Robert F Kennedy Jr is fanning the flames of the anti-vaxxer movement with a recent tweet suggesting ‘neurotoxins’ in the HPV vaccine are making American teens mentally ill.
Kennedy, an environmental attorney, author, and self-styled activist retweeted a CBS article about rising rates of teen depression and anxiety in the US.
In last week’s tweet, Kennedy – who holds two law degrees, but none in science – asked, ‘what are we doing to our children?
‘Shouldn’t we ask whether these [mental health] trends are associated with the neurotoxic aluminum we are giving young teens in Gardasil #vaccine?’
The answer to his question is ‘no,’ according to science, but the tweet has generated ire from the medical community and support from anti-vaxxers.
In a bizarre response to data on the rise of teen depression and anxiety in the US, Robert F Kennedy Jr called on scientists to investigate the HPV vaccine as the cause of mental illness – despite next to no scientific evidence to suggest it could cause mood disorders
Anxiety and depression – especially among teenagers – are on the rise in the US, without a doubt.
Since 2005, the number of adolescents that have recently had symptoms of major depression has shot up from 8.7 percent to 13.2 percent, according to a recent study.
Meanwhile, 13.2 percent of young adults reported depression in 2017, up from 8.1 in 2009 and 10.3 percent of young adults experience suicidal thoughts, as of 2017.
Most experts suggest that these surges in mental health issues are driven by changes in the the stressors and social environments that teenagers and young adults live in today.
Young people are constantly confronted by idealized images of life through social media platforms, yet they spend less time face-to-face with their peers.
Changes in the US economy may also be burdening young Americans, who feel extra pressure to succeed.
And other psychologists suggest that the cultural landscape is changing faster than parents can prepare their children for, and yet parents can be overprotective, leaving their children with insufficient coping skills.
The bottom line is that we don’t know why, exactly, young people are more distressed than they once were, but experts widely agree that it has more to do with cultural and societal changes than side effects of medical interventions.
Gardasil is given in two doses and can protect people from the common sexually transmitted HPV virus that can cause several forms of cancers. It uses aluminum to boost the immune response
Kennedy, who is not an expert on vaccines, thinks scientists need to investigate the Gardasil vaccine against the sexually-transmissible human papillomavirus (HPV), which can to cancers of the head, neck, reproductive organs, anus and rectum.
A veteran anti-vaxxer, noted for comparing vaccines to the Holocaust – even from the heart of the measles outbreaks gripping parts of the US – Kennedy believes that aluminum in the vaccine is to blame for mental health declines.
Aluminum is used in Gardasil (and other vaccines) as an adjuvant, an ingredient that helps to supercharge the immune response to optimize protection against a disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that aluminum may have some possible negative effects – but only in high doses, and evidence is tenuous at best.
Some studies have suggested that very high lead exposures may be linked to a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s, but other experiments on the same subject have dismissed this possibility.
In a very narrow category, children with kidney disease have exhibited high levels of aluminum, sometimes linked to medicines they were taking (though not vaccines).
A 2011 study reviewed the effects of lead exposure on the very most vulnerable children – infants, who would be most affected by aluminum.
Robert F Kennedy Jr is an environmental attorney who holds several degrees, but none of them in medicine or science – yet he’s become a vocal anti-vaccine advocate
This was done by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials explicitly ‘because concerns have been expressed by the public that aluminum in vaccines may pose a risk to infants.’
The researchers compared aluminum levels for children’s respective sizes at birth, to aluminum levels for the first 60 months of their lives, including after getting injections.
Aluminum levels remained well below the minimum safety level established by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
For scale, the DTaP vaccine that babies get in the first few months of their lives have 0.17 mg of an aluminum adjuvant in them.
Gardasil, given to adults who may be 10 times the size of an infant, contains 500 mcg of aluminum adjuvant – the equivalent of 0.5 mg.
And the scientists found that infants tolerated the vaccines well going forward, so mathematically speaking, it’s unlikely that aluminum in Gardasil is causing any surge, since we have long used other vaccines that contain trace amounts of the element too.
So the only explanation for Kennedy’s theory is his own conspiracy.