Robert Kennedy Jr. is widely hailed as the most influential anti-vaccine politician in the world. And my use of the term, “anti-vaccine,” is not the most accurate. Kennedy Jr. has been adamant about the issue of vaccine safety, which isn’t necessarily the same as just wanting an end to all vaccines. Earlier this year, President Trump, riding the adrenaline rush of upsetting Hillary Clinton in the election, asked Kennedy Jr. to chair a Vaccine Safety Commission. The move was, as you might imagine, considerably polarizing. Staunchly pro-vaccine camps who feel the “science is settled” immediately took to social media denouncing the move, this included almost all of the mainstream liberal media. But others, including both staunchly anti-vaccine and those who consider themselves skeptics, supported what appeared to be a reasonable undertaking.
Who wouldn’t want to test the safety of vaccines? Well, it turned out, a lot of people. Those who consider the science to be untouchable and favorable towards vaccinating placed tremendous pressure on President Trump to stop the commission. Trump seemed not to waiver on his decision, but after months and months of “not wavering,” many now believe he’s just moved on. Maybe he’s preoccupied with daily attacks from liberal strongholds who seek to destroy his Presidency. Or maybe the journey of being President has dug him in deeper with pharmaceutical ventures than he ever thought he would be. Politics has an uncanny way of manipulating otherwise good intending people.
Whatever the case, it seems rather obvious that Trump’s plans for a vaccine safety commission have faded. And that’s something that hasn’t been lost on Kennedy Jr., who is finally speaking out.
“I’ve had no discussions specifically about the vaccine safety commission, probably since February,” Kennedy told STAT. “You’d have to ask the White House. It may be that it’s evolved.” However, it is important to note that in the same article, it reports that Kennedy Jr. has met with top administration brass over the matter since then. What has that amounted to? That’s the more looming question. And it sort of seems as though the answer is “not much.”
A White House Spokesman declined to comment when asked about the commission, saying there were “not announcements to make at this time.”
If Trump did fold up his support for the commission for any of the potential reasons, it is truly a bold turn of events. Trump has long railed against the vaccine industry, including supporting the idea that vaccines cause autism. He has also been a supporter of “smaller doses over a longer period of time,” something the vaccine industry shuns as they believe it leads to parents completely skipping vaccines. The movement to delay vaccines might be the larger issue faced by pharmaceutical vaccine makers. The trend is steadily growing. And pharmaceutical companies view this as a gateway to becoming completely anti-vaccine.
Trump has been notable for his flip-flopping on issues. Monday night, Trump announced that he’d be stepping up the United States military campaign in Afganistan even though he condemned Obama for the failure. In some ways, this has humanized Trump and become part of his appeal. Humans progress in their thinking and Trump does tend to admit he changes course due to exposure to new information. But this also feeds the flames of those who despise him. And a change of heart with vaccines, where he stood as a formal skeptic, would likely harm his base. In this case, his information would be coming from Pharmaceutical executives, not generals, and his base would be less forgiving about that.
Kennedy Jr.’s recent rhetoric almost seems to engage the President personally. The question now is, will President Trump take the bait and respond and offer any clarification over his position? I don’t think I’d be surprised by any response this unpredictable President may offer up. The fact is, it is reasonable to believe that his daily barrage of attacks, coupled with real policy discussions such as North Korea and Afganistan, have hampered his ability to focus on the commission. It is unlikely that anyone in his administration is chomping at the bit to attach themselves to a vaccine safety agenda. But it also wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the President has simply changed his position on the matter. Pharmaceutical companies pose powerful alignments for politicians, even the President. Having just lost his CEO group, it would be plausible to think that Trump has entered a damage control position with major companies around the country.
But only time will tell. And it is not unreasonable to think that the President will simply say nothing and allow the clock to run out. Either way, the middle position on any issue hasn’t offered much solace to politicians over the past few years. A no response might have Trump exposed to both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine groups. As of now, the general public is distracted with the removal of monuments. But that won’t last forever. He may need to take a side at some point.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.
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