On March 14, CBS posted an article about a study that concluded there had been an increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide in teens and young adults.
We covered the study ourselves. The authors speculated that the causes could be anything from increases in psychological stress due to greater use of social media, to younger generations having more of a willingness to admit to mental health issues than older generations.
What they did not suggest, or even begin to speculate on, was what Robert F Kennedy decided to pin it on recently. After spinning a wheel of blame in his head (it's just a wheel that says "vaccines" on it) he decided to blame this problem on – you guessed it – vaccines.
Understandably, this got scientists pretty livid. Because wildly asserting a cause with no proof, contrary to all the evidence we have available is, as this Twitter user puts it, not how we do science.
Doctors and scientists quickly leapt in to debunk the idea, which they branded as dangerous as it may encourage members of the public to not give their children life-saving vaccines created and perfected through years of science, for fear of something Robert F Kennedy concluded based on nothing.
Robert F Kennedy attempted to link an increase in depression with Gardasil, a vaccine used to prevent HPV. However, as the CDC reports, it is safe to use, with the main side effects being pain, redness at the site of injection, and slight swelling. Nothing like anything Kennedy suggested.
"The question has been asked and studied," Max Kennerly replied to Kennedy, pointing to several studies on the topic that concluded that exposure to vaccines containing aluminum carries extremely low or no risk to children, and the benefits vastly outweigh any (theoretical) concerns.
"It's still being studied, and still shows nothing. Aluminum in infant blood and hair isn't even correlated with vaccine administration. For the aluminum to be potentially neurotoxic, a person would need literally thousands of vaccinations."
Doctors accused him of encouraging people to get sick unnecessarily.
Members of the public also proposed alternative suggestions as to why teens could be feeling a bit more depressed than they used to. Though still just speculation, they at least haven't actively been debunked by multiple studies.
Kennedy's nonsense got debunked by hundreds of people. Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't make it as far as the comments and retweeted the dangerous conspiracy theory in good faith, probably because it confirmed their own biases. Fingers crossed no new people stumble across this nonsense and believe it, and decide not to vaccinate their own children as a result.
This isn't the only time Kennedy has expressed such unfounded beliefs. He's also spouted bizarre beliefs such as “The cure for most measles is Vitamin A" and "We do not know the risk profile of MMR vaccines." He's also linked "ADD, ADHD, speech delay, autism, food allergy, [and] autoimmune diseases" to vaccines, without (and directly against) scientific evidence.
Robert, as your uncle once said, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. And that thing is: Shut the hell up about vaccines. Please. You don't know what you're talking about.