Several hundred medical and health groups sent a letter to President Donald Trump last week urging him not to follow through on his anti-vaccination leanings.
"Vaccines protect the health of children and adults and save lives," said the letter, organized by the American Academy of Pediatrics. "They prevent life-threatening diseases, including forms of cancer. Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are one of the most significant medical innovations of our time."
The letter's signatories requested an opportunity to meet with Trump to discuss evidence that supports vaccine safety and effectiveness.
The letter, issued February 7, was joined by more than 350 medical organizations that family, provider, patient and consumer advocacy groups. Those groups included American Association on Health and Disability, Autism Science Foundation, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Voices for Vaccines.
Trump has, for years, maintained his anti-vaccination stance derives from personal experience, an anecdote he has repeatedly shared at least since 2012, pointedly mentioned during the Sept. 15, 2015 GOP debate, about an unnamed couple who worked for him.
“It happened to somebody that worked for me recently," Trump said during a Fox News interview in 2012. "I mean, they had this beautiful child, not a problem in the world, and all of the sudden they go in and they get this monster shot. You ever see the size of it? It’s like they’re pumping in - you know, it’s terrible, the amount. And they pump this in to this little body and then all of the sudden the child is different a month later. I strongly believe that’s it."
Trump's positions about vaccinations during the presidential campaigns alarmed many in the medical community, particularly pediatricians. During his campaign, Trump stood out from the pack of Republican candidates in part because of his anti-vaccination position, maintaining that "Tiny children are not horses". He met with well known anti-vaccine activists but he also, at times, suggested he could support vaccines if they were administered over a longer period of time.
Last month, before the Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump's team was at pains to tamp down false reports that environmentalist, activist and noted antivaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. would be given the chair of a panel to look into vaccine safety under the new administration. Those reports began to circulate shortly after a meeting between him and the then President-Elect Jan. 10.
Meanwhile, individuals and organization have been lining up to offer advice to the new administration about vaccinations, including an op-ed piece in Forbes about five facts the new president needs to know about vaccines and a Slate article that said Trump's position on vaccinations is just wrong. Earlier this year, the American Society for Microbiology sent an open letter to Trump supporting the universal use of licensed and approved vaccines.
The American Society for Microbiology was among the more than 350 organizations that signed the Feb. 7 letter to Trump. "As a nation we should redouble our efforts to make needed investments in patient and family education about the importance of vaccines in order to increase the rate of vaccination among all populations," that letter concluded. "Put simply: Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives. Our organizations welcome the opportunity to meet with you to share the robust, extensive scientific evidence supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness."
Trump told: 'Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives'
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