Health Care — Trump’s vaccine rhetoric worries public health experts 

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During a recent campaign rally in Richmond, Va., Trump vowed to cut funding for “any school that has a vaccine mandate or a mask mandate.” While his campaign clarified that he was referring to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, that hasn’t eased fears that Trump could accelerate already worrying trends of declining child vaccination.  


No states currently require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, though many other immunizations are mandated including measles, mumps, polio, tetanus, whooping cough and chickenpox. 


Throughout his campaign, Trump has danced around vaccines, both seeking credit for the development of the COVID-19 vaccines while also criticizing their use. Without any schools having COVID-19 vaccine requirements, the former president’s threat has little heft behind it. 


“If you actually listen to the entire section, and also if you’ve been following his speeches for the past year, he’s talking about COVID vaccines in addition to masks in the same breath. This isn’t anything new,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in an email. 


Still, public health experts like Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, are worried that criticisms and rhetoric like Trump’s will encourage others to pursue measures in the same vein as he’s suggesting, especially if he wins reelection. 


“I worry about any administration that doesn’t follow good evidence and good science, that they will put more and more people like them in their administration,” said Benjamin. 


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of kindergartners whose parents opted them out of school-required vaccinations rose to the highest level yet during the 2022-2023 school year. 

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