Trump Backs Vaccines Amid Measles Outbreak, Drops Autism Claims

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump made a pitch for parents to get their kids vaccinated amid a measles outbreak in the U.S., a contrast with previous comments referencing a scientifically-debunked theory that the shots can cause autism.

“They have to get their shots,” Trump said Friday as he departed the White House to attend an event in Indianapolis. “The vaccinations are so important.”

His comments come amid the first measles outbreak in decades, which has prompted officials at the University of California at Los Angeles on Thursday to quarantine faculty and students who may have been exposed to the virus. The disease had been eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but some communities have in recent years refused to vaccinate their children for religious or other health reasons.

Trump has said he supports vaccines. He has had an issue with how they are administered, however. In a Republican presidential debate, he said that numerous injections over a short time frame might be a cause of rising autism rates in the U.S. His fix? Spreading out the immunizations beyond the current schedule so infants and young children don’t get shots in such a concentrated period. 

In a 2014 tweet, Trump wrote: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!”

In January 2017, Trump’s staff said he was considering establishing a special autism commission after vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Trump had invited him to head up a panel on immunization safety and science.

After meeting with the incoming president in New York at Trump Tower, Kennedy told reporters he had accepted an offer to lead a panel on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” Kennedy has repeatedly linked childhood vaccinations to autism, in contradiction to broad scientific consensus. In a statement, Trump officials said the then president-elect was merely looking into forming a committee on autism, and that no decisions have been made.

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