A new study found that primates that received just ONE vaccination containing thimerosal, the mercury-preservative found in many vaccines including the new swine flu shot, had significant neurological impairment when compared with those who received a saline solution injection or no injection at all.
Although the paper is carefully worded and the results reported modestly, these findings are certain to receive intense scrutiny. The vast majority of American infants born during the 1990’s received a vaccine formulation similar to the one the thirteen vaccinated primates received.
Thimerosal-containing vaccines are still routinely administered to newborn infants in developing countries such as Brazil, and most influenza vaccines contain thimerosal and are routinely administered to pregnant women and infants.
The finding that early exposure to potentially toxic vaccine formulations can cause significant neurodevelopmental delays in primates has explosive implications for vaccine safety management.
But while Americans are still debating whether to roll up their sleeves for a swine flu shot, companies have already figured it out: vaccines are good for business.
Drug companies have sold $1.5 billion worth of swine flu shots, in addition to the $1 billion for seasonal flu they booked earlier this year. These inoculations are part of a much wider and rapidly growing $20 billion global vaccine market.
"The vaccine market is booming," says Bruce Carlson, spokesperson at market research firm Kalorama, which publishes an annual survey of the vaccine industry. "It's an enormous growth area for pharmaceuticals at a time when other areas are not doing so well," he says, noting that the pipeline for more traditional blockbuster drugs such as Lipitor and Nexium has thinned.
As always with pandemic flus, taxpayers are footing the $1.5 billion check for the 250 million swine flu vaccines that the government has ordered so far and will be distributing free to doctors, pharmacies and schools. In addition, Congress has set aside more than $10 billion this year to research flu viruses, monitor H1N1's progress and educate the public about prevention.
Drugmakers benefit most from the revenues from flu sales, with Sanofi-Pasteur, Glaxo Smith Kline and Novartis cornering most of the market.
But some say it's not just drugmakers who stand to benefit. Doctors collect copayments for special office visits to inject shots, and there have been assertions that these doctors actually profit handsomely from these vaccinations.