Bill Gates convinced Trump to drop his anti-vaccine commission

President Donald Trump loves a winner. And there is one man on Earth that fits Trump’s idea of a winner more than anyone else. Bill Gates.

Some reservations by the science community about a Trump administration were put to rest after hearing about several meetings with the founder of Microsoft. Given his history of believing conspiracy theories about vaccines, I was impressed to hear Trump’s excitement about the possibility of a universal flu vaccine:

Bill Gates was talking to President Trump in the Oval Office last month when the conversation turned to the notion of a universal flu vaccine — probably, as Gates recalled in an interview, “the longest conversation about universal flu vaccine that the president’s ever had.”

“You should associate yourself with American innovation. Wouldn’t you love to have the universal flu vaccine be something that really got kicked off and energized by you?” Gates recalled asking Trump.

The idea fired up the president, who Gates described as “super interested.” In a matter of moments, Trump had Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, on speakerphone, asking him about a vaccine that could generate lasting protection against a range of seasonal and animal flu viruses with pandemic potential.

More than a year after discussion of an anti-vaccine commission being planned by Trump and anti-vaccine movement leader Robery Kennedy Jr, this appeared to be a complete turn around for the President.

This week The Guardian reported on even more details of the meeting, including some clarification on the differences between HPV and HIV that Trump wanted. But more importantly, Gates apparently convinced President Trump to drop his plans to cater to the anti-vaxxers:

They met again in March last year at the White House. Gates continued: “In both of those two meetings, he asked me if vaccines weren’t a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines and somebody — I think it was Robert Kennedy Jr — was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things. And I said no, that’s a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don’t do that.

Not long after this March 2017 meeting, Stat News reported on the stalling of plans to create the commission:

A White House spokesman, asked about the vaccine safety commission, said there were no announcements to make at this time. He declined to comment on whether the White House had arranged meetings for Kennedy.

Other officials confirmed that Kennedy had met with agency leaders, but emphasized that U.S. health officials strongly believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

A decision Kennedy seems not to happy about:

“We were told President Trump wanted to meet directly with us. Not only did nothing happen, they’ve cut off all communication with people who care about this issue. The administration has decided to go in another direction.”

Kennedy, 64, has had no contact with the White House for at least six months and made no secret of his dismay. “I’ve seen a tremendous deflation among a community of parents and children’s health advocates across the country who believed the promises that President Trump made to the campaign, who put tremendous faith in him and now are feeling enormous betrayal and disappointment.”

Kennedy is described in the Encyclopedia of American Loons as:

a traditional crank and deluded conspiracy theorist who is thoroughly anti-science (even on the topics on which he is right, he relies almost exclusively on non-scientific arguments); a typical crank and crackpot with little aptitude for actual evidence (as opposed to twisting any fact to look like evidence to lay people). He is enormously influential, and must be considered one of the more dangerous people in the US today.

Vaccines were a logical topic for Gates and Trump. One of Gates’ goals is to convince the President that foreign aid, when correctly applied, can cut costs in the long run:

Gates said he hopes to discuss how foreign aid helps America, and the value of maintaining those commitments. He also hopes to offer ideas for new spending, like preparations for potential pandemics and bioterrorism…..

This isn’t the first time Gates has met with Trump and his team either, and though Gates said he disagrees “with this administration more than the others we’ve met with,” he believes it’s important to work together “whenever possible.”

“We keep talking to them because if the US cuts back on its investments abroad, people in other countries will die, and Americans will be worse off,” Gates wrote.

And as Dr. Kenneth Earhart, chief scientist at Naval Health Research Center and infectious disease physician puts it perfectly:

Diseases don’t have borders

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