Washington, Sept. 17 – While there have been countless debates over the cause of autism and whether vaccines could be to blame, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump repeated claims that vaccines administered according to the recommended schedule cause autism.
“Autism has become an epidemic,” Trump said during the CNN Republican Debate Wednesday evening. “Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control. I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”
Trump has a history of making these claims.
“When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor,” Trump said in 2007. “And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic. Everybody has their theory. My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”
“When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it,” the presidential hopeful continued. “Now there’s a group that agrees with that and there’s a group that doesn’t agree with that.”
The recommended childhood vaccine schedule shows that a child does not get “pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time.” Yet, Trump repeated his claims in 2014 and said that children being immunized are being treated like horses, an assertion he said once again during last night’s debate.
When fellow contender Dr. Ben Carson was asked to weigh in on the topic, the pediatric neurosurgeon said there is no research showing vaccines cause autism.
“There have been numerous studies and they have not demonstrated there’s any correlation between vaccinations and autism,” Carson said. “This was something that was spread widely 15 or 20 years ago … The fact of the matter is we have extremely well-documented proof that there is no autism associated with vaccinations.”
Sen. Rand Paul, another medical doctor vying for the republican nomination, said his kids did have their vaccines on schedule but argued that the government should not dictate that all parents must do so.
“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” Paul said at the debate. “My kids had all of their vaccines and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”
“I am in favor of vaccines,” Trump emphasized at the debate, but he stressed the need to spread them out, insisting that will decrease the rate of autism. “Do them over a longer period of time. Same amount but just in little sections. And I think you are going to see a big impact on autism.”
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) cautions against this claim.
“Despite a wealth of scientific evidence debunking any link between autism and vaccinations, tonight’s Republican primary debate featured prominent commentary from a leading candidate repeating inaccurate information suggesting a link,” Ari Ne’eman, president of ASAN, said in a statement released following the debate.
“Politicians continue to talk about an autism epidemic – despite the fact that the science suggests that autism has always existed at its current rate within the general population,” Ne’eman continued. “Autistic people are not new – and neither are our unmet needs. Unfortunately, those who focus on causation choose to push those needs aside. The lack of focus on the key issues facing autistic people and our families – employment, housing, healthcare and rights protection – is shameful.
Scott Badesch, president of the Autism Society, echoed this sentiment.
“While I was glad autism was discussed during the debate I would suggest there also needs to be a discussion among candidates of both parties on for need for effective opportunities and the highest level of quality of life for all living with a disability,” Badesch said.
Trump has promised to make “spreading them out” as part of his presidential agenda.
If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2014
While some parents choose to spread out vaccinations, there is an increased risk for children who go unvaccinated during their period of greatest risk from vaccine-preventable disease, which Trump has not addressed.