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.1 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.2 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.3 4
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.
Once upon a time, before passage of the Bayh-Dole Act by Congress in 1980 and the push for lucrative “technology transfer” business arrangements between federal agencies and for-profit corporations, inventions developed with federal funding were owned by the U.S. Government and not industry. 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.5
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.6 7 In 2015, Merck made $1.9 billion on its Gardasil franchise.8
Soon, aggressive domestic and overseas marketing of the expensive HPV vaccines began, even as the vaccines themselves got poor marks for both safety and effectiveness. In 2006, consumer advocacy groups had protested the FDA’s fast tracking of Gardasil vaccine to licensure, citing inadequate safety data.9 Reports of sudden collapse/fainting (syncope) and serious neurological and immune system problems after Gardasil vaccinations emerged immediately after the vaccine was licensed.10