Randi F. Marshall at Newsday:
State Sen. James Sanders, of South Ozone Park, Queens, released Friday "Let’s Be Clear," a controversial podcast that he had first publicized more than a week ago.
It was worse than expected. Del Bigtree, who heads an organization called Informed Consent Action Network, used it to erroneously suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause auto-immune disease or cancer, or worse, and that the discredited remedy of hydroxychloroquine was a better alternative.
Bigtree, a known anti-vaccination advocate who is not a doctor and has no medical training, produced the film Vaxxed, which incorrectly alleges a connection between vaccines and autism and provides a platform for the views of the discredited Andrew Wakefield.
In addition to Bigtree, Sanders’ podcast included anti-vaccination advocate Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center.
"We should not push these guys into the shadows," Sanders told The Point about his decision to give anti-vaxxers airtime.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would not comment on the podcast, a spokesman said, referring The Point back to a statement she made last week.
"Our conference time and time again has proven that we believe in science," the statement said.
"And obviously I believe the vaccines are safe."
Sanders told The Point there were other dangerous viewpoints, like those who denied the Holocaust, that he wouldn’t have on his show – but that he saw those as different than those who denied the science behind vaccines.
Sanders first advertised, and was ready to broadcast, the podcast more than a week ago, but held it back when concerns emerged, including comments from fellow State Sen. Brad Hoylman.
In response to those concerns, Sanders waited to release the podcast until he recorded a new introductory message, in which he said he believed the COVID-19 vaccine was safe and planned to take it when it was his turn.
Nonetheless, Sanders did not object to any of Bigtree’s false statements during the podcast, and didn’t push back even when Bigtree suggested that hydroxychloroquine was safe and should be given to the community instead of the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
Sanders left it up to two doctors and one pharmacist on the podcast to push back. Physicians Gbenga Ogedegbe, with NYU Langone, and Donald Morrish, an obstetrician with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, along with pharmacist Karen Muir spent much of their time attempting to refute what Bigtree and Fisher had to say.
All three said they had taken the vaccine.
"The vaccine works. Take it," said Ogedegbe. "The safety is unparalleled … It’s important that we as physicians practice evidence-based medicine."