformation, Hotez recently published a roundup of recent research refuting claims of a link to autism. He said that there’s “no plausibility to such a link” because multiple studies have shown autism is associated with changes in the "neocortex of the brain in early pregnancy well before a child receives vaccines."