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Dear New Times Shredder

A free and open dialogue would benefit us all

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You slipped from your soapbox on Jan. 23 ("Get off your soapbox") when, in defense of free speech, you enthusiastically berated the alleged uncaring, ignorant, conspiratorial women of the fraudulently named Central Coast Health Coalition, many of whose vaccine-injured children still suffer daily the side effects of those injectable drugs. Lest you think we are hysterical and it is all a "freakin' complex," we would like to remind you that the federal government has paid out more than $4 billion to date in damages for vaccine injuries such as these. You also jeer that "only they [coalition members] know the truth," which reflects poorly on the legitimacy of the dialogue; on the doctors, nurses, lawyers, Supreme Court justices, and international health officials who share our concerns; and on your standards as a columnist.

But to give credit where credit is due, we would like to thank you for defending our First Amendment right to speak about vaccines and their potential risks. We at Central Coast Health Coalition are not the first to experience censorship and exclusion for broaching this controversial topic, and the small-town San Luis Obispo Women's March committee is hardly our greatest persecutor.

In February 2019, per request of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Facebook activated its filters and restrictive algorithms to identify and squelch posts informing people about vaccine risks. Google jumped on the bandwagon by offering only duly "vetted" pro-vaccine search results. These actions do not come without consequences. As a result of his quest for censorship, Schiff is now being sued by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

America's right to free speech is actively under attack by those who claim that discussing vaccine risks is "dangerous to public health." This is a fear-marketing tactic that intimidates and prevents people from engaging in a real discussion about the crucial issue of vaccine safety.

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Florida) responded to Facebook policing vaccine information in a March 4, 2019, letter to Mark Zuckerberg in which he states, "Addressing vaccine safety issues that have persisted decades is best addressed not by silencing or bullying one side or the other, but rather by engaging in a robust vaccine safety research program by truly independent researchers that will make vaccines safer and develop a better understanding of particular risk factors for infants, children, and adults."

Vaccines need to be safe. If we can't even have civil discourse about the real risks and side effects of vaccines, how can we progress to making them safer? At its recent Vaccine Safety Summit, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the paucity of appropriate safety testing for vaccines.

"I think we cannot overemphasize the fact that we really don't have very good safety monitoring systems in many countries, and this adds to the miscommunication and the misapprehensions because we're not able to give clear-cut answers when people ask questions about the deaths that have occurred due to a particular vaccine, and this always gets blown up in the media," Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, a pediatrician who serves on several WHO advisory committees, said at the summit.

Not only is safety testing inadequate, but vaccine manufacturers have complete legal immunity from lawsuits related to injury and death. The incentive to improve their product is absent, and the lack of accountability they have enjoyed is shocking. A 2018 lawsuit the Informed Consent Action Network won against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that not a single biannual safety report has even been completed, despite being required by the 1986 Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. This represents a 34-year vacuum in any post-market data-driven safety studies and potential improvements in vaccine quality.

This negligence is particularly disturbing in light of the dissent signed by Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor to a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that solidified the liability-free position of vaccine manufacturers. Here, the justices warned that the majority's "decision leaves a regulatory vacuum in which no one ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific or technological advancements when designing or distributing their products. ... This concern is especially acute with respect to vaccines that have already been released and marketed to the public. Manufacturers, given the lack of robust competition in the vaccine market, will often have little or no incentive to improve the designs of vaccines that are already generating significant profit margins."

Free and civil discourse would not only push manufacturers to improve vaccines, it would help the dialogue by reducing polarizing accusations and name calling. Calling us "anti-vaxxers" who "don't believe in science" does not reflect who we are, nor does it add to the quality of the discourse.

Going forward, we would wholeheartedly welcome further public and/or in-person discussions with you on vaccines. And just as we hope the SLO Women's March Committee will adjust their "inclusive" sign policy to reflect the truth of their limited political agenda, we also hope that you, Shredder, can adjust your tone when addressing a well-read and knowledgeable group of parents who are devoted to protecting their vulnerable children from unregulated corporate greed. Δ

The Central Coast Health Coalition fights for health. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a response for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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