Robert F Kennedy Jr's family slam his anti-vaccine views in wake of measles outbreak: 'He is spreading dangerous misinformation'

'These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines — amplified by internet doomsayers'

Chris Stevenson
Wednesday 08 May 2019 19:20
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The measles-struck town battling anti-vaccine propaganda

Three members of Robert F Kennedy Jr’s family have denounced his anti-vaccination views arguing, that he is part of “heartbreaking” misinformation campaign.

Despite repeated attempts from health authorities to dispel false narratives that seek to undermine the science behind vaccines, Mr Kennedy Jr is one of a number of notable anti-vaccine activists. He wrote a book in 2014 about a mercury compound which has been used in a limited number of vaccines and claiming a link to brain disorders. There is no scientific evidence of a link between the compound, thimerosal, and autism.

Former Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former US Representative Joseph P Kennedy II and Maeve Kennedy McKean have said that they can no longer stand by and allow him to air such views, particularly in the wake of a measles outbreak that has struck 22 states across the US. They called the views “wrong”.

“Robert F Kennedy Jr — Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle — is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases,” the three wrote in an opinion piece for Politco.

According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there have been 764 cases of measles reported since 1 January, including communities in New York state and elsewhere where anti-vaccine views have influence.

“These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines — amplified by internet doomsayers,” the three family members wrote, adding that Mr Kennedy Jr – the son of presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy – “helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”

Bringing up Mr Kennedy Jr’s uncle, President John F Kennedy, the op-ed states that the Kennedy family has a proud tradition of public health advocacy – it adds: “President Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 to, in the words of a CDC report, ‘achieve as quickly as possible the protection of the population, especially of all preschool children ... through intensive immunisation activity.’”

In the days before Donald Trump moved into the White House January 2017, Mr Kennedy Jr told reporters that the president was planning a vaccine safety review panel, and had been asked to head up the review. Mr Trump’s team later said that the president had been merely looking into the possibility of setting up such a group.

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Mr Trump himself has a history of linking autism to vaccines – despite the lack of evidence – tweeting in 2014: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” He also mentioned the same issue in a presidential debate.

However, given the significance of what is the first large-scale outbreak of measles in decades, Mr Trump said last month that children “have to get their shots” adding that “vaccinations are so important.”

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