Donald Trump’s new Health Secretary was a member of a doctors’ group that believes vaccinations are “equivalent to human experimentation”.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Tom Price was until recently, an affiliate of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, (AAPS).
The ultra-conservative, libertarian group is opposed to mandatory vaccinations, which runs contrary to the recommendations of every major health organisation.
The group also vehemently opposed to Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, which allowed some 20 million previously uninsured Americans to purchase health insurance.
A former member of the House of Representatives for Georgia, Dr Price was quizzed on his views on vaccination by the Senate, amid fears that he supports Mr Trump’s long espoused theory that vaccines cause autism.
Mr Trump told Fox News in 2014: “I've seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations, and a month later the child is no longer healthy."
Mr Trump repeated his claim in 2015, telling a Republican Primary debate he believed vaccinations were causing an “autism epidemic”.
He has also met repeatedly with dedicated anti-vaccination campaigners including Robert F Kennedy Jr and disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield.
Dr Price remained a member of AAPS until last year.
A resolution by the group in the year 2000 stated: “Safety testing of many vaccines is limited and the data are unavailable for independent scrutiny, so that mass vaccination is equivalent to human experimentation and subject to the Nuremberg Code, which requires voluntary informed consent”.
Dr Price would not give the Senate any guarantees over funding for public vaccination programmes, but pledged to “swiftly debunk false claims to protect public health” and “make certain that factual information is conveyed to Congress and the President and the American people.”
Senator Bob Menendez asked him directly: “Do vaccines cause autism?”
Mr Price replied: “I think the science in that instance is that they don’t.”
He went on to say that “individuals” in the US are concerned about a link, but was cut off by Mr Menendez who said he wanted to keep the focus on science.
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Currently, laws in all 50 states require children to get vaccinations before they attend schools or day care centres, although some states offer exceptions for religious or philosophical beliefs.
But some medical researchers claim the leap in the number of autism cases is down to increased diagnoses - including possible over-diagnoses - or environmental factors.
Hundreds of state and national medical groups sent medical evidence on the benefits of vaccinations to the White House in the wake of Mr Trump’s election.
Groups including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Paediatrics also sent an open letter to the US leader.
“Claims that vaccines are unsafe when administered according to expert recommendations have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature, including a thorough review by the National Academy of Medicine," it said.
As well as espousing a link between autism and vaccinations, publications from the APPS have advocated a range of scientifically discredited theories, including the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS, that being gay reduces life expectancy and there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.
The organisation also published an editorial implying that Barack Obama was using neuro-linguistic programming, or NPL, a “covert form of hypnosis” to coerce people into voting for him during the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Dr Price’s appointment as Health Secretary has outraged many women’s rights groups because of his vehement opposition to abortion.
He voted against the Protect Life Act of 2011, which would have denied funding to health care plans that offered abortion and allowed hospitals to refuse terminations unless a pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or would endanger the mother's life.
He also voted against state funding for groups such as Planned Parenthood and has claimed the birth-control mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates religious freedom.
He also suggested the funding was not necessary because all women can afford birth control.
Democrats in the Senate unanimously opposed Dr Price’s appointment, but a Republican majority meant he was confirmed by 52 votes to 47.
“It's clear to me Congressman Price's policies do not have the best interest of the people I represent in Michigan at heart,” said Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.Reuse content