Heads up: Donald Trump is still a vaccine truther.
At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.
“We’ve had so many instances...a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”
Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”
And he decried so-called doctor-inflicted autism.
Last year, he even made a campaign promise on the issue.
Trump and many other vaccine truthers argue that the standard medical practice of giving children multiple vaccines at once early in life can cause autism. This idea—that there’s any causal link between vaccination and autism—is as wrong as the day is long. But lack of correspondence with reality has never kept Trump from saying goofy nonsense in the past.
Anyway, Trump’s latest rants, which Ben Carson and Rand Paul echoed, go against the standard medical best practices. That’s because the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children get upwards of 23 vaccines in their first two years of life. As Parenting.com notes, sometimes children get up to six vaccinations at a time.
This may seem like a large number, but the truth is that the human immune system is equipped to handle a far larger number of assaults. The number of vaccines a child receives does not overwhelm the immune system but simply confers as much protection against preventable infectious diseases as possible. By vaccinating on the standard schedule, parents protect their children against a host of illnesses, from polio to measles to whooping cough. As the measles outbreak in Disneyland last year made clear, if we fail to vaccinate as vigilantly as possible, we leave our communities open to serious and potentially fatal diseases. Drawing out the vaccination schedule only makes children vulnerable to sickness for a longer span of time. It does them no good.
But none of that kept Dr. Trump from telling CNN’s massive audience that they need to question settled science. And Carson, a real live doctor who should know better, amiably endorsed Trump’s paranoia.
“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”
This is completely without basis within the medical community. There is no reliable evidence that the spacing of vaccines is in any way harmful, and the pediatric community as a whole is not making any changes to the recommended vaccine schedule. The “way too many” line is pandering at its worst, and there is no way that Carson the physician can be in any way confused about this.
Paul, another physician, also glibly floated the same conspiracy.
“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”
This particular species of science-rejecting vaccine trutherism is, to its credit, a little more benign than the ugliest strains of anti-vax trutherism. Some anti-vaxxers refuse altogether to let their children get vaccinations. And some promulgate baseless theories about any causal link between vaccines and autism. That isn’t the kind of trutherism that got broadcasted at the CNN debate.
But advocating for the medically risky and science-free choice of not “bunching up” children’s vaccinations is still a type of anti-vax trutherism. And at the Republican debate, that science-free, fear-mongering conspiracy theory probably reached a record audience.