Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Robert De Niro were scheduled to appear together in Washington, DC this week at both a press conference and a briefing on Capitol Hill, though De Niro backed out of the second days’ events at the last minute.
De Niro was present during the press conference at the National Press Club early this week, during which RFK, Jr., who is known for promoting the widely-discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, announced a $100,000 “challenge” to prove the safety of vaccines.
The challenge promises a $100,000 reward to anyone who could turn up a study showing that it is safe to administer vaccines to children and pregnant women, with a specific call out to concerns about mercury.
“Like most people, I can think of many handy uses for a spare hundred grand, and would gladly sit down and share my experience as a pediatrician with De Niro and Kennedy at great length,” wrote Daniel Summers, a practicing pediatrician of nearly two decades, in the Washington Post in response to the challenge.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that numerous studies have concluded that thimerosal is not dangerous in the small amounts found in some influenza vaccines, and in one formulation each of meningococcal and tetanus vaccines.
“Studies never seem to settle the question for anti-vaccine activists,” wrote Summers.” “But they are the best evidence we could ever have, based on millions of people and using many different types of comparisons, that vaccination is safe for kids.”
De Niro has been sympathetic to the anti-vaccine movement in the past year, including when he initially agreed to screen the anti-science film Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
The actor was generally quiet during the conference, keeping his own remarks and his responses to questions brief. When asked during the press conference of his intentions to be involved with the Trump administration beyond this issue, De Niro responded, “I am only concerned about this. Trump I don’t care about. If he does the right thing, he does the right thing.”
RFK, Jr. met with then President-elect Donald Trump last month to discuss a commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.”
During the press conference, RFK Jr. commented that he has been contacted by the administration three times since the January meeting, but that there are no new updates on the commission’s status.
A Boston area news station reportedly let go a science reporter this week based on her anti-vaccination stance.
Mish Michaels, formerly a meteorologist at WBZ-TV, a CBS News-affiliate in Boston, was hired two weeks ago as a science reporter for “Greater Boston,” a show on the city’s PBS-affiliate, WGBH.
Michaels was notified on Wednesday this week that she would no longer be working for WGBH News, reportedly after Jim Braude, host of “Greater Boston,” raised concerns with station bosses around Michaels’ history of questioning vaccine safety and promoting the widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.
“The decision was made that [Michaels] is not a good fit for ‘Greater Boston,’” Braude told the Boston Globe Wednesday. “She won’t be working there.”
Of concern to Braude, and others who felt a science reporter should have a pro-science view on vaccinations, are comments made by Michaels before the Massachusetts State Legislature in 2011 in support of a bill that would have allowed children to be exempt from required vaccinations based on parental choice.
Massachusetts is currently among the states which allows students to be exempt from vaccination for medical or religious reasons.
“Unfortunately, my personal beliefs as a private citizen have been positioned inaccurately,” wrote Michaels in an email to reporters late this week. “I have never claimed that I don’t believe in vaccines. I am pro-safe and effective vaccines and pro scientific discovery. As a journalist, I strive to ask hard questions. Scientific consensus does not equal complacency. It is a challenge to scientists to verify the science or push it forward.”
Michaels has not commented on where she will go in lieu of the role with WGBH.
Regan et. al Clinical Infectious Diseases
Mothers who received seasonal TIV during pregnancy were significantly less likely to experience stillbirth compared with unvaccinated mothers. These results support the safety of seasonal influenza immunization during pregnancy and suggest a protective effect.
Oboho et al. The Journal of Infectious Diseases
Pregnant women are at higher risk for serious illness and complications, including death, from influenza. For expectant mothers hospitalized with flu, early treatment with the influenza antiviral drug oseltamivir may shorten their time in the hospital, especially in severe cases, suggests a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. The findings also underscore the importance of flu vaccination for this risk group.