President Donald Trump on Friday urged parents to vaccinate their children after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the number of reported measles cases in the United States had reached a record high in nearly 20 years.
“They have to get the shot,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the CDC has confirmed 695 reported cases of measles in the U.S., the most since the disease was domestically eradicated in 2000. California had reported 38 measles cases as of Thursday.
Trump’s recent remarks are a shift from his past views on vaccinations.
He first weighed in on the issue in 2012 in a tweet.
“Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism....”
Trump suggested in 2014 that vaccinations should be spread out “over a long period of time."
In a 2015 presidential debate, Trump showed support for a widely debunked belief that vaccinations and autism are linked, claiming to know a 2-year-old girl who received the vaccine and then a week later was diagnosed with disorder.
“You take this little beautiful baby," Trump said. "I mean, it looks just like it is meant for a horse, not for a child, and we had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic."
CDC officials attributed the spike in measles cases to large outbreaks in Washington state and New York that began late last year. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar released a statement regarding the measles outbreak and said that vaccinations are the only way to keep the country safe.