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Kennedy Family Feud Over Vaccines

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) is publicly feuding with her brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., over the issue of vaccines.

Townsend, a former chair of the Global Virus Network; another one of her brothers, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D); and her daughter, Maeve Kennedy McKean, have penned an op-ed in Politico taking RFK Jr. to task for his high-profile opposition to mandatory vaccines.

The op-ed, which posted Wednesday, opens with the authors discussing the measles outbreak in the U.S. and the dangers of infectious diseases spreading globally in part because vaccines are not universally available. The authors warn about “internet doomsayers” who are sowing “fear and mistrust” about vaccines.

The piece gets very personal very fast.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases,” they write. “He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”

The Kennedys – McKean is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative – go on to praise RFK Jr.’s highly-touted environmental work.

“We love Bobby,” they write. “He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong. And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences.”

The authors go on to highlight some of the work President Kennedy, the late attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) did to promote public health — and vaccines specifically. They conclude by urging “everyone” to “communicate the benefits and safety of vaccines, and advocate for the respect and confidence of the institutions which make them possible. To do otherwise risks even further erosion of one of public health’s greatest achievements.”

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