Donald Trump says he may have the solution for rising autism rates that he blames on vaccines: Spread out childhood immunizations beyond the recommended schedule.
The claim: Trump said in Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate that vaccines are behind an increase in autism. “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.”
He said he supports vaccination but called for giving smaller doses over a longer period of time. “I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism,” he said.
The facts: The purported connection between autism and vaccines has been repeatedly debunked by medical researchers. Even Trump’s idea of spreading out shots runs counter to recommendations from the top pediatric group in the U.S.
A 1998 study published in The Lancet first suggested a link between vaccines and autism. That study has since been retracted and the overwhelming majority of doctors dismiss any connection and recommend that children get vaccinated.
A 2013 study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no difference in exposure to vaccines between children with autism and normally developing children.
Fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, said that there’s “well-documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations.”
Even so, Carson concurred with Trump that doctors are “probably giving way too many” vaccines in too short a time, without saying why that’s a problem.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study earlier this year saying that patients were pressuring doctors to spread out vaccines and warned of the risks of doing so.
“Study authors point out that delaying or spacing out vaccines puts children and other vulnerable people in the population at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases with potentially severe outcomes,” the report said.
The CDC says that giving multiple vaccines boosts immunity in children, reducing the risk of infectious diseases and cutting down the number of doctor visits.
The government recommends infants receive almost two dozen immunizations during their first 18 months of life, in addition to annual flu shots, to protect against infectious diseases including measles, mumps, whooping cough and polio.