The Harlem vaccine forum

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. | 11/7/2019, 11:45 a.m.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, I gave the keynote address at the Harlem Vaccine Forum hosted by The Riverside Church.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, I gave the keynote address at the Harlem Vaccine Forum hosted by The Riverside Church. The audience welcomed my remarks on childhood health and vaccines. I defended the religious exemption to vaccination that the New York State legislature repealed on June 13, 2019, without even a single public hearing. For reasons that remain unclear, the Church management disconnected my microphone at the stroke of 4:00, the end time of the event, and hustled the audience and me out onto Claremont Avenue. Here’s the gist of what I said there.

There is a fierce national donnybrook over vaccinations that has divided communities and raised doubts about our country’s commitment to some of its defining values: abhorrence of censorship, wariness toward excessive corporate power, support for free speech, religious freedom, and personal sovereignty over our bodies, and the rights of citizens to decline unwanted government-mandated medical interventions. The debate has also raised questions about the independence of our press and its role as a champion of free speech, and First Amendment rights as a bulwark against overreaching by government and corporations.

I’ve arrived at my skepticism after 15 years spent researching and litigating this issue. I have watched financial conflicts and institutional self-interest transform key sectors of our public health bureaucracies into appendages of the very pharmaceutical companies that Congress charged them to regulate.

Multiple investigations by Congress and the HHS Inspector General have consistently found that an overwhelming majority of the FDA officials directly charged with licensing vaccines, and the CDC officials who effectively mandate them for children, have personal financial entanglements with vaccine manufacturers. These public servants are often shareholders in, grant recipients from, and paid consultants to vaccine manufacturers, and, occasionally, patent holders of the very vaccines they vote to approve. Those conflicts motivate them to recommend ever more vaccines with minimal support from evidence-based science.

In 1986, Congress—awash in Pharma money (the pharmaceutical industry is No. 1 for both political contributions and lobbying spending over the past 20 years)—enacted a law granting vaccine makers blanket immunity from liability for injuries caused by vaccines. If vaccines were as safe as many claim, would we need to give pharmaceutical companies immunity for the injuries they cause? The subsequent gold rush by pharmaceutical companies boosted the number of recommended inoculations from 12 shots of five vaccines in 1986 to 54 shots of 13 vaccines today. A billion-dollar sideline grew into the $50 billion vaccine industry behemoth.

Since vaccines are liability-free—and effectively compulsory to a captive market of 76 million children—there is meager market incentive for companies to make them safe. The public must rely on the moral scruples of Merck, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Sanofi and Pfizer. But these companies have a long history of operating recklessly and dishonestly, even with products that they must market to the public and for which they can be sued for injuries. The four companies that make virtually all of the recommended vaccines are all convicted felons.  Collectively they have paid over $35 billion since 2009 for defrauding regulators, lying to and bribing government officials and physicians, falsifying science, and leaving a trail of injuries and deaths from products they knew to be dangerous and sold under pretense of safety and efficacy.