Family quarrels are usually private things—unless of course, the family is famous.
A public spat among boldface names broke out on May 8, when three members of the Kennedy clan published a piece on Politico declaring that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.—son of Bobby Kennedy—has been “tragically wrong” in his years-long crusade against vaccines, a crusade that seems especially irresponsible now as the country suffers through its worst measles outbreak since 1994. Kennedy has become a hero of the anti-vax crowd with his persistent claims that vaccines contain deadly ingredients, particularly a mercury-based preservative known as thimerosal, and that they are linked to autism.
He is wrong on both scores. No vaccines except some formulations of the flu vaccine contain thimerosal, and the type of mercury it uses is ethylmercury, which is cleared from the body quickly and harmlessly. And vaccines do not cause—and are not even associated with—autism. Full stop.
But RFK, Jr. persists, and so his siblings Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P. Kennedy II, and his niece Maeve Kennedy McKean, sought to set him right. Kennedy, they wrote, “has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”
Kathleen, Joe and Maeve are hardly the first Kennedys to be smart about vaccines. As they write in their Politico story, the giant of the family, President John Kennedy, signed the Vaccine Assistance Act of 1962 into law, expanding the use of the relative handful of childhood vaccinations available at the time. “There is no longer any reason why American children should suffer from polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tetanus,” Kennedy said in a message to Congress. “I am asking the American people to join in a nationwide vaccination program to stamp out these four diseases.”
Until the presidency of Donald Trump—who, from 2012 to 2014, posted a storm of tweets on the imaginary menace of vaccines and, after he was elected, publicly flirted with the idea of appointing RFK, Jr. to head a vaccine safety commission—American presidents have had a long history of championing vaccination.
It began with Thomas Jefferson who, in August of 1800—shortly before his presidency began—helped conduct trials of the smallpox vaccine, developed four years earlier by British physician Edward Jenner. As with so much involving the Founding Fathers, and this Founding Father …read more
Source:: Time – Science