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ost members of a key Senate committee are rejecting President-elect Donald Trump’s skepticism about the safety of vaccines, which suggests Trump could face significant backlash in Congress if he seeks to advance the anti-vaccine movement from the Oval Office.

In the week following Trump’s controversial meeting with vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., STAT contacted all 23 members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and asked whether they shared Trump’s concerns about vaccine safety. The committee oversees public health, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and held a hearing last February on the reemergence of diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.

Eighteen senators, including eight of the 12 Republicans in the committee’s majority, expressed confidence in the US vaccination system and recognized the health benefits of vaccination.

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Representatives for three lawmakers — Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado — did not respond to repeated requests for comment by phone and email.

Staff for two other Republicans, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Richard Burr of North Carolina, declined to comment.

In his response, the Republican chairman of the committee, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, put it plainly: “Sound science is this: Vaccines save lives.”

“They save the lives of the people who are vaccinated,” Alexander said in a statement. “They protect the lives of the vulnerable around them — such as infants and those who are ill.”

No senator who responded indicated any level of concern regarding US vaccine safety. Allegations about the dangers of vaccines have been thoroughly discredited by the current science.

Indiana Republican Todd Young did offer a measure of understanding to those opposed to or skeptical of government-mandated vaccinations.

“As the father of four children, Sen. Young is persuaded by the scientific evidence in favor of vaccination and immunization,” a spokesperson for Young said. “However, he also understands citizens’ concerns anytime government expressly intervenes in health care decisions.”

Other Republicans were straightforward in endorsing the health benefits of vaccination.

“As a doctor,” said a spokesman for Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, “Senator Cassidy knows the US vaccine program is both safe and effective.”

Some Democrats went a step further, criticizing Trump’s comments on the issue.

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota “believes that vaccines are effective, safe, save lives, and are one of the greatest public health achievements of our times,” a spokesman said. “And he believes that claiming otherwise is dangerous and irresponsible.”

Trump has a history of questioning the safety of child vaccinations, and, like Kennedy, has previously alluded to a link between vaccination and autism despite a lack of scientific evidence to support the claim.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight last week when, following his meeting with Trump, Kennedy claimed to have accepted the president-elect’s offer to chair a panel on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks disputed Kennedy hours later, though she then said the president-elect is “exploring the possibility of forming a commission on autism.” The central claim of many anti-vaccine activists is that childhood vaccinations lead to autism.

Kennedy has alleged that the chemical compound thimerosal causes autism in some vaccinated children, but the compound has not been used in vaccines administered to children in 15 years.

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In addition to linking vaccines to autism, Trump has also discussed dosing and vaccines schedules, detailing the modifications he and his wife, Melania, made for their son Barron. The concept that simultaneously administered vaccines can overload a child’s immune system is also not supported by science.

Contrary to Trump, the Senate health committee’s leaders have, if anything, lamented over the last few years that fewer children are being vaccinated.

“From smallpox to polio, we have learned in the United States that vaccines save lives,” Alexander said to begin the February 2015 hearing on the topic. “And yet a troubling number of parents are not vaccinating their children.”

Of the 18 senators who voiced their confidence in the US vaccine system, eight were Republicans: Senators Young, Alexander, Cassidy, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts, Lisa Murkowski, Tim Scott, and Susan Collins.

They were joined by nine Democrats: Senators Franken, Patty Murray, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Maggie Hassan, Bob Casey, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Baldwin, and Elizabeth Warren — as well as Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Trump does not have direct authority to change US vaccine policy. Vaccine recommendations for children are developed by a panel of scientists, known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trump cannot order the committee to make any changes to the recommended vaccine schedule that are not based in scientific evidence.

He could, however, appoint anti-vaccine officials to his administration and use his bully pulpit to spread vaccine skepticism among state officials, who do have the authority to require vaccinations, and the general public.

  • We have closed comments on this article, due largely to the uncivil and outright nasty direction taken by what should be a civil and instructive conversation.

    Patrick Skerrett
    Editor, First Opinion

  • “Kennedy has alleged that the chemical compound thimerosal causes autism in some vaccinated children, but the compound has not been used in vaccines administered to children in 15 years.”

    Thimerosal containing vaccines on the schedule in 2001 were allowed to be used with expiration dates of 2004. Then around 2004 without official addition to the infant schedule flu vaccine (the vast majority containing preservative levels of thimerosal) were recommended increasingly for infants (2 doses first time) and pregnant women (also 2 doses if first time). This was officially added to the schedule in 2009 as a yearly vaccine (received by fully vaccinated children every year).

    Today, most flu vaccines still contain thimerosal at this level, a meningitis vaccine given to some adolescents also does, and many vaccines manufactured with thimerosal contain “trace” amounts.

    Thimerosal was never removed from use in vaccines given to children. It was only moved around, potentially to a more dangerous exposure time (in utero).

    In the meantime the already high levels of aluminum salts in the schedule (synergistic with thimerosal in toxicity) has increased.

  • CDC spider was confirmed to be an authentic document. There are at least 12-13 whistle blowers there now. These articles are pointless, all Trump has to do is set the right CDC head, the whistle blowers will come forward, Thompson will be subpoenaed, and just like some media outlets you will pump out these jokes of articles in a vain attempt to hide your lies. If people knew that their child had a four fold increase of mental illness or neurological issues, a life of pain and suffering or autoimmune disorders, not to mention an IQ drop of ten points, I think they would take the chance with some of the illnesses. Keep pumping out the fear and irrelevant articles once those 12-13 scientists come out you will not be able to stem the tide! It will just confirm how irrelevant you are, just like all the bad journalism coming up to Trumps appointment. HA! People will ask for the commission once the whistleblowers come forward, all the doctors who know but live in fear – good luck. People are going to be jailed.

    • “If people knew that their child had a four fold increase of mental illness or neurological issues, a life of pain and suffering or autoimmune disorders, not to mention an IQ drop of ten points”

      Nothing but nonsense you can’t back up with any scientific evidence.

      No wonder you think Trump will do something right.

  • Mainstream media are letting us down by not doing proper investigations into vaccines. They simply parrot the same old line: Instead of taking pharmaceutical advertising money – I would respect them if they did the following:
    Query why there has never been a vexxed unvaxxed study.

    Line up outside Andrew Wakefield’s house in Austin, TX to interview him about the claim that his research was a fraud.

    Talk to Dr. Jon Poling, the father of Hannah Poling, the Georgia girl whose case of vaccine-induced autism was conceded by medical experts from HHS.

    Look at the government’s vaccine studies and ask who funded the research and about the conflicts of the researchers.

    Investigate the more than 80 vaccine injury cases compensated by the federal government where the victim developed autism as a result of vaccination.

    Call for congressional hearings so we could all learn about the claims by a top vaccine researcher at the CDC that his agency ordered him to destroy study findings showing a link between the MMR and autism.

    Ask officials why they rely on the questionable science from a Danish researcher who is currently under indictment by the U.S. government for 22 counts of wire fraud and money laundering. He is alleged to have stolen more than $1 million from a CDC grant to Denmark. His study on thimerosal and autism was the science used by the 2004 Institute of Medicine panel to dismiss a connection between vaccines and autism.

    • “His study on thimerosal and autism was the science used by the 2004 Institute of Medicine panel to dismiss a connection between vaccines and autism.”

      By the way, this is a HUGE lie.

    • ALL vaccines in the USA have been extensively screened by the FDA before given the green light to be sold on the market. The process takes about TEN YEARS.

      THAT is why we know they are safe.

  • Mainstream media are letting us down by not doing proper investigations into vaccines. They simply parrot the same old line: Instead of taking pharma advertising money – I would respect them if they did the following:
    Query why there has never been a vexxed unvaxxed study.

    Line up outside Andrew Wakefield’s house in Austin, TX to interview him about the claim that his research was a fraud.

    Talk to Dr. Jon Poling, the father of Hannah Poling, the Georgia girl whose case of vaccine-induced autism was conceded by medical experts from HHS.

    Look at the government’s vaccine studies and ask who funded the research and about the conflicts of the researchers.

    Investigate the more than 80 vaccine injury cases compensated by the federal government where the victim developed autism as a result of vaccination.

    Call for congressional hearings so we could all learn about the claims by a top vaccine researcher at the CDC that his agency ordered him to destroy study findings showing a link between the MMR and autism.

    Ask officials why they rely on the questionable science from a Danish researcher who is currently under indictment by the U.S. government for 22 counts of wire fraud and money laundering. He is alleged to have stolen more than $1 million from a CDC grant to Denmark. His study on thimerosal and autism was the science used by the 2004 Institute of Medicine panel to dismiss a connection between vaccines and autism.

    • So you’re clearly not a scientist.

      1) Andrew Wakefield manipulated pathology reports. He ordered spinal taps on special needs children without getting IRB approval. He lied about the diagnosis of multiple research subjects and he unethically forgot to list his massive conflicts of interest, such as accepting funding from legal firms that were trying to discredit the MMR.

      2) Hannah Poling has a rare mitochondrial disorder and the resulting neurological damage would have happened with or without vaccinations.

      3) “Investigate the more than 80 vaccine injury cases compensated by the federal government where the victim developed autism as a result of vaccination.” <- That number is actually 0. Autism-like behaviors or encephalitis is NOT autism.

      4) "His study on thimerosal and autism" <- Thorson wasn't the primary researcher and his involvement with the research was limited and was heavily reviewed.

      I can cite tons of studies that say you're wrong. Also, the CDC "whistleblower" isn't a whistleblower and all of the data and documents are readily available. There isn't anything there.

      You anti-vax trolls always repeat the same nonsense.

  • Trump is dangerous in so many ways, as ignorant people often are, especially when they are grandiose and/or in positions of power. Resistance to this narcissistic ignoramus must be a daily duty for concerned citizens.

  • Even after a plethora of documentaries, solid evidence proves vaccines are extremely harmful to children (causing allergies, ADHD, cancers of all kinds, autism, aspergers, stomach disorders, autoimmune diseases etc. etc.) CDC has been covering up science for decades. DEFUND AND REPLACE CDC!

    • I’m sorry, documentaries from anti-vax loons aren’t evidence. Where is your scientific research to support your claims?

    • Even if the CDC was covering up such evidence, which is isn’t, there’s still a mountain of evidence supporting vaccine safety accumulated in dozens of countries on five other continents.

    • Bingo, Dr. Iannelli. Denialist or just plain “anti-vaccine loon” works extremely well in this situation, just like “denialism” works when anyone rejects the massive amount of scientific evidence to push a whacky claim.

    • I don’t think it is right in any way, shape, or form to inject mercury, aluminum, bleaching agents, embalming agents, insect dna, army worm dna, dog kidney cells (using the dog, known to have the most genetic, autoimmune disorders by the way),animal dna, fetal lung tissue, fetal kidney tissue, other people’s dna, nano technology, man made pathogens (viruses), infectious protein, bacteria , etc and all the evils you can think of, directly into your blood stream, in the quest to find good health.
      The human body is consist of protein cells from hair strand to toenail, to the white blood cells, to the albumin. One defective and infectious protein injected directly into the body can lodge anywhere and cause God knows what problems.

      What is your definition of good health? is it developing an immune dysfunction disease aka auto immune disease, or developing cancer, and requiring to live on several heaps of medications to treat a problem you paid to acquire 5, 10, 20, 40 years from now, what quality of life is that?
      You just wait and see, there will be an explosion of cancer in the coming years.

      What do you think of this? I never had chicken pox, until I was exposed years ago to my cousin who received the vaccine for school. I developed the worse chicken pox. Some of these so called epidemics are spread by the vaccinated.

      I took the hepatitis B vaccine, weeks after, all of a sudden my eyes went blurr. I wore glasses for 2 years there after, then my eyes were back to normal. I often get tremors in bed, several years back I use to feel as if someone would pick me up off the bed and drop me down again, I felt this while laying down.
      After researching myself I found out that a side effect of the hep b vaccine could include sclerosis of the myelin sheet and optical nerves.
      I know that science claims vaccines are safe, but the word safe is used to benefit the industry.

      Science is human constructed. To err is human.
      And no, not all flesh are of the same flesh.

      sorry to ramble, I just needed to get that off my chest.

    • Ann, you’re not rambling, you’re just lying.

      First, chickenpox has NEVER been spread by the vaccination. That’s never been documented, never shown up anywhere.

      Second, your list of “events” after vaccination is not only a massive amount of exaggeration, but a great list of lies.

      “nano technology” <- This is hilarious. Do you read the Weekly World News at the cash register or pay for it and study it at home?

    • “After researching myself I found out that a side effect of the hep b vaccine could include sclerosis of the myelin sheet and optical nerves.”

      “researching” <- I don't think this word means what you think it means, as the hepB vaccine doesn't have that as any sort of side effect in any medical/scientific documentation.

      This is why you get made fun of.

    • Yes, PLEASE stop using “skeptic” when the appropriate word is “denier”.
      A skeptic is someone who follows the science and evidence. The polar opposite of how the term “skeptic” is being used here.
      Thank you.

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