If recent events in Trenton have taught us anything, it’s that we need to have a deeper conversation about public health in New Jersey.  It’s time to replace fear and outrage with empathy and understanding of health threats so that public servants can work with citizens to create solutions that make everyone safer. 

So why are the legislators engaged in this critical dialogue with their constituents being ostracized and disparaged by the media and other legislators in Trenton? What does it say about media outlets that they dedicate copious editorial space to condemning legislators who listen to those critical of existing vaccine safety and choice?

To be clear, legislators Asm Jamel Holley, Senator Mike Testa and Senator Joe Pennacchio are not “pro-“ or “anti” vaccine. They favor robust health of their constituents and society, and they are seeking ways to ensure that.  They have listened to parents, scientists and health practitioners with concerns about vaccine safety, vaccine injury, parental rights, educational rights, religious rights and informed medical choice. They understand that it’s not the black-and-white nonsense that the media dishes out.  They have listened long and hard enough to understand that the science is NOT settled when it comes to vaccinating every child according to a one-size-fits-all regimented schedule with no exceptions.

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Vaccine enthusiast Dr. Paul Offit has called vaccines “a victim of their own success”, claiming that parents today fail to take the infections he had as a child seriously. But perhaps the opposite is true: perhaps we have become so fearful of routine childhood infections that were once commonplace and overwhelmingly mild that we easily succumb to irrationality and fear mongering instead. 

Sadly, it is science that has become the victim of its own success.  Our faith in science, rather than true scientific thought, has grown so strong that it has virtually eclipsed critical thinking.  The media spoon feed us scientific dogma and declare themselves “pro-science.”  But regurgitating scientific “facts” is not science. Believing what experts say is not science.  And shaming parents who think critically about vaccine safety is as unjustifiable as it is unscientific.

Corporate interests have infected both scientific communities and government agencies; many parents are no longer willing to outsource their medical decisions on behalf of their children to “experts” who frequently have massive financial conflicts of interest. Increasingly, parents are asking questions, reading vaccine manufacturer inserts and challenging health care practitioners. They are practicing scientific observation when they see their child experiencing a first seizure after a vaccine and then research its aluminum adjuvant known to cause neuroinflammation. They are scientific to explore a connection and to report the data. Observation is the root of science, and no one observes children’s health more closely than parents. Their observations and concerns, especially when expressed vociferously by tens of thousands of New Jersey parents, must be listened to and not dismissed.

Parents are not alone in their concerns. At the World Health Organization’s Global Vaccine Safety Summit December 2019, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, acknowledged the need for more safety studies because current science does not support the claims that are being made about safety.  Dr. Heidi Larson, Director of the WHO’s Vaccine Confidence Project, added, “We have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines.” She went on to explain that in medical school “you’re lucky if you have half a day on vaccines, never mind keeping up to date with all this.”

And the CDC has recently been hauled into court for having no science backing up its expansive claim that “vaccines do not cause autism.”

There is nothing more important to parents than the health of their children. Thousands of parents have congregated at the New Jersey State House in recent months to make sure that legislators know how seriously they take the rights to children’s education, free exercise of religion, informed consent, medical decision making and parental rights. Legislators like Sen. Testa, Sen. Pennacchio and Asm Holley are to be applauded, not chided, for listening to the legitimate concerns of New Jersey parents. Other legislators would do well to follow their examples.