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Anti-vaccination proponents hope for an ally in Donald Trump

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 03: A young boy receives a immunization jab at a health centre in Glasgow September 3, 2007 in Glasgow, Scotland. Medical experts still believe the MMR jab is safe and that the vaccine does not cause autism. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

For one group, who President-elect Donald Trump chooses for secretary of state or veterans affairs is less important than who he appoints head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and surgeon general. That group is the anti-vaccination activists, who see in the incoming president a potential ally in their fight.

They are led by Andrew Wakefield, a discredited doctor who started the anti-vaccination movement 20 years ago using a fraudulent and now discredited study. Wakefield still maintains that vaccinations lead to autism and say he met with the president-elect this summer and found Trump sympathetic to their cause. He now hopes the White House will be occupied by a man who will stack the health leadership positions with individuals who will consider the link between vaccines and health.

In an interview with medical journal STAT News, Wakefield said, “for the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry.”

That may be true, but anti-vaccination activists — generally regarded as a fringe group with little evidence based in reality — may end up disappointed in the long run, despite the fact that the new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price belongs to a conservative group that publishes journals where the link between vaccines and autism is discussed as a serious issue.

According to STAT:

Though he would be a powerful ally, there are limits to what Trump can do to undercut evidence-based vaccination policies.

Public health experts said it’s unlikely Trump will pack federal agencies with activists who would change the recommended childhood vaccine schedule or otherwise steer shifts in federal vaccination policy. The evidence that vaccines are safe and effective is so overwhelming, they said, that such a move would prompt a huge outcry from scientists and many politicians on both sides of the aisle.

But experts said there could be a cultural impact of having a doubter in the Oval Office.

Perhaps simply having someone in the White House that will listen to what most consider their very fringe views will be enough in the short-term for the anti-vaccination activists.

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