NEW YORK, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. said he will chair a commission on vaccine safety, at the request of President-elect Donald Trump.
Kennedy and Trump have both publicly questioned whether vaccines can cause autism.
After meeting Tuesday with Trump, Kennedy said the commission will be established "to make sure we have scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects." He added that Trump requested the meeting, and that Trump "has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it. His opinion doesn't matter, but the science does matter and we ought to be reading the science and we ought to be debating the science."
Kennedy has been a proponent of a 2014 documentary film, "Trace Amounts," which links autism to the vaccine preservative thimerosal and is critical of public health officials for dismissing the evidence.
Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, said a government commission unifying the opinions of Trump and Kennedy could put communities at risk.
"Creating a commission makes it look like scientists have not already studied this issue for many years, and it may lead people to think this is still an open question. It is not. Withholding vaccines will do nothing to reduce the chance that a child is diagnosed with autism, but will absolutely increase the chance that a child could contract and die from a vaccine-preventable disease. Vaccines save lives, period, she said, USA Today reported Wednesday.
Autism rates in the United States are rising at alarming rates, with 1 in 68 children now having autism spectrum disorder, according to a 2014 CDC report. The numbers are higher for boys: 1 in 42.