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By Andrea Peyser
February 17, 2017
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is on his soapbox again. I implore everyone to ignore him. His message could be hazardous to your health.
The lawyer, environmentalist and leading anti-vax crackpot, 63, who has compared widespread inoculations to “a holocaust,’’ threw a news conference Wednesday at The National Press Club in Washington, DC, that one top infectious-disease expert described to me as “depressing.’’
Appearing alongside Hollywood heavyweight Robert De Niro, 73, who has an autistic son, and other vaccine skeptics, he issued a $100,000 challenge: Anyone who produces a peer-reviewed scientific study (at least one RFK Jr. & Co. accepts) proving that mercury in shots is safe for humans wins the hefty cash prize from Kennedy’s World Mercury Project.
“On one hand, the government is telling pregnant women which mercury-laced fish to avoid so that they don’t harm their fetuses, and on the other, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] supports injecting mercury-containing vaccines into pregnant women, infants and children,” said Kennedy, son of slain New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of slain President John F. Kennedy.
“This defies all logic and common sense.”
Kennedy claims to be pro-vaccine. Seriously. Yet he’s advancing the discredited theory that the shots cause autism and other neurological disorders by dangling money, with which he appears to have no intention of parting. This showboating marks a tragic new low in the health wars, according to Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Vaccines are a victim of their own success,’’ said Offit.
“People aren’t afraid of the diseases. They don’t see them.’’ But they’re coming back.
Measles, which claimed some 500 American lives annually before it was considered eradicated in the US in 2000, has returned, and there have been clusters of such similarly preventable illnesses as rubella, whooping cough and chicken pox.
“There were 5,100 cases of mumps last year,’’ Offit said — mentioning a disease about which I’d forgotten. He noted that mumps can cause “deafness in children and sterility in older people.’’
Kennedy took aim at the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, which drug manufacturers removed from childhood vaccines out of an abundance of caution by 2001, but is still used in some flu vaccines.
Kennedy says it’s being given to “millions’’ of people, and alleges the paranoiac theory that the government colluded with Big Pharma to put them at risk.
Offit told me a person absorbs more mercury and other toxins by walking the streets of, say, New York City than from inoculations.
Yet growing numbers of parents across the country, at least some of them freaked out by the misinformation, have found ways to opt out their kids from getting vaccinated.
Less than 1 percent of incoming public- and private-school kids in New York state received religious or health exemptions from vaccines in the 2015-16 academic year, according to Department of Health figures.
But in next-door New Jersey, health officials sounded the alarm after parents of about 1.9 percent of schoolchildren, and growing, failed to get their kids inoculated last school year, citing religious or medical reasons. Guardians of public health fear this could soon threaten the “herd immunity’’ that protects the unvaccinated, but requires that 90 to 95 percent of the population has shots.
The pro-vaccine world, which should include all of us, has other worries. Kennedy on Wednesday said President Trump, who met with him Jan. 10, and members of his administration are still talking to him about assembling a commission on vaccine safety. (After Kennedy announced last month that he would chair it, a transition team spokeswoman said “no decisions have been made’’ about forming such a commission.)
“What I’ve seen is that you put these massive injections at one time into a 20-pound baby. I’ve seen children who were 100 percent normal and become totally autistic,” Trump told me in 2015, saying he wants doctors to space out smaller injections over about two years.
Physicians warn that could put children at risk for disease.
Rejecting the gospel of RFK Jr. is the best way to achieve good health. Do it!