Letter to the editor.
This is a letter to the editor from Sujata Gibson, candidate for NYS Assembly District 125. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Managing Editor Thomas Giery Pudney at tgpudney@ithacavoice.com.

A letter was published Monday in the Ithaca Voice, signed by 87 medical professionals alleging that I have “dangerous” positions on vaccines. I have never even met most of these people nor have any contacted me for a conversation or interview about my beliefs on vaccine policy. I certainly would have accepted an offer to share my views and hear their perspectives had they reached out, as I am always eager to talk to constituents. Because this is such an important subject, I am responding here as well as holding a zoom forum this Saturday, June 20, at noon.  

I am not sure what the authors of the letter think that I believe. But what I do know is that we all have one thing in common: we care deeply for children and their families.  I can only assume that these medical professionals share my desire to protect children from vaccine-preventable illnesses and from vaccine injury.

Contrary to many of my political opponents’ allegations, I am not anti-vaccine. I believe vaccines are important and have saved many lives.  I also believe in respecting fundamental human rights and holding vaccine companies accountable to make the safest vaccines possible.

There are reforms that need to be made and acknowledged and it’s no task for the faint of heart.

Pharmaceutical companies are not liable for death and injury caused by vaccines. President Reagan signed a law in the late 80’s shifting liability to the taxpayer. Congress and HHS have repeatedly found that the vast majority of officials at CDC and FDA have serious financial conflicts of interest and there is a revolving door at the regulatory agencies.

Since vaccines are liability-free, lack independent oversight and are effectively compulsory to a captive market of 76 million children, there is no market incentive for companies to focus on ongoing safety improvements. We are cornered into having to rely on the moral scruples of Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi and Pfizer, who are the major manufacturers of vaccines. All four are convicted felons. Collectively, they have paid over $35 billion in fines since 2009 for defrauding regulators, lying to and bribing government officials and physicians, falsifying science and leaving a trail of injuries and death from products they knew to be dangerous and sold under the pretense of safety and efficacy.

Pointing out the problems doesn’t make me anti-vaccine. It means I want the safest possible vaccines. I believe that allowing for choice and free conversation about shortcomings as well as the benefits of vaccines is not only necessary to respect human rights but will ultimately lead to greater accountability and thus safer products.

Where do we bridge the gap when conflicts arise between competing needs? Through policy. As an attorney, it is my job to identify the intersection of law and science and to advocate for policy that minimizes unnecessary infringements but also protects the compelling interests of the community.

As a priority, we need to address the crisis occurring around the medical exemption. I represent medically fragile children whose treating physicians have determined they should have a medical exemption from one or more vaccines. Last year, regulations were put in place that have severely burdened immune-compromised kids. Bureaucrats who have never met the children are overruling treating physicians across NY state. Hundreds of vulnerable kids have been kicked out of school. I believe treating doctors, not school principals, should be trusted to determine if a medical exemption is appropriate.

Vaccine policy is as nuanced and complex as the individuality of each human being. This means policy conversations will require consideration of many different perspectives and a commitment to move beyond slogans and labels. To start this conversation, I invite the authors of the letter and the general public to join the zoom this Saturday at noon.  My hope is that we, as residents of the 125th district, can lead the state and the country on bridging the gap on this subject.

(Zoom links can be found at facebook.com/sujataforny)

Sujata Gibson

candidate for NYS Assembly District 125