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President Trump answers questions at the White House on April 26. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday spoke for the first time on the record about measles outbreaks that have taken place across 22 states so far this year, instructing parents to vaccinate their children against the highly contagious and occasionally deadly virus.

What he said: "They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important, this is really going around now. They have to get the shots."

Why it matters: Trump's comments are notable in part because he has expressed skepticism of vaccines in the past. For example, he met with prominent anti-vaxxers such as Andrew Wakefield, whose study on a tie between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine with autism was debunked and retracted from a scientific journal.

A more recent study with thousands of participants found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and the vaccine is safe and effective.

  • In the past, presidents have used the bully pulpit to encourage Americans to vaccinate themselves and their children against diseases such as polio, measles and the flu, among others.
  • Until Friday, Trump had remained silent on the ongoing outbreaks, which are the largest the U.S. has seen in any year since the virus was declared eradicated from the country in 2000.

The big picture: So far this year, the U.S. has seen nearly 700 cases of the measles, with more than 70 cases reported in just one week. As of Monday, 5 states were reporting outbreaks, with the largest ones occurring in New York, including in New York City.

A reluctance by some parents to vaccinate their children, either because of misinformation spread online or other reasons, has made many communities more susceptible to outbreaks sparked when people travel from regions where the virus is still active.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

Biden's ethics end-around for labor

President Biden surveys a water treatment plant during a visit to New Orleans today. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is excusing top officials from ethics rules that would otherwise restrict their work with large labor unions that previously employed them, federal records show.

Why it matters: Labor's sizable personnel presence in the administration is driving policy, and the president's appointment of top union officials to senior posts gives those unions powerful voices in the federal bureaucracy — even at the cost of strictly adhering to his own stringent ethics standards.