December 29, 2020

A Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom on the COVID Vaccine Safety Task Force

Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street
Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Newsom,

I am writing you as President of Children’s Health Defense – California Chapter. As one of the leading vaccine safety groups in California, we applaud you for taking affirmative action to independently assure the safety of the recently recommended Pfizer COVID vaccine and any other approved vaccines for COVID.

On October 19, you announced a new COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to “independently review the safety and efficacy of any vaccine that receives FDA approval for distribution.” The New York Times reports that these state committees will “vet any vaccine reviewed by the FDA.”

A recent YouGov poll found that only half of Americans would get the vaccine, and two-thirds of Americans have concerns about its safety. The success of the vaccine program will depend on restoring public trust in vaccines. Your appointment of an independent commission is an important first step.

It is critically important, therefore, that the public believes that the committee is truly independent – and not simply a rubber stamp on the self-interested designs of pharmaceutical companies, or regulatory officials under extra pressure to bring a vaccine to market. To date, you have named eleven members to the California workgroup. Our community worries that all of these individuals have financial entanglements with vaccine makers or strong ties to the regulatory agencies that are promoting vaccines. We are writing to ask you to include on the committee at least one physician, scientist, or expert who does not have such ties to the medical cartel, to act as an ombudsman and ambassador to our community.

The inclusion of community stakeholders as representatives of families and individuals like myself who have suffered greatly from vaccine injury, and groups dedicated to science-based medicine and vaccine safety, would give the committee some indicia of independence and transparency. The workgroup does not currently appear to be operating transparently; there is no website, there are no meeting announcements, and there are no known avenues for public participation. These valid concerns leave Californians wondering how such a workgroup could make an honest assessment of the safety of COVID vaccines. In fact, we have heard the work group has met multiple times with no public notification and no documentation like minutes, transcriptions or recordings.

Workgroup: Scientific Review or Marketing Arm?

After listening to a Town Hall meeting on December 17th with Dr. Maldonado and Representative Marc Berman, we are now also concerned that the workgroup may be oriented less as a safety review workgroup, but more as a marketing arm for California. Nowhere is it stated to the public that this workgroup would be discussing vaccine marketing tactics. It is also a conflict of interest if this workgroup’s success will be determined by levels of vaccine uptake in California, since they will be incentivized to downplay vaccine risks to accomplish their marketing objective.

Dr. Maldonado stated the workgroup had met to talk about “messaging,” and to determine how to “help providers recommend the [COVID] vaccine to people.” She said the workgroup already had a slogan for California: “Vaccinate 58,” referring to California’s 58 counties. Dr. Maldonado did appear to downplay the risks in the Town Hall saying the vaccines were “very, very safe,” and focused on local reactions and self-limiting systemic reactions like fatigue. Even though relatively few doses of vaccine have been administered, the United Kingdom has already issued a warning about allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, and there are a growing body of similar reports from across the United States. Additionally, permanent neurological conditions like transverse myelitis and multiple sclerosis appeared in the trials. Dr. Maldonado also stated no one had concerns about injecting pregnant women, even though the vaccine has not been tested in this demographic, and that she wanted to “get children vaccinated so they can go back to school,” representing another vulnerable population in which the vaccines have not been tested. Regarding children, we are also extremely concerned about school mandates for vaccines approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA.) An EUA is for investigational products that should not be mandated.

Dr. Maldonado also considered it “transparent” that the vaccine makers had published study protocols, but since I’ve read them, I know they do not provide any trial data; they merely describe the trial protocols.

Conflicts of Interest

The California Immunization Coalition, an industry front group, says that “community stakeholders are brought in from the outset for transparency,” but this does not appear to be true. Among the eleven workgroup members, we note a multitude of conflicts of interest.

  • At least six members – Chairman Dr. Arthur Reingold, Dr. Grace Lee, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, Dr. Mark Sawyer, Dr. Peter Szilagyi, and Dr. Matt Zahn – all serve on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) vaccine approval committee, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). It would be impossible for any ACIP member not to approve a COVID vaccine for Californians, as their hands are tied to the vote they will make in their ACIP COVID vaccine approval meeting. Their positions on the committee represent material conflicts of interest, and their votes of safety will be redundant – and will therefore not increase Californians’ confidence in any COVID vaccine.
  • Likewise, nearly all the remaining committee members have deep ties to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has heavy personal and institutional investments in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Dr. Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. It is significant that at least five members of your committee – Drs. Tomas Aragon, Yvonne Maldonado, Mark Sawyer, Grace Lee, and Peter Szilagyi – have received grant money from the NIH upon which they are dependent. It would be expected that anyone dependent on NIH funds would vote to approve a COVID vaccine for Californians.
  • Anthony Fauci says Dr. Eric Goosby is “a close friend, confidante and colleague for 3 decades.” Dr. Goosby is unlikely to be independent, due to this relationship with Dr. Fauci.
  • Three members – Drs. Aragon, Schechter, and Zahn – have ties to the Department of Public Health (DPH), which has demonstrated a pattern of overreach regarding measures to control the spread of COVID. Dr. Aragon was just appointed to lead California’s DPH. The owners, families and employees of the more than 19,000 California businesses forced to close due to COVID measures do not hold DPH officials in high regard, and Americans who think the government has handled COVID “very or somewhat well” has sunk to 33%, the second to lowest level of any developed country in the world. These public health officials will not engender trust among Californians.

This lack of independence from Dr. Fauci is all the more troubling since Dr. Fauci hand-picked the secret Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) committee that pushed these two vaccines to the front of the line. Also, virtually all the members of FDA’s VRBPAC committee that approved these vaccines, members of the CDC’s ACIP committee that recommends the priority sequence, and the individuals serving on these committees, are serial grantees of Dr. Fauci’s NIAID – and therefore not independent.

Recommendation to Add Vaccine Safety Advocates

Children’s Health Defense – California Chapter recommends you replace members with conflicts of interest, and include at least one truly independent vaccine safety advocate.

If the purpose of the COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup is truly to help reverse failing confidence in the rushed COVID vaccines, you would be well-served to include the vaccine safety community in the decision-making process. As always, Children’s Health Defense – California Chapter welcomes a truly safe vaccination, and opposes all vaccine mandates. Please reach out if you’d like to work together to select appropriate committee members.


Alix Mayer, MBA
President & Director, Children’s Health Defense – California Chapter
Director, Children’s Health Defense