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How Bobby Kennedy, Jr. became despised by his own family

Bobby Jr. has become one of the most virulent anti-vaxxers, much to the chagrin of the Kennedy family.

Reprint from 2021

… “I love my uncle. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong.”

The family that has grown from Joseph and Rose Kennedy has been accomplished and intelligent — and often loyal.

However, the Kennedy klan has been outspoken about one of their members who has become one of the leading anti-vaxxers in the country, those who oppose every vaccine.

That one is Bobby Kennedy, Jr., son of the late U.S. Attorney General, U.S. Senator, and presidential candidate of the same name.

On Wednesday, one of Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter’s took her uncle to the woodshed over his outspoken opposition to the Covid-19 vaccine that is now being administered throughout the country.

And she has medical credentials that he does not possess.

Her name is Dr. Kerry Kennedy (Townsend) Meltzer, and she is the daughter of RFK’s oldest child, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Governor of Maryland.

Had to make the attack personal

Dr. Meltzer explained in the New York Times Op-Ed that her mother, her late sister Mauve Townsend McKean, and her uncle, Joseph P. Kennedy II, all criticized Bobby’s virulent attack on vaccines of all kinds in an op-ed in Politico.

Her attack was muted but still direct and blunt,

I stopped following my uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a noted anti-vaccination activist — on social media in 2019, when he was posting misinformation about the dangers of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in the midst of an outbreak.

When I take a look at his Facebook page now, I find a post about the Covid-19 vaccine that says, “We clearly have a systematic problem when government health regulators have utterly abdicated their responsibility to safeguard public health and refer safety concerns about shoddily tested, zero-liability vaccines to pharmaceutical companies.”

His concern — that the Covid vaccine is potentially unsafe, and hasn’t been properly tested — is widespread, and dangerously wrong. According to a report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Dec. 15, roughly a quarter of Americans say they “probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.”

If this number holds, then Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate that at least 75 percent of Americans must be vaccinated for the country to achieve herd immunity, and effectively end person-to-person spread of the disease, could be unachievable.

Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, “Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Bobby Kennedy Says,”

New York Times, Op-Ed, December 30, 2020

Bobby Kennedy used Facebook for “misinformation”

Bobby Kennedy has been known and well-regarded for his fight against climate change. However, for the past five years, he has been a strident voice against vaccines.

In 2019, the journal “Vaccine” found that Kennedy was leading one of two major organizations that posted advertisements on Facebook,

Of 145 anti-vaccine Facebook advertisements that ran between May 31, 2017 and February 22, 2019, the World Mercury Project and a group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination together ran 54% of them.

The World Mercury Project, which ran the most ads of any single source, is an organization closely aligned with the anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense. Both are spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer turned prolific peddler of dangerous anti-vaccine misinformation. He and his organizations promote conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, including the roundly debunked claim that safe, life-saving immunizations are linked to autism. More recently, Kennedy has become a prominent opponent of laws aimed at increasing vaccination rates among school children.

Beth Mole, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the single leading source of anti-vax

ads on Facebook,” ARS Technica, November 14, 2019

Bobby has been a little off the wall in many of his approaches to life, but this anti-vaccination tirade that he has spearheaded has been bothersome to many in his family,

In May 2019, my sister Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean; my mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; and my uncle Joseph P. Kennedy II, wrote in Politico about their concerns regarding my uncle Bobby’s spread of distrust in vaccines.

At that time, there was a resurgence of measles, a highly infectious disease which the United States had declared eliminated in 2000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak was largely “driven by misinformation about measles and the MMR vaccine, which has led to undervaccination in vulnerable communities.”

What’s more, a 2019 study found that the over half of Facebook advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two anti-vaccine groups, including the World Mercury Project, which was founded by my uncle Bobby. The organization has since changed its name to Children’s Health Defense, and Bobby is chairman. For its part, Facebook is no longer allowing anti-vaccination ads on its platform.

I recognize, with some trepidation, that people may wonder why I feel I need to speak out publicly about vaccines and against my uncle. The truth is, his name and platform mean that his views carry weight. After three hours, his Facebook post accusing government regulators of abdicating their responsibility to protect the public had 4,700 reactions, 2,300 shares and 641 comments.

As a doctor, and as a member of the Kennedy family, I feel I must use whatever small platform I have to state a few things unequivocally. I love my uncle Bobby. I admire him for many reasons, chief among them his decades-long fight for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong.

Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, New York Times, Op-Ed, December 30, 2020

The piece in Politico was headlined “RFK Jr. is our brother and uncle. He’s tragically wrong about vaccines.”

Many in U.S. have concerns about Covid vaccines

In their op-ed in Politico, Bobby’s relatives acknowledge that parents should have questions about the side effects of vaccines, but should not refuse the vaccinations,

It is understandable that parents may have questions about vaccines and health care procedures concerning their children. We need to be able to have conversations that address skepticism about the safety and efficacy of vaccines without demonizing doubters. The reality is that vaccines can have side effects.

However, the public health benefits of vaccines to every citizen far outweigh any potential side effects, which, when they do occur, are overwhelmingly minor, rarely serious, and more than justified by the overall benefit to vulnerable populations.

The fact is that immunizations prevent some 2 million to 3 million deaths a year, and have the potential to save another 1.5 million lives every year with broader vaccine coverage, according to the WHO. Smallpox, which plagued mankind for thousands of years, has been eradicated through vaccines. Because of immunizations, no cases of polio have been reported in the United States since 1979. And countries such as Australia, with robust human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine programs, are on track to eliminate cervical cancer, a major killer of women around the world, in the next decade.

This is the only vaccine we have that fights cancer. No matter what you might have read on social media, there is no scientific basis to allegations that vaccines against HPV pose a serious health threat. And numerous studies from many countries by many researchers have concluded that there is no link between autism and vaccines.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Mauve Kennedy McKean, “RFK Jr. is our brother and uncle. He’s tragically wrong about vaccines,” Politico Op-Ed, May 8, 2019

Legitimate questions about current vaccines

Many Americans agree with Bobby about the current vaccines and the rush to get them on the market. While I ultimately will get the vaccine when it becomes available as long as the current trend of few side effects continues, I still have worries about whether or not this will be successful and whether or not the testing was rushed through too quickly.

However, I strongly believe in vaccines, particularly those of the childhood variety. I am writing a piece on the success of the polio vaccine and how it eliminated the use of an “Iron Lung.”

And, as I have written previously, I had measles before the vaccine became available, and I remember how terrible that disease was. I obviously survived, but I would not wish that on any child.

The anti-vaxxers have tried — unsuccessfully — to tie vaccines to autism and Asberger’s syndrome, but they have never really made a serious case.

Still, the battle between the Kennedys is one that a number of families are having right now as they contemplate whether or not to take this vaccine.

One other major concern

The “vaccine” that I refuse to call a vaccine is the flu shot that they try to give you every year. When I researched the success rate of that, citing the fact that I have not taken a flu shot since 1972 — and have not had the flu since I contracted it after that shot — I realized that it was just 40-60 percent. The childhood vaccines usually have between 85-95 percent, most in the 90s.

However, the argument used about the flu shot is that if you catch it after getting the shot, it is a different variant, a different strain.

Now, a different strain of Covid is emerging. What if we spent all this time and money on vaccines that will not work with this strain?

Just a thought.

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