There were definitely some memorable moments in last night's Republican debate, but there was one that I wish I could forget: Donald Trump voting for the disproven theory that vaccines cause autism.
After Dr. Ben Carson stated, "There have been numerous studies, and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism," Mr. Trump insisted that he had seen it with his own eyes: "We've had so many instances, people that work for me. Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic."
Asked what he thought about Mr. Trump's position, Dr. Carson—a pediatric neurosurgeon who has plenty of experience with children's brains—politely responded, "I think he's an intelligent man and will make the correct decision after getting the real facts."
As a politician, Mr. Trump tried to take both sides last night: "I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time." Unfortunately, Dr. Carson gave credence to this position: "The fact of the matter is, we have extremely well-documented proof that there's no autism associated with vaccinations. But it is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time."
Studies have shown that the current vaccine schedule is safe, and it won't overwhelm an infant's immune system. As our recent article, "There Are Just Too Many Shots" made clear, even though children are getting vaccinated against more diseases than we did as children, they are being injected with a fewer number of actual antigens (viral or bacterial components), thanks to advances in vaccine production. We need leaders who will confidently reassure parents about vaccine safety, and that the immunization schedule isn't the result of big government, but sound science.
Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two girls. You can follow her on Twitter: @ddebrovner