At the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, we recognize the benefits of vaccines. We also recognize that vaccines carry risk. Parents deserve the right to free, prior and informed consent, which by definition includes the right to review the benefits and the risks of any medical procedure. To deny the right of informed consent violates the very foundation of our healthcare system.

With the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, Congress recognized that vaccines carry risk and because they are “unavoidably unsafe” the 1986 act exempted vaccine manufacturers and doctors from liability for vaccine injury. Almost $4 billion in injury compensation has been paid to vaccine-injured patients since the passage of this law. To suggest that vaccines are “perfectly safe” while concurrently protecting the vaccine industry from litigation after injuries is insulting to parents, and should be embarrassing to health care professionals, many of whom do not even know this law exists. We can’t have it both ways – pass a law that declares vaccines unsafe, protect the industry from litigation, and expect parents to blindly follow vaccine recommendations without the chance to ask reasonable questions and make choices that are protected by law.

On multiple occasions in recent years, our group was contacted by Somali families concerned about official bullying. These families invited us to speak to in their community to their neighbors and friends about their rights under the law in the state of Minnesota.

The discussion of vaccines has become emotional, but like most contentious issues, it is best addressed with civility, evidence and an open discussion between well-meaning citizens. During times of modest disease outbreaks, it is crucial to defend important rights, especially in face of those who would trample over these rights for “the greater good”.

We are also disturbed at the tone the discussions of recent events in Minnesota have taken. A major metropolitan newspaper quite literally called for members of our organization to be put to death for responding to and supporting our Somali friends. Responsible voices within leading media organizations need to exercise better leadership and call off the lynch mob.