Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor behind the anti-vaccine movement and director of the documentary Vaxxed, expressed his excitement over the surprise presidential win of Donald Trump in an interview with health news website STAT.
“For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry… He didn’t rely upon [drug makers] to get him elected. And he’s a man who seems to speak his mind and act accordingly. So we shall see.”
— Vaccination Trends (@Vaccinizer) November 24, 2016
A group of anti-vaccine advocates, including Andrew, met with Trump earlier in his campaign at a donor event. Jennifer Larson, CEO of autism group Holland Center, shared a Facebook post shortly after the president-elect’s win where she confirmed that the exchange had taken place. She also seemed to indicate that Trump was sympathetic to Wakefield’s position on vaccines.
“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. Mark stated ‘You can’t make America great with all these sick children and more coming’. Trump shook his head and agreed. He heard my son’s vaccine injury story. Andrew told him about Thompson and gave him Vaxxed. 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.”
Wakefield further confirmed the August meeting in his interview with STAT, making it clear that the anti-vaccine movement felt they had found an ally in Trump.
“I found him to be extremely interested, genuinely interested, and open-minded on this issue, so that was enormously refreshing.”
While a politician expressing agreement with the ideas of a group of donors doesn’t necessarily indicate that he or she will follow through with them, it’s worth noting that Trump himself has expressed skepticism about vaccines in the past. Dr. Paul Offit, the head of the infectious diseases department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted that the meeting with anti-vaxxers was a strong signal to parents who may doubt the efficacy of vaccines.
“[The anti-vaccine movement led by Andrew Wakefield] see in Donald Trump a fellow traveler — someone who, like them, is willing to basically ignore scientific studies and say, ‘This is true. Vaccines cause autism because I believe it’s true.’… Even if he doesn’t change federal policy, he still is no doubt strengthening the belief some parents have that vaccines have done harm and therefore they should choose not to vaccinate their children.”
While vaccine mandates are largely decided state-by-state, whoever Trump eventually chooses as the head of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) could have an impact on the primary goals of Andrew and other anti-vaxxers at the federal level: putting an advisory committee in place to oversee the CDC and moving vaccine injury suits back into the civil court system.
— Taha Khalid (@Taahakhalid) December 4, 2016
Wakefield has continued to push his anti-vaccine ideas even after being repeatedly discredited by other members of the medical community, resulting in the loss of his medical license in the U.K. His original study, which argued a link between autism or Crohn’s disease and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, was unable to be reproduced in larger test groups.
Andrew Wakefield was also subject to an extensive ethics inquiry which found several financial conflicts of interest, namely that he was paid to carry out the study by parents who believed their children suffered from autism due to vaccines. Additionally, several of his blood samples from children with autism were purchased at his son’s birthday party, reported BBC. He continues to advocate these theories, including with the release of Vaxxed last year — which was nearly selected for the Tribeca Film Festival by Robert DeNiro before being controversially pulled from the line-up.
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