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Trump Declares Flu Shots Are ‘Virtually Totally Ineffective’

President Donald Trump has never been shy about his opposition to vaccines. And now that he is president, Trump’s anti-vaccine beliefs appear to be influencing public policy, and are emboldening many anti-vaccine advocates.

In the middle of flu season, Trump’s 2015 interview on Sirius XM’s “Opie and Anthony” show has resurfaced in the public consciousness. On the show, Trump said that that he didn’t like the idea of  “injecting bad stuff into [his] body,” and that he had seen “a lot of reports that the last flu shot is virtually totally ineffective.”

Trump is also notorious for his frequent tweets supporting the (debunked) idea that vaccines cause autism. In a presidential debate the same year, Trump verbally supported the theory, saying, “You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks like just it’s meant for a horse and not for a child,” Trump said. “We had so many instances [in which] a child had a vaccine and came back and a week back had a tremendous fever, got very very sick, and now is autistic.”

And his presidency hasn’t modulated his opinion on vaccination. In January of last year, anti-vax advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told reporters that Trump had asked him to chair a commission on vaccine safety and integrity. A month later, Trump asked a special education teacher invited to the White House, “What’s going on with autism? When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really, it’s such an incredible… it’s a really horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase.” He also allegedly attended an event with Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced ex-doctor whose fraudulent study inspired the vaccine/autism panic.

The president’s suspicions are not unusual. In 2015, just under 40% of adults had chosen not to get vaccinated. About a third responded that they were either concerned about risks associated with the shot or that they feared the vaccination would cause them to contract influenza. One in ten said they did not bother to get vaccinated because they believed that the vaccine was ineffective. But the truth is, most of the popular fears about vaccines are simply untrue.

The connection between vaccines and autism has been completely debunked, and the original paper behind the scare was found to be so flawed that the doctor responsible lost his medical license. While there has been a small increase in autism diagnoses in previous years, actual experts on autism believe that the jump is because of better awareness and diagnosis, not because of any actual increase in autism diagnosis. Furthermore, while anti-vaxxers make noise about the fact that there are chemicals like formaldehyde in vaccines, there is less formaldehyde in the flu vaccine than there is in a typical pear.

The truth is, none of the research supports the idea that vaccines are harmful. But, with powerful advocates like the president on their side, anti-vaccine advocates could continue to gain ground.

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