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Letter to congressman regarding CDC vaccination policies
I recently have been doing some reading on the issue of how
vaccination polices are developed. What I found really bothered me,
so I decided to write my congressman expressing my desire for reform
in the system. If any of you have similar feelings, I would urge you
to do the same. I think it's important that such policy-making
committees be as free of bias as possible in order to make the best
choices for society as a whole.
If you're interested, the report that I found so disturbing can be
I know that many people don't write their congressperson because they
just don't have the time to compose a letter, so I'm posting mine.
Please feel free to copy it in whole or in part if you like.
It has recently come to my attention that the members of the vaccine
advisory committees for the CDC have massive conflict-of-interest
regarding their financial ties to the companies that manufacture
vaccines. This is unacceptable to me. It means that the
recommendations made by the CDC coming from this committee are biased
towards recommending vaccines. The result is I cannot trust them.
Please look into this. A majority staff report is available prepared
by the Committee on Government Reform called "Conflicts of Interest in
Vaccine Policy Making" dated June 15, 2000.
Some of the details I found disturbing in this report we
"The CDC routinely grants waivers from conflict of interest rules to
every member of its advisory committee."
"Perhaps one of the major problems contributing to the overall
influence of the pharmaceutical industry over the vaccine approval and
recommendation process may be the loose standards that are used by the
agency in determining whether a conflict actually exists. In many
cases, significant conflicts of interest are not deemed to be
conflicts at all."
The report provides documentation of exactly the sort of thing I would
expect to occur in a committee composed entirely of biased
"CDC Advisory Committee members who are not allowed to vote on certain
recommendations due to financial conflicts of interest are allowed to
participate in committee deliberations and advocate specific
"Four out of eight CDC advisory committee members who voted to approve
guidelines for the rotavirus vaccine in June 1998 had financial ties
to pharmaceutical companies that were developing different versions of
Presumably, one of them would have been Dr. Patricia Ferrieri, about
which the report later states:
"Dr. Patricia Ferrieri, Chair: She directed the discussion on the
Rotashield vaccine. At the time of the proceedings, Dr. Ferrieri owned
at about $20,000 of stock in Merck, an affected company and
manufacturer of an upcoming rotavirus vaccine. This conflict was
waived by the FDA as it was deemed to be of low involvement. Also, Dr.
Ferrieri received a $135,000 NIAID grant for unspecified research on
rotavirus[xl] for 1998-1999, after the committee voted to approve the
Rotashield vaccine. It is not certain whether this grant was in
negotiations at the time of the VRBPAC vote on Rotashield. Dr.
Ferrieri received a full participation waiver."
This last shows the problems inherent in a committee composed solely
biased members. The Rotoshield vaccine is the one that had to be
withdrawn from the market. I think it likely that if the committee
were less biased, they might have insisted on sufficient research and
analysis to identify the problem prior to making their recommendation,
All of this adds up to a committee that is biased towards recommending
vaccinations. Such a bias is a definite financial boom to vaccine
manufacturers because it creates an immediate and large market for the
vaccine. As the report notes:
"The recommendation for routine use of a vaccine is tantamount to a
Federal mandate for vaccine use. HHS regulations require that all
grants for childhood immunizations are subject to the States'
implementation of procedures to ensure routine vaccination. To receive
federal funding the States must, among other things, require a plan to
systematically immunize susceptible children at school entry through
vigorous enforcement of school immunization laws."
I hope that you find this news as disturbing as I did and are moved to
implement improvements. Please let me know what action, if any, you
decide to take. Thank you very much for your time.