Was vaccinated against Donald Trump as a child
No autism from vaccinations
Deutsche Welle: Mr. Leidel, Donald Trump has announced that he will appoint the well-known vaccination skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. [the nephew of the former US President John F. Kennedy] to a commission for the safety of vaccinations. Both have argued several times on television that a measles, mumps and rubella combination vaccination (MMR) could lead to autism. How do you feel about it?
Dr. Jan Leidel: Donald Trump's attitude towards vaccination is one of the things that scares me a little. I am also not very confident about his alleged intention to appoint Kennedy Junior to head an appropriate commission. One has to wait and see. The power of the American president in the field of vaccination is relatively limited, but it is still alarming, because of course there are quite a number of vaccination skeptics in the United States, and if the president takes these views, then it is natural Grist to the mill of the enemy.
The link between MMR vaccinations and autism was made by Andrew Wakefield in the 1990s. Was this study serious?
You carried out tests on 12 children and came to the conclusion that there was a connection between MMR and childhood autism. But there were a number of methodological errors. The number of studies was very small and there were a number of inconsistencies. For one thing, without telling his co-authors or the Lancet (the study appeared in the medical journal), Mr Wakefield had received £ 55,000 from a consortium of lawyers. It represented parents whose children had autism. They hoped they could get material to file a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.
Were there any other inconsistencies in the study?
As a group from the English Medical Association has noted, the approach has been very unethical. The children were subjected to very invasive examinations from which they did not benefit at all. For example, lumbar punctures were performed - that is, punctures of the spinal canal - just to conduct this study. Because of this, Mr. Wakefield ran into big problems, and in 2004 a large number of the 13 co-authors distanced themselves from him and the study. In 2010 it was also withdrawn from the "Lancet".
How do you classify this study? Today it is classified as dubious.
Dr. Jan Leidel is a virologist and chairman of STIKO
Of course, that doesn't mean that it couldn't possibly be true. It just means there was a conflict of interest, there was unethical behavior. But what is actually about this postulated connection? There is now such an abundance of studies on hundreds of thousands of children. They could not find any indication that there was anything to the study, so today we can say: Overall, it is actually a medical scandal, and the statement is not true.
The link between vaccination and autism was not the only thing Trump said in this area
Trump considers multiple vaccinations to be a great evil. He says: 'I am not against vaccination at all, but you should only ever vaccinate against one disease and not against a large number of them with one injection. From our point of view today, this is really absurd. The child's immune system doesn't care how many diseases a vaccination protects against. For the immune system, it is interesting how many foreign proteins - so-called antigens - are in the vaccine that the body has to deal with. We have never had a time when vaccines contained so few foreign proteins as they do today.
Do you have an example?
A child who was vaccinated against smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus and polio in 1960 had to deal with several thousand such antigens. Today's modern six-fold vaccine contains fewer than 20.
Are there any scientifically sound arguments against vaccinations?
No, there is basically no such thing. Of course, you will always have to look at individual cases to see what evidence we have that a particular vaccination is exclusively beneficial. However, there is no scientifically based statement that vaccinations themselves could be problematic or even dangerous.
What problems can I have if I do not have my child vaccinated, for example against measles?
For one thing, there are immediate consequences. Measles severely weakens the immune system over several weeks to months. This is why other diseases occur more frequently after measles. For example, there is pneumonia caused by the measles virus, otitis media, and there is - especially feared - inflammation of the brain. It must be assumed that there is one such encephalitis for every 1000 measles cases. And of those who suffer from this encephalitis, a not inconsiderable proportion die and another 30 percent suffer severe, permanent damage.
So are the dangers of not vaccinating greater than those of vaccinating?
In the scientific society there is no doubt about the blessings of vaccinations. The WHO also says that after access to clean water, vaccinations are the most important measure to maintain health and prevent death.
In 2002 UNICEF postulated the right of children to vaccinations. Otherwise the right of children to the best possible health anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child cannot be implemented at all. We know that vaccinations have saved many, many hundreds of millions of lives.
The interview was conducted by Gudrun Heise
Dr. Jan Leidel is a virologist and chairman of the Standing Committee on Vaccination, STIKO.
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