President Donald Trump has an extensive, documented history of amplifying anti-vaxxers and making false statements about vaccines as he attempts to lead the United States through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Trump stated that he wanted to provide vaccine “flexibility” and stated he did not want to take the flu vaccine. Experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have warned that many Americans may not take an eventual coronavirus vaccine because of fear-mongering by anti-vaxxers, a trend that will jeopardize the ultimate effectiveness of the vaccine.
Trump has a history of making comments doubting the effectiveness of vaccines. As far back as 2007, Trump expressed doubts about vaccinating children. Then in 2012, Trump tweeted out a comment linking autism to vaccines, a nonsensical claim that has been debunked countless times. In 2014, he linked autism to vaccinations several times, amplifying this incredibly dangerous, disproven conspiracy theory. During a Republican presidential debate in 2016, Trump yet again connected autism to vaccines, pervading a core tenet of the anti-vaxxer agenda to tens of millions of people.
After winning the 2016 election, Trump and his team considered and even elevated some vaccine-skeptics to high-level government positions. His transition team met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr, one of the most prominent vaccine skeptics, to potentially form a Vaccine Safety Commission. Trump also spoke with Andrew Wakefield, who wrote the now-retracted study that sowed the original seed for anti-vaxxers to falsely link autism to vaccinations, and a small group of prominent anti-vaxxers for nearly an hour at a fundraiser. And Trump appointed Tom Price, who was a member of a fringe doctor’s group opposed to mandatory vaccination, to become his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
President Trump’s baseless comments about vaccines have sowed distrust, and a study even found that Trump voters who see the President’s vaccine-skeptic tweets are more likely to become skeptical themselves. Although a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon, only half of Americans are planning on receiving it and anti-vaxxers, aided by the President of the United States, are kicking their dangerous anti-science, conspiracy-minded campaign into overdrive.
As the deadly coronavirus and ensuing economic fallout continue ravaging the country, Trump continues to stoke anti-vaxxer sentiment. Trump is up for reelection in November.