[Maria’s Note: Welcome to the Celebrity Advice series. Given that celebrities have the power to influence millions, we aim to fact-check their health advice. This time Donald Trump and his anti-vaccine statements caught our attention. Sara from It’s Momsense, our latest addition to the FR Experts Team, whose grandfather lost the use of one leg to polio, jumped on the opportunity to cover the story. Here are 9 times Donald Trump has attacked vaccines, and later on you’ll learn exactly why he’s wrong.
Donald Trump has been consistently dead wrong about vaccines.
#1 – That time at last month’s Republican debate when he brought up the non-existent autism-vaccine link.
The Republican front-runner for the 2016 Presidential election made some dangerous statements about vaccines at the second republican debate:
Autism has become an epidemic. … I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. … you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child … Just the other day … a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic. … I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount. … I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.
This isn’t the first time Trump has spoken his true feelings on vaccines. It goes way back to 2007 and continues to today, see below.
#2 – That time when he talked about the “little baby-giant injection.”
At a 2007 press conference he said: “When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it.”
#3 – That time when he said that combined vaccinations are to blame for autism increase.
Trump seems convinced that inoculations are massive, and they cause autism. Only science does not support any of that. You’ll learn more below.
#4 – That time when he accused doctors of inflicting autism.
So now doctors are causing autism?
#5 – That time when he recommended we “spread out shots” because “what do we have to lose.”
Well, we could lose the effectiveness of vaccines, for one. More on that below.
#6 – That time when he kept talking about the non-existent vaccine-autism link.
Over 3,000 re-tweets on that one!
#7 – That time when Trump accused doctors of lying about vaccines.
How is he right, again? Beware because mistrust of science can be contagious.
#8 – That time when Trump claimed he’s not an anti-vaxer.
This is actually a very common tactic in pseudoscience. It’s the bait-and-switch: I’m not anti-science, see, I believe in the science that supports vaccine effectiveness, but then I also believe in the part not supported by science, that they cause autism.
#9 – That time when Trump insisted he’s pro-vaccine and re-emphasized the non-existent vaccine-autism link.
Funny how you can accept only part of the science. It’s even more interesting that despite being shown the facts (because I bet Trump has been shown the facts), you still keep resisting them and instead cling to your original ideas.
Donald Trump is dead wrong on vaccines and his fame makes him dangerous.
Nowhere in the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule does a child get 10 or 20 shots at one time. Even when there are multiple immunizations in one visit they are often given in a combined vaccine, meaning one shot, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes given to both my children – it doesn’t look like anything meant for a horse, it’s not massive, and it’s not scary.
More important than what it looks like, there is no scientific evidence that “too many too fast” has any impact on autism, in fact, delaying vaccines only puts your child at prolonged risk of infection from those diseases. Autism is not an epidemic, we’re just better at diagnosing it now, and most importantly, vaccines do not cause autism. There is no science to support that a delayed schedule will have any impact on autism rates.
The most dangerous part of him getting it all wrong is that at the most recent Republican debate, 23 million people were watching, and 2.74 million of them were between the ages of 18 and 34. There were loads of very impressionable people watching that debate, people that could be currently making the decision on whether or not to vaccinate.He also has over four million followers on Twitter. That’s four million people who are getting his repeated fear-mongering messages about vaccines and autism.
When Trump gets up on a very public podium as someone who’s supposed to be knowledgeable enough to run our country and gets it all dead wrong, he’s encouraging parents to make a risky choice and go against the advice of their doctors and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In fact, the AAP felt strongly enough about him being wrong that the day after the debate they reiterated the facts in a statement:
Vaccines work, plain and simple. Vaccines are one of the safest, most effective and most important medical innovations of our time. Pediatricians partner with parents to provide what is best for their child, and what is best is for children to be fully vaccinated.
Why should we care if parents want to skip vaccinations?
It’s a personal decision, and as long as my kids are vaccinated they’re protected, right? Wrong. I live in Oregon where the protection my kids are supposed to have from vaccines is threatened by an alarmingly high number of unvaccinated kids, and Oregon is not the only state where this is a problem.
California recently passed a bill eliminating the non-medical vaccine exemption because of the return of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough that can and have resulted in children dying because parents are listening to people like Trump and failing to vaccinate their kids. This summer a child in Spain died from diphtheria, another vaccine-preventable disease that Spain hasn’t seen in 18 years.
Vaccines only work when a certain percentage of the community is vaccinated. That community protects the small percentage for whom the vaccine wasn’t effective and those who are unable to be vaccinated (infants, pregnant women, cancer patients, kids who are too ill to get the vaccine).
Every time parents choose not to vaccinate their kids, they reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine for my kids. They are, in effect, using my vaccinated kids as a shield to protect their kids; taking advantage of the community without contributing to it. I could do everything right and one of my vaccinated children could still get whooping cough which is more contagious than Ebola and can be deadly.
My grandpa had polio when he was nine and lost the full use of his leg as a result – I watched him struggle with his brace every time I saw him. If the polio vaccine had been around when he was a child, I’m certain my great-grandmother would have chosen it over him wearing a brace from his hip to his foot for the rest of his life.
You know that saying, “Opinions are a lot like armpits – everyone has one and most of them stink?” That applies for celebrity opinions on vaccines, too. Celebrities like Trump are not experts on vaccines. Celebrities are only famous because they’re very good at acting, or singing, or being in the lime light, or some other skill other than science.
But none of those skills make them experts on science, and the only thing that really matters when it comes to vaccines is what the science says. The truth is in the facts supported by a broad body of scientific evidence. As the AAP said, “vaccines work, plain and simple.”
If you’re worried about vaccines, who do you trust for advice? Have you ever been influenced by a celebrity on health matters? Leave a comment below.
Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, et al., “Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism,” The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 163, Issue 2, August 2014, Pages 561–567