Physician groups brace for vaccine questions amid Trump presidency
While years of education from the medical community and policymakers seemed to dampen the anti-vaccination movement that helped lead to a resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases, President Donald J. Trump may be reawakening concerns in doubters.
General public opinion doesn’t seem to match this movement, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center that finds most Americans are not on board with anti-vaccination or vaccine-hesitant sentiments.
Still, physician groups are concerned and are already working to advocate for patient safety.
R. Shawn Martin, senior vice president, of advocacy, practice advancement and policy at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), said there hasn’t been any formal action from the administration or Congress about vaccine safety yet but the physician organization is keeping a close eye on any developments.
“We’re monitoring a number of these freedom of expression or exemption bills churning in the state legislatures right now, so I think the battleground is really in the states for the first four or five months of the year and it then it will move to the federal [level],” Martin told Medical Economics.
Physicians should address, not ignore, inquiries
Martin says the AAFP supports the public questioning vaccines and doesn’t try to bat down myths, but rather to drive education about vaccines.
“I think it’s important our members be equipped to have meaningful conversations with patients,” Martin said. “You never want to say ‘just do this.’” Patients want to feel informed.”
But the AAFP isn’t without concerns about the president’s comments and the rekindling of anti-vaccination fears.
In recent years, Trump has made his concerns known about the safety and timing of vaccines, and he continued to voice his concerns on the campaign trail, giving weight to the cries of the anti-vaccination movement.
A meeting in January with known anti-vaccine enthusiast Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for a supposed post on a proposed vaccine safety committee was later met with denial from Trump on the appointment, but didn’t stop Kennedy from using the momentum to attempt to stir up vaccine fears. Kennedy held a press conference in mid-February in his role as chair of the World Mercury Project, calling for further study and removal of thimerosal from vaccines—despite the fact that the preservative has never been used or is no longer used in U.S. vaccines for at least the last decade.