UPDATE: Jan. 10, 2017, 5:59 p.m. EST The Trump transition team walked back Robert F. Kennedy's assertion that a vaccine commission is being formed, instead stating he is "exploring the possibility of forming a committee on Autism."
Trump pushes back on RFK statement pic.twitter.com/FTpzGUn9d6
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 10, 2017
President-elect Donald J. Trump has asked anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to chair a commission on vaccine safety, Kennedy said after meeting with Trump Tuesday.
This appointment is certain to rattle the scientific community, since Kennedy is a well-known anti-vaccine advocate who falsely believes that vaccine ingredients cause autism. This is a claim that scientists have debunked time and time again.
"President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it," Kennedy said after the meeting, according to a pool report.
For his part, Trump has publicly expressed his own concerns about vaccines and their link to autism, despite the lack of evidence to support such a link.
A history of anti-vaccine rhetoric
Trump has a history of anti-vaccine rhetoric.
During the Republican primaries in 2015, for example, Trump said that he was in favor of vaccines but still expressed concerns about how they're administered.
"I am totally in favor of vaccines," Trump said during a Sept. 16 debate. "But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I've seen it — and I've seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time."
The idea that vaccines should be spaced out over years would actually render many of life-saving vaccinations ineffective, scientists have said.
In 2014, Trump tweeted about his autism and vaccine beliefs.
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014
Trump's relationship with the anti-vaccine movement doesn't end with Kennedy, either.
Just before the election, Trump also met with Andrew Wakefield, whose now-debunked and retracted 1998 study linking vaccines to autism effectively sparked the anti-vaccine movement.
After meeting with Trump, Wakefield said that he found him "extremely interested, genuinely interested, and open-minded on this issue, so that was enormously refreshing," according to STAT News.
Wakefield's license to practice medicine was revoked by the General Medical Council in the United Kingdom in 2010 after it was found that he conducted unethical research.
According to the scientific community, vaccines do not cause autism.
A 2011 Institute of Medicine study looking at eight vaccines "found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"A added to the research showing that vaccines do not cause ASD [autism spectrum disorder]," the CDC states on its website.
At the moment, recommendations on vaccines and timing are made by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of scientists chosen through a "rigorous nomination process," according to STAT News. The committee's vacancies are also staggered, STAT added, meaning that Trump cannot simply appoint a large number of anti-vaccine activists to the committee in one go.
Trump's move to create a vaccine commission that may review federal vaccine guidelines and research is in keeping with other highly questionable scientific views he holds, such as falsely claiming that human-caused global warming is a hoax.