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(LifeSiteNews) – Former President Donald Trump has pledged to spearhead an investigation of spiking childhood illness if sent back to the White House, a pledge critics are questioning in light of his role in the development of the controversial COVID-19 vaccines.

“In recent decades, there has been an unexplained and alarming growth in the prevalence of chronic illnesses and health problems especially in children,” Trump said in a campaign video. “We’ve seen a stunning rise in autism, autoimmune disorders, obesity, infertility, serious allergies, and respiratory challenges. It’s time to ask, ‘What is going on?’”

After positing food, environment, “over-prescription of certain medications,” “toxins and chemicals that are present in our homes” as possible explanations, the former president lamented that “too often, our public health establishment is too close to Big Pharma — they make a lot of money, Big Pharma — big corporations, and other special interests, and does not want to ask the tough questions about what is happening to our children’s health.”

“When I’m back in the White House, I will establish a special presidential commission of independent minds who are not bought and paid for by Big Pharma, and I will charge them with investigating what is causing the decades-long increase in chronic illness,” Trump declared. “I understand Big Pharma I believe better than anybody else.”

While the pledge was applauded by his loyal base, critics of the 45th president questioned the likelihood of Trump delivering in a hypothetical second term in light of his consistent support for the COVID-19 vaccines, which his administration developed faster than any previous vaccine under the Operation Warp Speed initiative, and which he has repeatedly stood by despite mounting evidence linking them to serious side effects. 

Most recently, Trump dismissed a campaign event attendee who told him “we have lost people because you supported the jab,” on the grounds that “there’s a big portion of the country that thinks [delivering the shots in record time] was a great thing.”

Additionally, early in the COVID pandemic, Trump invoked the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act of 2005, which “authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to limit legal liability for losses relating to the administration of medical countermeasures such as diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines,” in declaring the virus a “public health emergency.” That action is responsible for “shielding the manufacturers even if they harm consumers,” according to U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).

Last year, Trump touted his closeness to billionaire Woody Johnson, of the family that founded the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company, at a rally for unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, incorrectly stating that Johnson “owns the place” and boasting, “this guy’s got cash like nobody’s got cash.”

Among those attacking Trump’s credibility on the issue were Democrat presidential candidate and Children’s Health Defense founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr:

In his first run for the White House, Trump said he would establish a vaccine safety commission that Kennedy was reportedly going to be involved in, but those plans never materialized.

As the former president who for months was the only declared major candidate, Trump holds a commanding lead in national polls for the GOP nomination, although Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced his candidacy late last month, has the edge in fundraising and is competitive in state polls. Voting in the Republican primaries does not begin until next January with the Iowa caucuses.