Citing growing concerns over measles outbreaks across the US, President Trump said that Americans have to get vaccinated, parting from previous skepticism over current medical recommendations.
“They have to get the shot,” he said speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Friday. “The vaccinations are so important. This is going around now. They have to get their shots.”
The disease has already been confirmed in at least 695 cases across 22 states – nearly double the total cases in all of 2018 – in what has now become the worst measles outbreak since the disease was eradicated nearly 20 years ago.
“This current outbreak is deeply troubling and I call upon all healthcare providers to assure patients about the efficacy and safety of the measles vaccine," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield in a statement. “And, I encourage all Americans to adhere to CDC vaccine guidelines in order to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. We must work together as a Nation to eliminate this disease once and for all.”
According to the agency, the high number is primarily due to a few large outbreaks that started in 2018 – one in Washington State and another in New York City and State. Stopping the outbreaks is a priority for the CDC, who says it is “working 24/7 to protect Americans from this contagious disease,” adding that vaccination is the best way to protect against measles.
Trump’s new perspective on vaccinations runs counter to previous statements he’s made regarding their use. In 2014, he tweeted there are “many such cases” of a child who goes to the doctor and “gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM.” During his campaign the following year, the then-Republican presidential candidate pushed for children to receive smaller doses over longer spans of time after calling current recommendations “monstrous combined vaccines.” After winning the 2016 election, Trump met with Andrew Wakefield, a known leader of the anti-vax movement and now-discredited author of a 1998 study that linked the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shot with autism.
“Measles is not a harmless childhood illness, but a highly contagious, potentially life-threatening disease," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. "We have the ability to safely protect our children and our communities. Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public health solution that can prevent this disease. The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”
Indeed, much of the world is seeing a massive uptick in the number of measles cases around the globe in part due to parents opting out of vaccinating their children over health and safety concerns, primarily the false theory that vaccinations cause autism. In the last four months, 110,000 cases have been reported so far – a 300 percent increase on the same period last year. New data show that 169 million children did not receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine between 2010 and 2017 to the tune of 21.1 million kids each year.