Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove says he didn’t discuss vaccines with Donald Trump when the president-elect asked him to become secretary of the US Department of Veteran Affairs. Cosgrove turned down the job, as he did when President Barack Obama offered it to him following the resignation of Eric Shinseki in 2014.
But Dr. Cosgrove did talk about immunizations with Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christophorous in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. When asked about scientifically discredited views linking vaccines to autism, Cosgrove said, “There is no debate anymore about this.”
When asked specifically about Trump’s tweets about vaccines and autism, Cosgrove said, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But we are evidence-based, and we’re looking at the scientific evidence that’s out there. The scientific evidence is pretty clear that vaccinations are safe and they have been an enormous part of reducing the morbidity and the mortality [rates] across the United States.”
Cosgrove had to reiterate Cleveland Clinic’s support of vaccines this month after the publication of an article by the medical director of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute that questioned the safety of vaccines and mentioned autism. The director retracted the article, the Clinic said disciplinary action was taken and Cosgrove issued a statement rejecting the doctor’s views.
“There’s nothing to suggest that vaccinations are related to autism,” Cosgrove told Yahoo Finance. “Vaccines are one of the really great things that have happened in medicine. And now, [as] people stop vaccinating their children, we’re starting to see a resurgence of things like whopping cough. And I cannot say too strongly the importance of getting vaccines and vaccinating your children and the importance in terms of the public health.”
Though he was flattered to be asked to join the Trump team, Cosgrove said he wanted to fulfill his obligations at the renowned medical center. “I had committed myself to the Cleveland Clinic, and a lot of projects are underway. For example, we’re opening a new facility in London, we are building a very unique and large medical school and I want to see those projects through. And I didn’t think that I should divert my attention and my energies,” he said.
“It was a tremendous honor … and I took it very seriously and did a lot of soul searching about it and really realized at the end of the day that’s what I needed to do,” he said.