Coming from the man who spent eight years claiming President Obama wasn’t born in America, it should be no surprise that President Donald Trump would also stir up other harmful conspiracies. But the conspiracy that vaccines cause children to develop autism spectrum disorder has had, and can continue to have, detrimental effects on our country.
In a meeting with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and educators on Feb. 14, Trump went out of his way to ask a principal from Virginia about the “increase” in autistic children asking: “So what’s going on with autism? When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really — it’s such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase.” Because our president doesn’t speak in coherent sentences, this quote might be a little hard to understand if you don’t have any information about his previous claims.
Beginning in 2012, Trump began tweeting falsehoods about autism and vaccines, in one tweet saying “Autism WAY UP – I believe in vaccinations but not massive, all at once, shots. Too much for small child to handle. Govt. should stop NOW!” Specifically he claims that large doses of vaccines are the cause of autism and that giving children smaller doses over longer periods of time would prevent them from developing autism. Trump is not the first to claim a vaccine causes autism, but he is one of the only people to publicize his claims without even mentioning which vaccine he thinks causes autism and has never tried to support his claims with evidence.
Since Andrew Wakefield published a study with fabricated data claiming the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot caused autism, some parents have stopped vaccinating their children. Wakefield was stripped of his license in 2011 and is no longer allowed to practice medicine, but the damage was already done. In 2014, a measles outbreak at Disneyland spread through unvaccinated parkgoers; this was a result of parents choosing to believe rumors from famous individuals like Jenny McCarthy instead of doctors and scientists.
Trump tweeted in 2014: “If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM.” So, do vaccines cause autism? No. Time and time again it has been proven that vaccines do not cause autism. Autism is a developmental disorder present at birth but not diagnosed until a child is about 18 months old and can display the behaviors necessary for diagnosage. Is the “large” dose this vaccine is given in harmful to small children? No, not at all. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says any child 12 months or older can safely receive the MMR shot.
Trump unleashed another uneducated tweet in Oct. of 2012 saying: “Lots of autism and vaccine response. Stop these massive doses immediately. Go back to single, spread out shots! What do we have to lose.” Well, Trump is President now and we know this vaccine saves lives and protects children from three deadly diseases, so what do we have to lose if we don’t vaccinate our children at a young age when they are extremely susceptible to disease? Our children.