Updated on January 10, 8:55 p.m.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and activist, who also happens to be an outspoken vaccine conspiracy theorist. After the meeting, Kennedy told reporters it went “very well,” and said that Trump “asked me to chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” He also said that Trump called him to ask for the meeting.
But Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition team, said in a statement that nothing is certain yet. “The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time,” the statement reads. (It is interesting that the team refuted Kennedy’s statement that he would lead a vaccine commission by saying Trump is considering forming a commission on autism, when vaccines are not related to autism.)
But the prospect of a Kennedy-led vaccine commission is deeply troubling for proponents of evidence-based medicine. For over a decade now, Kennedy has been publicly saying not only that thimerosal, a preservative used in some vaccines, is dangerous and associated with autism, but that the government has been covering this up. He wrote an article about this claim for Rolling Stone in 2005, and published a book about it in 2014. Scientists have found no evidence that thimerosal in vaccines causes any harm, and furthermore, it hasn’t been used in vaccines for children since 2001, with the exception of the flu vaccine.