The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone aged six months and up, including pregnant women, get an annual influenza vaccine. The two fundamental assumptions underlying the CDC’s policy are that vaccination reduces transmission of the virus and reduces the risk of potentially deadly complications. Yet multiple reviews of the scientific literature have concluded that there is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claims. Notwithstanding the science, to increase demand for the pharmaceutical companies’ influenza vaccine products, the CDC makes use of fear marketing, asserting as fact that tens of thousands of people die each year from the flu, even though the CDC’s numbers are actually estimates that are controversial because they are based on dubious assumptions that appear to result in a great overestimation of the negative impact of influenza on societal health. The primary justification for the CDC’s flu vaccine policy is the assumption that it significantly reduces the mortality rate among people aged 65 and older, the group at highest risk of potentially deadly complications from the flu. The CDC declares to the public that the vaccine does so as though this was a scientifically proven fact. Yet, the reality is that the CDC’s bold claim that the vaccine greatly reduces the risk of death among the elderly has been thoroughly discredited by the scientific community.
It is no secret that huge conflicts of interest exist between vaccine promoters and vaccine makers. Pediatrician and vaccine developer Paul Offit, for example, who is one of the nation’s leading promoters of mandatory use of government recommended vaccines, holds a $1.5 million research chair at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, funded in part by Merck. Julie Gerberding left her post as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she oversaw the creation of national vaccine policies, to head Merck vaccines. Former Texas governor Rick Perry recommended state-wide inoculation of all 11- and 12-year-old girls with Merck’s Gardasil vaccine after his chief of staff left to work at Merck. Just as disturbing are the millions of dollars that officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dole out to academic institutions and vaccine manufacturers to improve vaccine technology, find new, lucrative markets and boost vaccine marketability—functions that guarantee the profitability of corporations, but do not always ensure the well being of taxpayers, the public and patients. Today, taxpayer-supported research to develop new drugs and vaccines is voraciously patented by universities and drug companies for outsized Wall Street profits when the research rightfully belongs to taxpayers. Development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines is a case in point. The initial research was funded by the NIH, National Cancer Institute, University of Rochester, Georgetown University and the University of Queensland, which licensed them to Merck and GlaxoSmithKline. In 2015, Merck made $1.9 billion on its Gardasil franchise.