We're All Family. But RFK Jr. Is So Wrong

Three Kennedys resist his anti-vaccination claims
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2019 5:40 PM CDT
RFK Jr. Is Family—but He's Dead Wrong
In this July, 9, 2018 photo, Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. speaks to members of the media during a recess at the Monsanto trial being held at the Superior Court of California in San Francisco.   (Josh Edelson/Pool Photo via AP)

With measles on the rise again, three voices are standing up to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s claims about vaccines—and they're all Kennedys. "We love Bobby," write siblings Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph Kennedy II, and niece Maeve Kennedy McKean, at Politico. "...However, on vaccines he is wrong." RFK Jr. says there's a link between vaccines and autism, but his family members are having none of it: "Numerous studies from many countries by many researchers have concluded that there is no link between autism and vaccines," they write. Yes, "vaccines can have side effects," but most are minor and "the public health benefits of vaccines to every citizen far outweigh any potential side effects." Any that do occur are "more than justified by the overall benefit to vulnerable populations."

Indeed, upsides are huge. Vaccines prevent two to three million deaths annually, per WHO, and have eradicated polio in the US since 1979. Countries like Australia are closer to eliminating cervical cancer due to robust human papillomavirus vaccine programs, which, the Kennedy authors say, pose no health threat despite "dangerous misinformation" on social media. The authors are also protecting the Kennedy legacy; after all, President Kennedy told Americans to get vaccinated against polio and Sen. Ted Kennedy fought for child immunization. Now Kathleen, Joseph, and Maeve want to re-claim that tradition. "To do otherwise risks even further erosion of one of public health’s greatest achievements," they write. (At one point, RFK Jr said President Trump was tapping him to work on "vaccine safety.")

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