Vaccines are considered one of public health’s greatest success stories. But is all promotion of vaccines necessarily a good thing, or does it depend on the details? Peter Doshi investigates the semi-transparent world of vaccine advocacy organizations
The unofficial vaccine educators: are CDC funded non-profits sufficiently independent?
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I am grateful to Peter Doshi . Venturing into the web-archive I have turned up one of the first existing pages for Voices for Vaccines from August 2008 where it states:-
"Voices For Vaccines is currently led by a Steering Committee :
Joseph Bocchini, MD – American Academy of Pediatrics Douglas Campos-Outcalt, MD and Jon Temte, MD – American Academy of Family Physicians Anna DeBlois – Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Alan R. Hinman, MD – Task Force for Child Survival and Development Mark Kane, MD – Consultant Frankie Milley – Meningitis Angels Paul A. Offit, MD – Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Walter Orenstein, MD – Emory Vaccine Center Denise Palmer and Gary Stein – Families Fighting Flu Trish Parnell – Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDS) Amy Pisani – Every Child By Two L J Tan, PhD – American Medical Association Deborah L. Wexler, MD – Immunization Action Coalition"
On another page it states :
"Voices For Vaccines has already begun enlisting members to demonstrate the strong support that vaccines enjoy across the population. Membership is at no cost and provides a subscription to our newsletter as well as the opportunity to participate in VFV-coordinated action campaigns.
"Voices For Vaccines is administratively housed within the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, an Atlanta-based 501(c)(3) organization."
So it is apparent that whatever steps Task Force took to make VFV look like a financially independent parent-led organisation it was a professional operation from inception.
WHO and others are at present running research programs aimed at overcoming vaccine resistance. I wonder if any of those involved put any thought into assessing how much efforts to force vaccine uptake is creating vaccine resistance - among people like me who have traditionally been pro vaccines and had all my children vaccinated, and what the consequence of this resistance might be. The only thing that would undo my growing resistance at this point would be evidence of a genuine collection of the data on harms that would enable me or anyone who asked my advice to balance the harms of a specific vaccine against the harms of a specific condition. I'm not prepared to accept there is someone out there who can make these judgements for me, given the track record of the authorities in tolerating a medical literature that for on-patent products is almost entirely ghost-written and tolerating a total denial of access to the data on harms in clinical trials.
1 Dubé E, Laberge C, Guay, M, Bramadat P, Roy R, Bettinger J Vaccine hesitancy. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2013; 9: 1763–1773. 2 Healy D. Pharmageddon. California University Press, Berkeley CA 2012.
In his rapid response, John Stone mentions the self-described “parent-driven organization” Voices for Vaccines, and correctly points out that it is an “administrative project” of the Task Force for Global Health, a non-profit with financial ties to CDC and vaccine manufacturers (among others).
I looked at Voices for Vaccines and the Task Force when researching my article. Here is what I found.
The Task Force is America’s second largest charity, and reports revenue in excess of $3 billion. (This valuation is driven by in-kind donations of medicines from pharmaceutical companies.) And Voices for Vaccines, which hosts a variety of advocacy toolkits on its website and runs a blog that carries first hand testimonials of parents who vaccinate, was one of the six organizations CDC partnered with on a blog relay for National Infant Immunization Week last year. Voices for Vaccines is also a member of the industry-funded “317 Coalition” I reported on (see Box 1 in my article), and is considered by the CDC- and industry-funded Immunization Action Coalition as another “reliable source” for vaccination information.
For years, Voices for Vaccines bolstered its image as an independent voice by explaining that it categorically refused donations from both vaccine manufacturers and the government. Under a heading that read “Independence,” the website stated: “To allay concerns about conflicts of interest, Voices For Vaccines does not accept donations from vaccine companies or the federal government.”
But the organization’s distance from the CDC is questionable. Both the Task Force for Global Health and its Voices for Vaccines project are the creation of influential former CDC employees William Foege and Alan Hinman.
In addition, the Task Force annually receives large grants from CDC: often over $10m per year and $18.6m in fiscal year 2016. CDC funded projects include $10m to support the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction, which aims to establish seasonal influenza vaccination programs in low and middle income countries.
But the Task Force -- which partners with the CDC on its other projects -- maintains that CDC has no relationship with Voices for Vaccines. Task Force president and CEO David Ross told The BMJ, “The Task Force serves as the fiscal agent for Voices for Vaccines. This includes processing donations and managing payroll for Voices for Vaccines staff. Voices for Vaccines is entirely funded through donations. Neither The Task Force's pharmaceutical partners nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have relationships with Voices for Vaccines.”
Task Force chief communications and development officer Poul Olson told The BMJ, “Fiscal year 2016 total revenue for Voices for Vaccines was $21,917. It is entirely self-funded through private donations and does not receive any funding from the U.S. government.”
3. Doshi P. The unofficial vaccine educators: are CDC funded non-profits sufficiently independent? BMJ. 2017 Nov 7;359:j5104.
4. Immunization Action Coalition. Reliable Sources of Immunization Information: Where Parents Can Go to Find Answers! [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 15]. Available from: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4012.pdf
Competing interests: See http://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/editorial-staff/peter-doshi. The BMJ is published by the publishing company BMJ, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BMA. BMJ receives revenues from subscriptions, open access fees, advertising, and sponsorship (see www.bmj.com/about-bmj). This includes revenues from vaccine manufacturers.
Dr Doshi mentions semi-transparency. It would be more accurate to say that nowhere can we trust claims of transparency. CLEAR - AS MUD is the situation here in England. And the methods employed to entice, inveigle, blackmail the patients are legion. Ultimately it all boils down, in England at least, to the GP. The Independent Practitioner. The Patient's friend and advocate. Doshi, Cunningham, Stone: I am grateful to you three.
I've known for a long time that the CDC, AAP and other vaccine advocacy groups had serious financial and professional conflicts of interest, but Peter Doshi's investigative report still comes as a shocking revelation. It is hard to grasp the particulars in this web of complexity, but it rings true.
For 30 years I was in the trenches of the infant formula wars, beginning with a seminal article on the health advantages of breastfeeding in wealthy countries. (Cunningham, J Pediatr 1977;90:726) I was also a small cog in the wheels of US pediatric officialdom. In the late 1990s I withdrew from membership in the AAP, largely because of their professional and financial links to the manufacturers of Enfamil, Similac, etc. It was around this time that I also became aware of the non-humanitarian motives driving our immunization programs.
There are a few truly lifesaving vaccines on the US immunization schedule, but it has become clear that our knowledge of the long term safety and effectiveness of many vaccines is quite limited. This has not stopped the CDC, AAP and other "non-profits" from bullying families to submit to mandates for any and all vaccines. Near the end of my career as a medical school faculty member I was reprimanded and publicly rebuked by superiors for expressing reservations about vaccine mandates and my doubts about routine flu shots for children.
Read Doshi's article; read it again, and yet again....
Another group which Peter Doshi has not mentioned in this excellent article  is Voices for Vaccines which describes itself a "parent-driven organization" but is also "an administrative project of the Task Force for Global Health, an Atlanta-based 501(c)(3) organization" . According to the Wikipedia entry on Task Force for Global Health :
"Major funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CDC, WHO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, de Beaumont Foundation, United States Agency for International Development, Sightsavers, Pfizer, Merck & Co., Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline. The Task Force is affiliated with Emory University, headquartered in Decatur, Georgia, a town in metro Atlanta..."
The CDC is also affiliated to vaccine companies as well as foundations organisations promoting their products through the CDC Foundation .
It is hard to detect the spontaneous public enthusiasm for more products or harsher compliance. In recent correspondence in these columns no one came forward [5,6,7,8].