“We love Bobby,” they wrote in the column published by Politico on Wednesday. “However, on vaccines he is wrong. ... On this issue, Bobby is an outlier in the Kennedy family.”
He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines. Those who delay or refuse vaccinations, or encourage others to do so, put themselves and others, especially children, at risk.
The op-ed is credited to Kennedy’s sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland (D) and former chair of the Global Virus Network; a brother, former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.); and a niece, Maeve Kennedy McKean, executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiatives.
RFK Jr., a prominent environmental lawyer who’s the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, has accused pharmacy companies of intentionally trying to sicken children through vaccines so they can reap profits from their long-term health care needs. (Kennedy posted articles that made similar claims on HuffPost’s contributor platform prior to its closure in 2018.)
In a statement to HuffPost on Wednesday, Robert Kennedy Jr. said he is not anti-vaccine but that he wants safe vaccines with robust testing.
“I don’t think we should be forcing pharmaceutical products on unwilling Americans without understanding the downside risks,” he said while echoing his family’s expressed love.
“I love my family. The Kennedys have a long and continuing history of involvement with the public health agencies. It is very difficult for any of us to accept that any of those officials would be less than candid about vaccine risks,” he said.
Last week in Texas, Kennedy told vaccine activists, “They’re trying to get at your baby,” according to Texas Monthly. He reportedly was invited to the conference by the anti-vaccine organization Texans for Vaccine Choice.
“The thing that cured measles was nutrition and clean water, not the vaccine,” Kennedy reportedly said. He blamed vaccines for asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, encephalopathy, Bell’s palsy and autism, among other ailments.
Federal health officials have been urging vaccinations amid a measles outbreak that has sickened at least 764 people this year ― the most since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has blamed unvaccinated communities and misinformation for allowing the disease to spread.
President John F. Kennedy, RFK Jr.’s uncle, urged Americans to be vaccinated for polio in the early 1960s, the op-ed noted.
JFK also signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962, which allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support mass immunization campaigns, and signed an executive order to create the U.S. Agency for International Development, which supports vaccine campaigns in developing countries.
“There is no longer any reason why American children should suffer from polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tetanus,” President Kennedy told Congress in 1962. “I am asking the American people to join in a nationwide vaccination program to stamp out these four diseases.”
Robert Kennedy Jr.’s father also supported vaccinations.
“Everyone must communicate the benefits and safety of vaccines, and advocate for the respect and confidence of the institutions which make them possible,” the op-ed concluded. “To do otherwise risks even further erosion of one of public health’s greatest achievements.
This article has been updated with a response from Robert Kennedy Jr.