In a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Energy, Labor, and Pensions on April 5, 2017, the nominee to be the next commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, MD, stated categorically that there “is no causal link between vaccination and autism.”1
Dr. Gottlieb serves on the board of directors of pharmaceutical companies Tolero Pharmaceuticals and Daiichi Sankyo and is on the investment board of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). He reportedly received $413,000 during 2013-2015 in consulting and speaking fees from these firms.2
Dr. Gottlieb has previously publicly expressed strong opinions about vaccination. He not only rejects a causal link between autism and vaccines, he does not believe there is any need for more scientific research into vaccination and the development of autism in children. In an interview with CNBC in 2015, he said:
Clearly, these vaccines are important. The science around a purported link between these vaccines and autism was thoroughly debunked years ago. As early as 2002, there was a study in Denmark that looked at 540,000 children and found no correlation. There’s been many subsequent studies of equal magnitude. I think for too long a lot of people’s public statements allowed these myths to propagate because they’ve said things like, ‘Well, we don’t think there’s any correlation, but we need more research.’ We don’t need more research. At some point, enough is enough. It’s fine to continue to collect data, but at some point you have to take no for an answer. We have thoroughly debunked any association between autism and these vaccines.3
Dr. Gottlieb’s views on vaccines would seem to be in sharp contrast with concerns that President Donald Trump has expressed in the past and recent media reports suggesting Trump may be proposing to form “a commission to look into the safety of vaccines and their possible connection to autism.”4 The reported proposal would reflect President Trump’s repeated questioning of whether the significant increase in rates of autism in the United States is tied to the growing number of vaccinations being given to children.5
In 2012, Trump wrote: “Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism.”6 He added: “‘A study says @autism is out of control—a 78 percent increase in 10 years. Stop giving monstrous combined vaccinations.’ These views, to say the least, are not the scientific consensus.”7
Dr. Gottlieb does not appear to support the idea of a federal mandate to require vaccinations. “A federal mandate I think would make more people concerned around the intrusion to decision making,” he stated in 2015. But Gottlieb has expressed support for strict enforcement of state mandatory vaccination laws, recommending that state vaccine exemptions, which allow people to opt out of federally recommended vaccines, should be reviewed and tightened. He also has expressed the opinion that adults may need to be required to get booster doses of MMR vaccine to prevent measles outbreaks.3
If confirmed, Dr. Gottlieb, 44, would replace Robert M. Califf, MD, who stepped down as FDA commissioner in January. During the past three months, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, MD has been serving as interim commissioner for the agency.8
1 Court E. FDA nominee Gottlieb: ‘no causal link between vaccination and autism’. MarketWatch Apr. 6, 2017.
2 McGinley L, Johnson CY. Trump to select Scott Gottlieb, a physician with deep drug-industry ties, to run the FDA. The Washington Post Mar. 10, 2017.
3 DiChristopher T. Case closed on vaccine-autism debate: Doctor. CNBC Feb. 4, 2015.
4 Cáceres M. The Quest for Vaccine Safety: A Return to the Dark Ages? The Vaccine Reaction Jan. 30,2017.
5 Chougule P. Why the Kennedy-De Niro Vaccine Challenge Matters. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 22, 2017.
6 Donald J. Trump. Twitter Aug. 23, 2012.
7 Mercola J. Trump Sets Off Media Firestorm With Proposed Vaccine Safety Review Panel. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 5, 2017.
8 Enriquez J. Califf Stepping Down As FDA Commissioner As Trump Considers Replacement. Med Device Online Jan. 13, 2017.