President Trump recently selected Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent vaccine skeptic who believes that shots may cause autism, to chair a panel on the safety of vaccines.
The appointment has provoked howls of outrage from public health officials, who correctly point out that medical experts have repeatedly debunked any link between vaccines and autism. Unfortunately, in their zeal to defend the benefits of vaccines, these advocates have pushed a narrative that vaccines are without risk.
That’s equally false. Every year, thousands of Americans receive vaccinations and then suffer a host of well-recognized reactions, ranging from chronic pain to paralysis. They often face staggering medical bills and lose the ability to work.
A 30-year-old federal program — meant to encourage vaccinations — compensates these patients for their medical costs and suffering. This program represents the sort of sensible, middle-ground policies that the Trump administration would be wise to adopt. Kennedy and his peers ought to recognize the immense public health benefits of vaccines, while doing everything they can to protect the relative few who are unlucky enough to be injured.
Unlucky patients who have terrible reactions to vaccines can seek compensation for their lost wages, medical bills and suffering through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Established in 1986, the vaccine program is one of the rare federal initiatives that promotes economic growth and protects consumers. It does so by granting vaccine makers and doctors immunity from lawsuits. That immunity gives drug companies full confidence to fund continued research and development of new vaccines, and gives doctors and nurses full confidence to administer them.