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Robert Kennedy Jr. to lead Donald Trump panel on vaccinations

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waits for the elevator

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waits for the elevator in the lobby of the Trump Tower in Manhattan on Jan. 10, 2017. Credit: EPA / ANTHONY BEHAR/SIPA USA POOL

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said Tuesday at Trump Tower in Manhattan that he will lead President-elect Donald Trump’s “commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity,” but a top Trump aide said later that no decision has been made on forming the “committee on autism.”

Kennedy and Trump separately have voiced concerns over whether childhood vaccinations can cause autism — a link that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical communities have said is disproved by research and dangerous to promote.

Kennedy told reporters after meeting with the president-elect that they discussed the “efficacy and safety effects” of the vaccination process. He described himself and Trump as “pro-vaccine.”

Transition national spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Trump and Kennedy spoke about a range of issues.

“The president-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a committee on austim, which affects so many families,” she said.

Kennedy, also an environmental activist and a scion of the Democratic political family, in April 2015 likened the number of children he said were hurt by vaccines to a “holocaust.” He later apologized for using the term.

Trump said at a September 2015 GOP primary debate that he favors vaccines but wants “smaller doses over a longer period of time.” He tweeted a year earlier: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!”

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Tuesday responded to a potential federal commission on immunizations by saying that delaying vaccines leave children at risk of disease.

“Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives,” the group said in a statement.

Autism Speaks, an advocacy and support group, said, “The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.”

Trump expressed “some doubts about the current vaccine policies,” said Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy.

“His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter. And we ought to be reading the science, and we ought to be debating the science,” Kennedy added. “Everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have — he’s very pro-vaccine, as am I — but they’re as safe as they possibly can be.”

Kennedy said he and the president-elect also spoke about clean energy, including solar energy.

Also Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University poll found U.S. voters gave Trump a 37 percent favorability rating, a drop from his 44 percent rating by the poll Nov. 22, 2016.

The majority of voters — 64 percent — said they believe he should close his personal Twitter account.

At Trump Tower, Tom Barrack, chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, said the president-elect was invited to coffee with President Barack Obama before the Jan. 20 passing of the torch.

Trump, Obama, Melania Trump and Michelle Obama will ride together to the ceremony from the White House, Barrack said.

Trump also met Tuesday with Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and Yankees president Randy Levine.

Trump is set to hold his first formal news conference since the election Wednesday morning at Trump Tower.

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