RFK, Jr.’s anti-vaccine campaign is reckless and wrong — say three Kennedys
Of all the wrinkles in the emerging measles crisis and spotlight it has put on families who have caused the outbreak by refusing to vaccinate their children, the most curious has been the leading role of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The third child and namesake of Robert Kennedy has spent years promoting the debunked idea that vaccines can cause autism in children. He has fanned the flames of conspiracy theorists and true-believers of assorted wacky claims to provide justification for the anti-vaxxer movement that shuns immunizations.
While Kennedy has been roundly criticized for years by leading voices in medicine and public health, his views come in for a harsh rebuke today from three people who know him well — two of his siblings and a niece who directs an initiative on global health. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Maeve Kennedy McKean pen a commentary piece for Politico ripping Robert Kennedy Jr.’s role in stirring the anti-vaccine movement.
The surge of measles cases in the US — over 700 cases so far — and the more than 100,000 annual deaths globally from the disease “are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines—amplified by internet doomsayers,” they write. Their brother and uncle, write the trio, “is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”
The three family members recount President Kennedy, in 1961, urging Americans to receive the groundbreaking Salk vaccine against polio — “this miraculous drug,” the president proclaimed. Kennedy also signed the order creating the US Agency for International Development, which has spent billions of dollars bringing vaccines to developing countries, and signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962, which helped bring immunizations to all Americans, especially young children. Ted Kennedy, too, they write, left an enormous legacy in support of health care issues, including vaccination efforts.
“On this issue, Bobby is an outlier in the Kennedy family,” they write.
President Trump has been among those who have given credence to the anti-vaccine movement, raising the issue of a link between vaccines and autism in a 2015 debate. After his election, Trump met with Kennedy and there was talk of RFK, Jr. heading a commission to study vaccine safety. But Kennedy said recently that he’s been shut out by the administration, which has not taken any steps to form such a panel.
This 2017 Q&A with STAT offers a revealing look at Kennedy’s views, and the difficulty of even getting him to agree on a basic set of facts on which to base a conversation on vaccine safety. Writer Seth Mnookin, author of a book on “the myth” that vaccines can cause autism, titled his chapter on Kennedy’s efforts, “A Conspiracy of Dunces.”
A Globe editorial today sounds the alarm on measles in Massachusetts, where at least 60 suspected cases have been reported, urging the Legislature to eliminate or narrow religious exemptions from vaccination requirements and allow teenagers to seek vaccines on their own if their families have shunned the practice.
“It’s flabbergasting that a preventable disease like measles is back, and that state legislatures have been as slow as the rest of us to wake up to a threat that shouldn’t be happening at all,” says the editorial. “But it is happening.”
The Senate budget proposal stirs the ire of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, which calls a provision on pharmaceutical pricing a “radical, unproven policy.” (CommonWealth)
The Senate budget also bars UMass from raising tuitions or hiking fees, but college officials say the spending plan fails to provide enough money to operate the schools without doing so. (State House News) The budget plan boosts spending for K-12 education more than the House proposal or Baker administration spending plan. (Boston Globe)
Immigration has transformed the makeup of the Greater Boston area, with non-native born residents changing the composition not only of the state’s capital city but of many nearby communities, according to a new report from The Boston Foundation. (Boston Globe)
The state Executive Office of Elder Affairs is calling foul on an attempt by the Royal at Harwich Village to increase its monthly residence fees by as much as 100 percent as the financially troubled assisted-living facility prepares to shut down for good this summer. (Cape Cod Times)
Columbia Gas has agreed to an $80 million settlement with Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, to compensate the communities for damage incurred during the natural gas fires. (Eagle-Tribune)
After a debate at town meeting, a bid to ban gas-powered leaf blowers from Marblehead failed. (Salem News)
Donald Trump, who said his business acumen equipped him to excel as president, suffered more than $1 billion in losses from the mid-1980s to mid-90s, according to tax records obtained by the New York Times.
Jemele Hill of The Atlantic weighs in on the controversy over the Red Sox White House visit, writing, “Black and Hispanic players and coaches are expected to justify their reasons for not going to Trump’s White House. But the real question is: Why have so many of the white players on the Red Sox chosen not to support their black and brown teammates?”
Denver voters overwhelmingly reject a “right to survive” petition to support homeless people. (Governing)
As incoming superintendent Brenda Cassellius prepares to take the reins, Boston’s schools face a wide achievement gap separating higher performing white and Asian students from their black and Latino peers. (Boston Herald)
Filmmaker Ken Burns is upbeat about fundraising for Hampshire College, with $7 million already raised. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Jeffrey Rodgers, the new executive director of the Berkshire Museum, tries to heal the wounds left by the sale of many of the institution’s art works. (Berkshire Eagle)
As senators and US representatives dart in and out of the Capitol building next year, many will pass by the artwork of a senior at Easton’s Oliver Ames High School. Chloe Carvalho won “best in show” at last week’s Congressional Art Competition for the 4th District, hosted by Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. (Brockton Enterprise)
Uber and Lyft drivers in the Boston area plan to join a nationwide strike called for today to demand better pay for ride-hailing service drivers. (Boston Herald)
Globe writer Jeneé Osterheldt tells the harrowing tale of a 34-year-old Boston woman being stalked by an Uber driver.
Waze installed open-source Bluetooth beacons in Boston’s tunnel system, which Apple Maps and Google Maps could use for free as well, but so far Waze is the only company using them. (WGBH)
A yearly dredging project of Green Harbor conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers in Marshfield is about 80 percent complete, according to harbormaster Mike DiMeo. (Patriot Ledger)
A 40-ton humpback whale named Vector washed up on a beach in Sandwich. (Associated Press)
The state Board of Bar Overseers reprimands an ex-state trooper for using CORI records in his legal practice. While the trooper acknowledges he tapped the information, he says State Police officers routinely used the system inappropriately. (CommonWealth)
The Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in a case brought by the Boston Globe contending that records should be made available from clerk magistrate hearings held to determine whether cases can move forward. (Boston Globe)
Florida prosecutors are asking that two of Robert Kraft’s lawyers be held in contempt of court, saying they lied in recent court proceedings involving the prostitution solicitation case against the Patriots owner. (Boston Globe)
Boston Police Captain Haseeb Hosein is placed on paid leave amid an anti-corruption investigation. (Dorchester Reporter)
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn says 21 people were arrested in New Bedford after a year-long investigation, along with a large amount of fentanyl. (Standard Times)MEDIA
The Salt Lake Tribune announced it is turning into a nonprofit community asset. (Salt Lake Tribune)