Children's Health Defense
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Children's Health Defense

Children's Health Defense
FounderRobert F. Kennedy Jr.
Founded atWashington, D.C.
TypeNon-profit advocacy organization
Location
Chairman
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Vice Chairman
J.B. Handley
Brian Hooker, Katie Wright, Mary Holland, Terena Thyne Eisner
Websitechildrenshealthdefense.org
Formerly called
World Mercury Project

Children's Health Defense is an American 501c3 nonprofit advocacy organization,[1] known for its anti-vaccine activism. Much of the material put forth by the organization involves manipulation of information and anti-vaccine propaganda.[2] It was founded and is chaired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.[3] Established under the name World Mercury Project in 2016, it has been campaigning against various public health programs, such as vaccination and fluoridation of drinking water. The group has been contributing to vaccine hesitancy in the United States, encouraging citizens and legislators to support anti-vaccine regulations and legislation.[4][5][6]

Background

Children's Health Defense alleges that a large proportion of American children are suffering from conditions as diverse as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, food allergies, cancer, and autoimmune diseases due to exposure to a variety of chemicals and radiation.[7] The chemicals and radiation that Children's Health Defense has blamed and campaigned against include vaccines, pesticides, fluoridation of drinking water, paracetamol (acetaminophen), aluminum, wireless communications, and others.[8][9] It has brought lawsuits targeting pesticides in food and agriculture.[10]

Named the World Mercury Project until 2018,[5][11] the Children's Health Defense is an influential anti-vaccine organization due to the prominance of its founder and chairman, Robert Kennedy Jr.[4][5][6] On February 15, 2017, with other anti-vaccination activists and actor Robert De Niro at his side, Kennedy challenged anybody to prove the use of thimerosal is safe "in the amounts contained in vaccines currently being administered to American children and pregnant women", ignoring a 1999 Food and Drug Administration study doing just that. Although the use of thimerosal in vaccines was phased out by 2001 (with one exception), this mercury compound is still often referred to by anti-vaccination groups.[6] Overwhelming evidence indicates that vaccines are safe and effective.[6][12] The 2018 tax return for Children's Health Defense indicates that Kennedy was paid $184,375 for his services as Chairman and chief counsel for the organization.[13]

Kennedy met with Donald Trump in January 2017. While Kennedy claimed the President agreed to establish a commission to study the risks allegedly associated with vaccines, government officials denied any decision was taken and nothing subsequently came of it.[14][15]

A study found Children's Health Defense was one of major buyers of anti-vaccine Facebook advertising in December 2018 and February 2019, the other being Stop Mandatory Vaccination. Heavily targeting women and young couples, the advertising highlighted the alleged risks of vaccines and asked for donations.[16][17] According to an analysis by NBC News, the group is one of three major sources of false claims on vaccination shared on the internet, the other two being the fake news site Natural News and the website Stop Mandatory Vaccination.[18]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the group accused the United States government of supporting research on a vaccine as part of a plan to increase revenues for the pharmaceutical industry.[7]

Criticism

Despite Kennedy's claims that he is in fact not against vaccines,[19][20] several critics point out he and his organization spread common anti-vaccine arguments as part of their core messages. According to David Gorski, the World Mercury project was "a group dedicated to fear mongering over mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism and health problems". Kennedy has stated the media and governments are engaged in a conspiracy to deny that vaccines cause autism.[6][12]

On May 8, 2019, while some areas in the United States were struggling with a resurgence of measles due to low vaccination rates, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy and Maeve Kennedy McKean publicly stated that while their relative Robert has championed many admirable causes, he "has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines."[21]

New York City measles lawsuit

On April 19, 2019, the Kings County Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit in which Robert Krakow, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Patricia Finn of Children's Health Defense represented five parents of unvaccinated children protesting the decision by New York City authorities to impose mandatory measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations for residents in parts of Williamsburg, as a response to the epidemic of measles in that area. The lawsuit was filed four days earlier against the New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene and its commissioner.[22][23]

In his ruling, Judge Lawrence Knipel indicated that the arguments presented by the plaintiffs amounted to little more than "unsupported, bald faced opinion". Responding to Children's Aid Defense's claims that the city's reaction to a "garden-variety annual measles outbreak" was excessive, the judge pointed out that the documents filed as evidence in fact demonstrated otherwise. He concluded that "the unvarnished truth is that these diagnoses represent the most significant spike in incidences of measles in the United States in many years and that the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is at its epicenter. It has already begun to spread to remote locations."[23][24]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Profile". Guidestar. Archived from the original on July 13, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ Mnookin,STAT, Seth. "How Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Distorted Vaccine Science". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ "Board of Directors". Children's Health Defense. Archived from the original on April 16, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b Hotez, Peter (January 3, 2019). "Global disease risk worsening as anti-vaccination campaigns spread". Axios. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Plater, Roz (January 22, 2019). "The World Health Organization says the refusal to get vaccinated threatens to disrupt progress made against deadly diseases". Healthline. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Scott, Katie (February 16, 2017). "Robert De Niro, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. offer $100K to anyone who can provide proof vaccines are safe". Global TV. Archived from the original on March 3, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  7. ^ a b Gammon, Katarine (April 16, 2020). "How the anti-vaccine community is responding to COVID-19". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ "The Children's Health Defense Team: Fluoridation Must End". PRNewswire. January 10, 2019. Archived from the original on March 3, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ "U.S. Water Fluoridation: A Forced Experiment that Needs to End". Children's Health Defense. January 9, 2019. Archived from the original on March 3, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ "Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - Baum Hedlund Co-Counsel". Baum Hedlund Law. Archived from the original on July 5, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ Senapathy, Kavin (December 27, 2019). "The Top 10 Woo of 2018 [Part I]". Skeptical Inquirer. CFI. Archived from the original on February 24, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Gorski, David (April 30, 2018). "Autism prevalence increases to 1 in 59, and antivaxers lose it...yet again". Science-Based medicine. Archived from the original on February 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ "Return of organization exempt from income tax" (PDF). Quackwatch.org. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ Smith, David (February 21, 2018). "Trump appears to abandon vaccine sceptic group denounced by scientists". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 10, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ Branswell, Helen (August 21, 2017). "As White House appoints pro-vaccine officials, plan for safety commission appears stalled". STAT news. Archived from the original on March 10, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ Sun, Lena H. (November 15, 2019). "Majority of anti-vaccine ads on Facebook were funded by two groups". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 16, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ Jamison, A.M.; Broniatowski, D. A.; Dredze, M. (November 13, 2019). "Vaccine-related advertising in the Facebook Ad Archive". Vaccine. 38 (3): 512-520. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.10.066. PMC 6954281. PMID 31732327.
  18. ^ Zadrozny, Brandy (December 29, 2019). "Social media hosted a lot of fake health news this year. Here's what went most viral". NBC News. Archived from the original on January 3, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ Rabin, Roni Caryn (May 8, 2019). "Brother and Sister of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Accuse Him of Spreading Misinformation on Vaccines". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ Golgowski, Nina (May 8, 2019). "Robert Kennedy Jr.'s Vaccine Views Slammed As 'Tragically Wrong' By Family". Huffington POst. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  21. ^ Kennedy Townsend, Kathleen; Kennedy, Joseph P.; Kennedy McKean, Maeve (May 8, 2019). "RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He's Tragically Wrong About Vaccines". Politico. Archived from the original on May 8, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ Enman, Scott (April 16, 2019). "Anti-vaxxers sue city over mandatory measles vaccination". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Archived from the original on April 24, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  23. ^ a b Enman, Scott (April 19, 2019). "Measles outbreak: Brooklyn judge dismisses anti-vaxxer lawsuit against the city". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Archived from the original on April 24, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  24. ^ C.F., on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children; M.F., on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children; B.D., on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children; M.N., on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor child; and A.L., on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor child (Petitioners) vs. The New York City City Department of Health and Human Hygiene, and Dr. Oxisris Barbot, in her official capacity as Commissioner of the New York City City Department of Health and Human Hygiene (Respondents)., 508356/19 (Supreme Court of the State of New York April 18, 2019).

External links


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