Vaccine Studies: Under the Influence of Pharma
March 05, 2009
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By Barbara Loe Fisher
If you take more than a casual look at the way the mass vaccination system in the U.S. works, you see that pharmaceutical companies marketing vaccines have a lot of clout.
It was the pharmaceutical industry that told Congress in 1982 that they were going to leave the nation without vaccines if they didn't get liability protection but have opposed making it less difficult for vaccine victims to obtain federal compensation in the U.S. Court of Claims under a 1986 law that gave them liability protection.
It is Pharma lobbyists, who bully the FDA into fast tracking vaccines like Gardasil and who sit at the CDC's policymaking tables urging that new vaccines be recommended for use by all children so they can persuade state legislators to mandate vaccines like influenza vaccine.
How Big Pharma Influences Medical Journals
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal reveals the clout that Big Pharma has in the world of medicine journal publishing, specifically the publishing of scientific articles about vaccines. In a Cochrane Collaboration review and analysis of published influenza vaccine studies found that influenza vaccine studies sponsored by industry are treated more favorably by medical journals even when the studies are of poor quality.
This analysis confirms that drug companies marketing vaccines have a major influence on what gets published and is said about vaccines in medical journals. It is no wonder that there are almost no studies published in the medical literature that call into question vaccine safety.
The preferential treatment of Pharma-funded studies also explains why the risks of an inappropriately fast-tracked vaccine like Gardasil are underplayed in the medical literature and why a physician like Andrew Wakefield, M.D. who dared to publish a study in 1998 in a medical journal (The Lancet) calling for more scientific investigation into the possible link between MMR vaccine and regressive autism, has been mercilessly persecuted for more than a decade, by both Pharma-funded special interest groups, as well as public health officials maintaining close relationships with vaccine manufacturers.
Study Finds No Correlation Between Quality of Study and Publication
This recent review identified and assessed 274 published studies on influenza vaccines for their methodological quality and found no relationship between study quality, publication in prestige journals or their subsequent citation in other articles.
The researchers also found that most influenza vaccine studies are of poor quality but those with conclusions favorable to influenza vaccinations are of significantly lower methodological quality. The single most important factor determining where the studies were published or how much they were cited was sponsorship, with those partially or wholly funded by the pharmaceutical industry having higher visibility.
The authors commented:
"The study shows that one of the levers for accessing prestige journals is the financial size of your sponsor. Pharma sponsors order many reprints of studies supporting their products, often with in house translations into many languages. They also purchase advertising space in the journal. Many publishers openly advertise these services on their website. It is time journals made a full disclosure of their sources of funding”.
The HPV Vaccine -- Just One Example of Inappropriate Influence Endangering Public Health
Last month the National Vaccine Information Center (www.NVIC.org) called on the Obama Administration and Congress to investigate Gardasil vaccine risks. NVIC has long questioned the inappropriate influence of vaccine manufacturers in federal vaccine licensing and policymaking and state vaccine mandates.
In 2006, Merck's Gardasil vaccine was fast tracked by the FDA at Merck's request and in 2007 Merck lobbyists mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign to get Gardasil mandated by state legislators for all sixth grade girls, which would have assured the big drug company a predictable market.
The Pharma lobbying effort in 2007 to get all states to mandate Gardasil failed but every other vaccine produced by drug companies and licensed by the FDA in the past quarter century has been mandated. Those new mandates were added to state vaccine laws by legislators and public health officials at the urging of vaccine manufacturer lobbyists and Pharma funded organizations touting vaccine studies published in the medical literature.
Massive Increase in Number of Vaccines Given
In the past three decades, the numbers of doses of government recommended vaccines for children and medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics has tripled to 69 doses of 16 vaccines, with 48 doses of 14 vaccines targeted to children under age six.
Pharma lobbyists have persuaded most states to pass laws requiring two to three dozen doses of most of the 16 government recommended vaccines. Last year New Jersey became the first state to mandate influenza vaccine for children attending daycare and school.
In the past few years, Dr. Jefferson has authored several independent reviews of influenza studies published in the medical literature for the Cochrane Collaboration, which have been published in the British Medical Journal, questioning the quality of published scientific evidence for influenza vaccine effectiveness and safety for the elderly as well as children.
Clearly, if the makers and marketers of vaccines can influence the quality and quantity of the scientific evidence published in the medical literature proving that vaccines are safe and effective -- evidence that is used by states to mandate vaccines and by the U.S. Court of Claims to deny compensation to vaccine injured children -- then Congress was wrong in 1986 to protect the makers and marketers of vaccines from liability for injuries and deaths caused by those vaccines.
Government Vaccine Recommendations Based on Tainted Evidence
The U.S. Court of Claims vaccine injury compensation awards, and state vaccine mandates are justified on the strength of scientific published in medical journals.
It is time for medical journals to disclose all financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. It is time for studies questioning the safety and effectiveness of vaccines to receive a fair hearing in scientific journals rather than editors confining themselves to primarily publishing studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry maintaining that every vaccine is totally safe, effective and necessary.
Kudos to the British Medical Journal for having the integrity to publish Dr. Jefferson's comprehensive analysis of pharmaceutical money influence on vaccine studies published in the medical literature. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for the scientific community, Congress and the public to put an end to the undue influence the pharmaceutical industry has on the science and policy of mass vaccination in the U.S.
Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Defend Vaccine Exemptions
With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it's critical to protect your right to make independent health choices and exercise voluntary informed consent to vaccination. It is urgent that everyone in America stand up and fight to protect and expand vaccine informed consent protections in state public health and employment laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and educating the leaders in your community.
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY.
National vaccine policy recommendations are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level. It is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights can have the greatest impact. It is critical for EVERYONE to get involved now in standing up for the legal right to make voluntary vaccine choices in America because those choices are being threatened by lobbyists representing drug companies, medical trade associations, and public health officials, who are trying to persuade legislators to strip all vaccine exemptions from public health laws.
Signing up for NVIC's free Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org gives you immediate, easy access to your own state legislators on your Smart Phone or computer so you can make your voice heard. You will be kept up-to-date on the latest state bills threatening your vaccine choice rights and get practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community. Also, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips.
So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.
Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know
If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury, or death, please talk about it. If we don't share information and experiences with one another, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story.
I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the "other side" of the vaccine story. Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it.
We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies or public health officials promoting forced use of a growing list of vaccines to dominate the conversation about vaccination. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than "statistically acceptable collateral damage" of national one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We shouldn't be treating people like guinea pigs instead of human beings.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
I encourage you to visit the website of the non-profit charity, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), at www.NVIC.org:
- NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries, and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
- If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
- Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment and sanctions by doctors, employers, and school and health officials for making independent vaccine choices.
Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One That Will Listen and Care
If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don't want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination.
However, there is hope.
At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they're starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.
So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child.