Vaccine profits from Big Pharma – let’s take a closer look at this trope

vaccine profits

The old myth of the huge Big Pharma vaccine profits – it’s the subject of so many memes, tropes, and outright lies from the anti-vaccine activists. These vaccine deniers, who not only lack knowledge of science but also of basic corporate finance, believe that every Big Pharma CEO relies on vaccines for their next bonus check, which they use to buy their new Ferrari to show off to imaginary vaccine-injured children.

I am not naive – public corporations have an obligation to their shareholders and employees to maximize profits. That’s capitalism, I suppose.

But where this trope goes off the rails is when you realize that vaccine profits would be eclipsed by medical industry profits if Big Pharma simply stopped producing vaccines – mass epidemics would mean that hospitals would be filled with patients, just look at the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s ironic that the anti-vaxxers claim that Big Pharma’s greed gives us vaccines, but if they were truly greedy they’d be out of the vaccine business.

This article is not going to be as much science as I usually do – it’s going to focus on finance and accounting. Yes, I’m a finance and accounting geek as much as I am a science aficionado. 

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COVID-19 vaccine safety signals – ACIP reports good news so far

pexels-photo-5922099.jpeg

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has reported that there are no COVID-19 vaccine safety signals through 16 February 2021 for the two vaccines available at that time from Moderna and Pfizer. This is good news and should allay the fears of those who might be on the fence about the vaccines.

I want to briefly examine what ACIP discussed regarding the COVID-19 safety signals. In addition, they looked at any concerns with regards to the vaccine and pregnant women – also good news. So, just good news.

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New COVID-19 strains – what does it mean for vaccines

new COVID-19 strains

We have been hearing about several new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. There may be hundreds or even thousands of variants of the virus, although most may confer no evolutionary advantage and just die out.

Of course, there are only a handful of new COVID-19 strains that are actually dangerous, but the issues are whether the new vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, JNJ, and AstraZeneca confer immunity to these new strains and what regulatory requires may be necessary for the vaccine manufacturers to respond to them.

Let’s take a quick review of these new COVID-19 virus strains and what we know about vaccine effectiveness against them.

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Influenza activity and COVID-19 – not a conspiracy, and get the vaccine

COVID-19 influenza

With all of the bad news across the world regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the one tiny bit of good news is the substantial drop in influenza incidence during the 2020-21 flu season. Despite the weird and unfounded myths from the anti-vaccine and COVID-19 denier crowds, there is no conspiracy that someone is hiding the flu numbers by boosting COVID-19 numbers. 

The only reason why the influenza incidence has dropped precipitously is because of the public health strategies to contain COVID-19. That’s it – nothing deeper than that. 

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ICAN claims win because CDC reformatted Vaccines and Autism page

ICAN claims win

This article about how ICAN claims a win as a result of the CDC reformatting its Vaccines and Autism page was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On January 21, 2021, the anti-vaccine organization Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) published an article titled “The CDC Finally Capitulated To ICAN’s Legal Demands and Removed the Claim that “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism” From Its Website!”.

The article is even less convincing than ICAN’s usual claims, because the CDC’s Vaccines and Autism page still, essentially, states there is no link between vaccines and autism, and that vaccines do not cause autism. The CDC just changed its title and reformatted it – probably for reasons that have nothing to do with ICAN.

I am going to review why ICAN claims a win, and why it really isn’t – the CDC hasn’t changed its view on autism and vaccines.

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ACIP COVID-19 vaccine priority proposal – healthcare workers first

ACIP COVID-19 vaccine priority

On 1 December 2020, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) COVID-19 vaccine priority recommendations were discussed. As I have written recently, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca all have announced that their vaccines exhibited high effectiveness and safety during phase 3 clinical trials, while both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are seeking emergency use authorizations (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so these vaccines may become available within a few weeks.

This is a brief review of the ACIP and CDC COVID-19 vaccine priority lists for the first tranches of vaccines.

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COVID-19 vaccine recommendations being developed by CDC and ACIP

COVID-19 vaccine recommendations

On November 23, 2020, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccine recommendations were discussed during an emergency meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). As I discussed recently, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca all have announced that their vaccines exhibited high effectiveness and safety during phase 3 clinical trials.

This is a brief review of what ACIP and CED are “thinking” regarding COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.

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Create an independent FDA, CDC – new COVID-19 vaccines required it

independent CDC FDA

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent rush for treatments and vaccines for the virus have renewed calls for a more independent FDA and CDC. Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, who is a frequent contributor to this space, has written two powerful articles arguing for an independent CDC and FDA.

If you have followed the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responses have been politicized to the point that even those of us who have strongly supported those two agencies are appalled. 

The CDC has been pushed to scrub information and data to make the Trump administration look good. Recently, it was reported that one of Trump’s minions tried to pressure CDC regarding the transmission of the virus to kids to get it in line with the nonsense being pushed during Trump’s failed presidential campaign.

And then the FDA gave Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) to hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the data showed that hydroxychloroquine does not work and remdesivir has only a marginal effect on outcomes. In each case, it appears that the FDA was more interested in promoting these drugs to support President Trump’s wild claims that he was “doing something” about the pandemic, rather than relying upon robust science.

Professor Reiss has written two articles about how we might create a more powerful and independent FDA and CDC by utilizing the types of structures of actual independent agencies within the Federal Government. I want to quickly review what she proposes because I think it’s a conversation that we hope that President-elect Joe Biden might embrace during the next few years.

The problem is that 

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CDC vaccine patents – Robert F Kennedy Jr gets this one wrong too

CDC vaccine patents

If you follow the anti-vaccine world, you will hear Robert F Kennedy Jr often claim that there are CDC vaccine patents that are so valuable that the CDC itself sets aside all morality and ethics to endorse the vaccines developed through these patents just to make more money for the CDC.

Kennedy, who once threw himself at Donald Trump in an effort to head a Vaccine Commission, has made this claim for several years now, but repeated it in an interview, stating that, “the CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually.”

Typically, Kennedy provides absolutely nothing in the form of supporting evidence. It makes no sense to argue against an imaginary claim – this is a pretty good example of an opinion rather than facts.

But along comes Ginger Taylor, one of the most ardent and science-ignoring anti-vaccine activists around these parts. In fact, she inspired my article entitled, Vaccines and autism science say they are unrelated

Taylor, who apparently has an autistic child, believes that vaccines “damaged” her child because, as a mother, she knows more than actual scientists. She considers science to be an elitist pursuit, it’s not data and evidence that matter but only her opinion.

Seriously, Taylor has an utter lack of self-awareness, which apparently broke one of Orac’s favorite Big Pharma Irony Meters™. Her opinion of her own scientific knowledge, i.e. her Dunning-Kruger cognitive bias, is betrayed by the reality of the vast mountain of scientific knowledge supporting the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

So this same Ginger, the vaccine-denier that she is, decided to write an article with another torturous description of the CDC vaccine patents conspiracy theory, trying to support Kennedy’s outlandish claims. And she wrote this article in GreenMedInfo, one of the most ignorant anti-science websites on the interwebs, just a bit below NaturalNews in quality.

The problems with Taylor’s article are multi-fold – but generally, like so many other anti-vaccine zealots, they think they know a lot about a topic based on their 15 minutes of Google search time, rather than doing the tens of thousands of hours of actual vaccine research using science.

Taylor is utterly uneducated about and inexperienced with not only science but also patents – she gets nearly everything about her conspiracy theory totally wrong. 

So here we go, debunking the anti-vaccine myth of the CDC vaccine patents. Continue reading “CDC vaccine patents – Robert F Kennedy Jr gets this one wrong too”

ICAN FOIA lawsuit – misrepresenting another non-win from anti-vaccine group

ICAN FOIA lawsuit

This article about another ICAN FOIA lawsuit was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.

The Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) is an anti-vaccine organization, founded in 2016 by Del Bigtree, largely funded by a New York couple, Bernard and Lisa Selz.

On March 4 and March 5, 2020, ICAN claimed a “win” against the CDC that, they said, prevented CDC from claiming vaccines don’t cause autism. In reality, the ICAN Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit was settled, and the settlement doesn’t counter the existing scientific consensus that vaccines do not cause autism. Continue reading “ICAN FOIA lawsuit – misrepresenting another non-win from anti-vaccine group”