From Lawrence Solomon at FinancialPost.com.
With repealing Obamacare, building a wall, cutting corporate taxes and keeping jobs at home all high on Donald Trump’s agenda, the announcement Tuesday that he asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to consider chairing a commission into vaccine safety and scientific integrity took many by surprise.
It shouldn’t have. Vaccines and his belief that they can cause autism are personal to Trump, who held multiple meetings with vaccine skeptics in the late stages of the presidential campaign and into the packed transition period prior to assuming the presidency. Moreover, although vaccine skeptics are often associated with far-left Birkenstock elites, many Republicans — including top Republicans close to Trump — have expressed doubts about the uncritical acceptance of vaccines.
Aside from a small minority, neither Trump nor any of the so-called vaccine skeptics are ideologically opposed to all vaccines, or even consider themselves anti-vaccine in any way. They’re more likely to think vaccines are over-hyped and overused, and want them to be used in ways they consider more judicious and more consistent with personal freedom.
Dr. Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who is Trump’s choice to be the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, represents a common conservative viewpoint on vaccines. As he told Jake Tapper in a nationally televised debate for the Republican nomination for president, “Vaccines are very important — certain ones, ones that would prevent death or crippling. There are others — there’s a multitude of vaccines that probably don’t fit into that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases. But you know, a lot of this is pushed by big government.”
Other past Republican contenders for president who dissent from the official government position on vaccines included Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and Dr. Rand Paul, a physician and senator from Kentucky who is also a member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a free-market alternative to the more mainstream American Medical Association. AAPS, which was founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine,” is known for its opposition to mandatory vaccinations; many of its members, including Paul, believe children have suffered “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated.
But another member of AAPS looms especially large: Dr. Tom Price — who is outspoken on the need for patients to have autonomy over the treatment they and their children receive — is Trump’s pick to serve in his cabinet as the new secretary of Health and Human Services.
Other skeptics close to Trump include Rick Perry, his energy secretary, who has said he regrets having proposed the mandatory vaccination of teens with the HPV vaccine when he was governor of Texas, and Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, who as governor of Indiana lobbied against legislation that would have required teenagers to be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. Read more here.