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Trump’s vaccine rhetoric sends chills through public health circles

via Fox News
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Public health experts are alarmed by Donald Trump’s increasing embrace of anti-vaccine rhetoric.

At a rally, he said he wouldn’t fund schools with vaccine or mask mandates.

Trump “is an important voice. He has a big platform. And he uses that platform, in this case, to do harm. Because he’s implying by saying that we shouldn’t mandate vaccines, vaccines are in some ways ineffective or unsafe,” pediatrician and vaccine expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Paul Offit said.

While his campaign says this only refers to COVID vaccines, experts worry it could accelerate declining vaccination rates.

Trump oversaw Operation Warp Speed but now criticizes vaccines, putting him at odds with his own administration’s efforts.

“I will not give one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate or a mask mandate,” Trump said.

His comments politicize vaccines and align with figures like Florida’s anti-vaccine surgeon general.

“Like most states, Virginia requires MMR vaccine, chickenpox vaccine, polio, etc. So Trump would take millions in federal funds away from all Virginia public schools,” former GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock wrote.

“If you actually listen to the entire section, and also if you’ve been following his speeches for the past year, he’s talking about COVID vaccines in addition to masks in the same breath. This isn’t anything new,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said.

Trust in public health authorities has plummeted among Republicans amid backlash against COVID policies.

Vaccine hesitancy is rising, with more kindergarteners receiving exemptions.

“I worry about any administration that doesn’t follow good evidence and good science, that they will put more and more people like them in their administration,” American Public Health Association executive director Georges Benjamin said.

“We know that Trump had some extraordinarily competent people [in his first term]. But we also know that he had some extraordinarily incompetent people, and that in many situations, some of the really incompetent people carried the day because they aligned with his philosophy,” Benjamin added.

“It isn’t that he’s just going after these anti-vaccine votes,” said Robert Blendon, a professor emeritus of health politics at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“That’s made it very, very powerful,” Blendon said. “There are Republicans in the House and Senate, who when they’re not investigating public health, want to cut back the budget … so it has caught on within the Republican base very widely.”

Figures like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spread misinformation to larger platforms.

Experts fear Trump and politicians questioning science will worsen outbreaks of preventable diseases at a precarious time.

“I feel like we’re on the edge of a precipice here … you have the most contagious of the vaccine preventable diseases coming back to some extent, and with Donald Trump basically casting aspersions on vaccines, that’s only going to worsen,” Offit said.

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