GOP Debate Sparks Vaccines Discussion

During last night's Republican presidential debate, candidates made disparate statements about vaccines and autism while calling into question current vaccination schedules.

During last night’s Republican presidential debate, candidates made disparate statements about vaccines and autism while calling into question current vaccination schedules.

Moderator Jake Tapper asked retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson to comment on Donald Trump’s repeated claims that there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism.

“Should Mr. Trump stop saying this?” Tapper asked Carson.

“Well, let me put it this way, there have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism,” Carson responded.

Carson added that certain vaccines that prevent death or “crippling” are very important, but other vaccines warrant more discretion.

As Carson tried to shift the conversation to big government and taxes, Tapper asked Carson again if Trump should stop saying vaccines cause autism.

“Well, you know, I’ve just explained it to him,” Carson responded. “He can read about it if he wants to. I think he’s an intelligent man and will make the correct decision after getting the real facts.”

Tapper pointed out that, if elected, Trump would be in charge of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and his current beliefs do not reflect those held by these 2 organizations. Tapper then asked Trump how he would handle this.

Trump responded that autism has become an epidemic, with an increase in diagnoses over the last couple of decades. He also said he favored giving smaller doses of vaccines over a longer period of time, which is the way he handled his children’s vaccinations.

“Just the other day…a child, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine…and a week later got a tremendous fever—got very, very sick—now is autistic,” Trump offered anecdotally.

“I’m in favor of vaccines. Do them over a longer period of time, same amount,” he said, claiming this would have a “big impact” on autism.

When asked to respond, Carson said Trump was an “okay” doctor.

While there is no proof of a link between autism and vaccines, Carson did think that too many pediatric vaccines were being given in a short amount of time.

Sen. Rand Paul added that he was in favor of vaccines, but also expressed concern with vaccine schedules.

Reacting to the GOP debate, Karen Remley, MD, MBA, MPH, FAAP, executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics​ (AAP), responded:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made during the Republican presidential debate last night regarding vaccin​es. Claims that vaccines are linked to autism or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature. It is dangerous to public health to suggest otherwise.

“There is no ‘alternative’ immunization schedule. Delaying vaccines only leaves a chil​d at risk of disease for a longer period of time; it does not make vaccinating safer.

“Vaccines work, plain and simple. Vaccines are one of the safest, most effective and most important medical innovations of our time. Pediatricians partner with parents to provide what is best for their child, and what is best is for children to be fully vaccinated.”