As measles cases in the United States hit the highest number seen in more than 25 years, a high-profile member of the Trump administration has spoken out about the importance of childhood vaccines. Ivanka Trump stressed the importance of vaccinating children in a tweet posted to her official account on Friday.
"Parents and guardians, the importance of vaccinating your children cannot be overestimated," Trump wrote in a tweet linking readers to a Wall Street Journal article regarding this year's record-high number of measles cases. According to a recent press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 91 new cases of measles reported over the last week and a half have brought the year's total number of cases up to 971 — a more than 25-year high.
In fact, the CDC said the number of measles cases reported in the first five months of 2019 had already surpassed a previous record of 963 cases documented in 1992. Thanks in part to a vaccination program established in 1963, the CDC was able to declare the measles eliminated in 2000.
However, the CDC announced Thursday that the highly-contagious viral infection may lose its elimination status if outbreaks that have been ongoing for nearly eight months in New York City and Rockland County continue. "If these outbreaks continue through summer and fall, the United States may lose its measles elimination status," the agency said in its press release. "That loss would be a huge blow for the nation and erase the hard work done by all levels of public health."
Trump's tweet came more than a month after her father appeared to reverse his stance on vaccines, telling reporters outside the White House in mid-April that children "have to get the shots."
"The vaccinations are so important," President Donald Trump said when asked what he'd like to tell parents regarding the recent measles outbreak, per Politico. "This is really going around now. They have to get their shots."
Years prior, Donald had appeared to repeatedly promote the debunked idea that vaccines cause autism. In August 2012, for example, he tweeted that "massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism." In 2014, he echoed a similar message in a tweet arguing there were "many such cases" of children being "pumped with massive shot of many vaccines" and as a result, not feeling good and developing autism. "Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM," he tweeted. "Many such cases!"
Then, while running for president in 2015, Donald claimed he personally knew many people whose children had developed autism after being vaccinated. "I am totally in favor of vaccines," he told CNN's Jake Tapper during a Republican presidential primary debate the cable news network hosted. "But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time." He claimed babies were being "pumped" full of vaccine dosages that "looks just like it's meant for a horse, not a child."
In a statement released Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. emphasized how safe the measles vaccine is. "Vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism," Redfield said. "The greater danger is the disease the vaccination prevents. Your decision to vaccinate will protect your family's health and your community's well-being."