Milestones :: Perspectives

Milestones :: Perspectives

The Vaccine Confidence Project [to 26 November 2106]
Confidence Commentary
Dangerous liaisons
Heidi Larson | 19 Nov, 2016
Donald Trump could be the biggest single threat to vaccine confidence ever faced.

Trump’s links to the likes of Andrew Wakefield – with his network of celebrity supporters as well as multiple parent associations – is particularly worrying. Furthermore, although clearly not loved by all, both Trump and Wakefield have their champions well beyond the US and UK. An alliance between the world’s most widely known – and self-promoting – vaccine critic and the elected figure to one of most powerful political positions in the world is, to say the least, a dangerous liaison.

Anti-vaccination lobbyists are already seeing Trump as an ally. Shortly after the election results were known, the ‘The Age of Autism’ posted: ‘Now that Trump won, we can all feel safe in sharing that Mr Trump met with autism advocates in August. He gave us 45 minutes and was extremely educated on our issues.… Dr Gary ended the meeting by saying “Donald, you are the only one who can fix this”. He said ” I will”. We left hopeful. Lots of work left to do.’

Rightly or wrongly Trump is seen as ‘a man who can make things happen’, a challenger of orthodox thinking, and a beacon of hope to those who believe that any alternative is worth trying to break the status quo.

Trump’s widely followed tweets and public statements about children becoming autistic after vaccination, and calling for the end of combination vaccines because ‘tiny children are not horses,’ are a small indicator of Trump’s views on vaccines which are being propagated, unchecked by political or policy processes.

Trump’s views on science, climate change, abortion rights and the future of healthcare in general are all cause for concern, but a viral spread of negative sentiment around vaccines can tip confidence like swings in the stock market and, for the more infectious diseases, have immediate debilitating consequences…