WASHINGTON — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has warned of a discredited link between childhood immunizations and the development of autism, has accepted an invitation from President-elect Donald Trump to lead a commission “on vaccine safety and scientific integrity,” he told reporters Tuesday.

A Trump spokeswoman would not confirm Kennedy’s comment.

Kennedy, son of the late U.S. attorney general, said the president-elect “has some doubts” about vaccine policies but said both of them were in favor of vaccines.

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“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 said. “Everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have … (are) as safe as they possibly can be.”

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition team, said only that the president-elect was “exploring the possibility” of a commission, but that no decision has been made.

“The president-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas,” Hicks said. “The president-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of autism with many groups and individuals.”

A wave of concern among some parents about a link between vaccines and autism, sparked by a since-discredited study, led instead to an increased risk for children in contracting diseases eradicated decades ago.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states explicitly that there “is no link between vaccines and autism,” citing its own and independent studies.

In 2015 Kennedy testified against a California bill, now law, to block parents from being waived, based on personal beliefs, from the requirement that their children be vaccinated. He apologized for comparing at one point the number of children with autism to a holocaust.

During a Republican primary debate in 2015 at the Reagan library in Simi Valley, Calif., Trump said he was “totally in favor of vaccines,” but said autism had become an epidemic. He claimed a 2-year-old child of one of his employees developed autism just after receiving an immunization.

“I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” he said.

© 2017 Tribune Co.
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