Donald Trump is once again peddling dangerous and bad ideas about health, this time with erroneous remarks on vaccinations. During Wednesday's CNN Republican debate, Trump more or less endorsed the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism, which he claims "has become an epidemic."
"I am totally in favor of vaccines but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time," he said. He went on to give the story of an employee's "beautiful child" who got a vaccine "and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick [and] now is autistic."
GOP candidate Rand Paul, an actual medical doctor, backed up Trump's call for spacing out vaccines. "I'm all for vaccines but I'm also for freedom. I'm also a little concerned about how they're bunched up," Paul said. Presidential hopeful Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, declined to contradict the idea.
Putting aside the madness of two doctors on the stage cosigning this alarming, anti-science rhetoric, here's the reality: We aren't in the 1800s anymore. Vaccines are crucial for public health. Research has also shown they do not cause autism.
Trump and Paul are far from the first people to make comments about delaying immunizations (and this isn't the first time Trump got it wrong on vaccines, either). While these two stated they are pro-vaccine, comments about delaying immunizations have also been a rallying cry among many outspoken anti-vaxxers, like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is a danger in avoiding or even delaying immunizations. The choice to not vaccinate a child exposes them to preventable illnesses, "placing them at risk for a serious case of the disease that might cause hospitalization or death." It also poses a public health risk by weakening herd immunity, which is a crucial community safeguard for those who are too young to receive the vaccine.
Disastrously, people are listening to the erroneous claims. This past year included some of the worst measles outbreaks in recent U.S. history. A Disneyland measles event alone resulted in more than 50 cases of the illness. The culprit? Abysmal vaccination rates, according to a scientific analysis in March. Researchers estimate that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination rate among the people exposed to the illness during the Disneyland outbreak was as low as 50 percent.
It doesn't matter who you are -- a presidential candidate, a celebrity or a parent -- avoiding or even delaying vaccines isn't just a question of "freedom" with no repercussions. Not getting the proper immunizations is a threat to our communities and arguing any other way is simply irresponsible.
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