The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week that one in 88 U.S. children have autism spectrum disorders, a 78 percent increase since 2002. Experts aren't sure what is responsible for the rise in autism prevalence, but they suggest it could be due to a combination of improved diagnostic tools and several environmental factors, air pollution for example.
Though there is no consensus among scientists about the rise in autism rates, what is clear is that vaccination has nothing to do with them. There simply is no evidence to support the association between vaccines and autism. But, Donald Trump still insists he knows better.
Trump told Fox News that "... when you take a little baby ... into a doctor's office and they pump them with ... many simultaneous vaccinations ... and then two months later the baby is so different ... I really -- I've known cases."
Trump's comments provide a real world test of my four rules for evaluating health advice. Of course, the Donald is way out of his element, but let's go through his comments and find out exactly why television personalities shouldn't play scientist on cable news.
We've already established that the experts don't buy the autism-vaccine link. But in fact, it's so absurd that they make fun of the hypothesis and the people who promote it. I understand that conspiracies are a lot of fun. But when the scientists who study the issue for most of their lives think there's no link, chances are there isn't one. If we're being honest with ourselves, that consensus has to mean something.
Most scientists don't endorse the autism-vaccine link, so where did Trump get his information from? From the same wacky advocacy groups whose claims have been exhaustively refuted. What's worse, Dr. Trump didn't cite any research in support of his argument. He just told a few anecdotes about co-workers whose kids were "so different" after receiving vaccines. Maybe that's the case (we'll never know), but anecdotes aren't enough to tell the entire country that they're unintentionally poisoning their children.
Trump didn't come out and state that there's a conspiracy at work to hide the dangers of vaccination, but his arguments were lifted from the people who think that's exactly what's happening. This is a dead giveaway. People who can't find support for their ideas in the scientific community are fond of the possibility that "The Man" is trying to keep them from spreading the truth. Naturally, they don't deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, do some research. Investigate the claims of people who charge that vaccines are responsible for autism. There are many reliable sources of information to choose from. Learn to evaluate the arguments made by both sides of the debate, and it'll become clear why nearly every physician in the world thinks Donald Trump is confused when he talks about vaccination.