Merck Consultants Try to Influence Your Doctor With Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

Doctors on Big Pharma's payroll deceptively give your pediatrician propaganda to 'debunk' your concerns about vaccines.

NIIW (National Infant Immunization Week) was “celebrated” April 21–28.

If you’re like me and have never heard of NIIW, it’s “an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations and to improve the health of children two years old or younger.” This year, for the first time since the group’s inception in 1994, NIIW was celebrated as part of WIW (World Immunization Week). WIW is an initiative of the WHO (World Health Organization). [1]

NIIW, according to the CDC, “provides an opportunity to …focus attention on our immunization achievements and celebrate the accomplishments made possible through successful collaboration.” If you click on “Promotional materials” on the Web site, you’ll find PR tools and links such as “Pitch and place childhood immunization PSAs all year long.” There are even health e-cards doctors can send to their patients. One has a to-do list on the front and includes, in order, “car seats, outlet covers, cabinet covers, baby gates, smoke detectors, vaccines.” Another starts with “I promise to” and is accompanied by the typical e-card music and a slew of promises for a pregnant mom, such as taking her pre-natal vitamins, eating a balanced diet, holding her baby all night when he’s upset, changing 5,000 diapers a day, and learning everything she can about caring for her baby. It ends with, “I promise to protect you against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases by your 2nd birthday.” [2] The site is filled with propaganda like this. Check it out—if you have the stomach for it.


After reading about NIIW, I decided to poke around for more information. I’m glad I did. I saw an article published on the Mayo Clinic Web site entitled “A Physician’s Guide for Anti-Vaccine Parents.” [3] The statement that “a Mayo Clinic vaccine expert and a pediatrician have offered suggestions for refuting three of the most common myths about child vaccine safety” raised my antenna. Their advice appears in the Human Immunology journal as “The Clinician’s Guide to the Anti-Vaccinationists’ Galaxy.” [4] I went to the source but was only able to read the Abstract, so I purchased the article. $31.50. Priceless. Here’s why.

One of the writers, Gregory Poland, MD (the “vaccine expert”), is chair of a Safety Evaluation Committee for vaccine trials conducted by … guess who? Merck. Yes, that’s right. He’s a consultant on vaccine development for Merck. The other writer, Robert Jacobson, MD (the pediatrician), is on a safety review committee for a study funded by … guess who? Merck. He’s also a member of a data monitoring committee for a Merck-funded investigational vaccine trial and an investigator for two studies (one funded by Novartis, the other by Pfizer). I like the way this information is listed at the end of the article, under “Disclosures.” There are probably a lot of doctors who won’t even read it. Maybe that’s the idea. If it was the first paragraph, could ANYone—with the possible exception of doctors who know the writers—read the article and not question their objectivity?

The threat to the vaccine program

Poland and Jacobson begin by hailing vaccines as “a modern miracle of science” and quickly move to the threat of “anti-vaccinationist [is that a real word?] propaganda” and explanations for why vaccine fears exist. To sum up, anti-vaccinationists are uninformed or misinformed, don’t understand probability or statistics, have conspiratorial thinking, blindly accept reports from the media and celebrities [Jenny McCarthy], or have taken on a “life cause.” The authors, who want clinicians to learn how to deal with the “concerns, fears, and misconceptions,” say that their article is aimed at people on “one end of the spectrum” (interesting choice of words)—those who are anti-vaccine and with whom discussions are “other-worldly and alien.” They go on to say that doctors are one of the top three sources of vaccine information for most parents, and “providing patients the right information at the right time will help them make informed decisions, and perhaps prevent undue influence by anti-vaccinationists.”

Next comes a history of the “anti-vaccine movement” and a definition of “anti-vaccinationist.” The definition is lengthy. My favorite part is those who “deny or unfairly disparage … even the motives of those who produce, recommend, and provide vaccines.” Who produces the vaccines? The manufacturers. (Like Merck.) Who recommends them? (The AAP, the CDC, etc.). Who provides them? (The doctors.) Question their motives? Why in the world would we do that? And why would we question the motives of Dr. Poland and Dr. Jacobson?

The myths about vaccine safety

In plain English, the myths are:

  1. Babies’ systems can’t handle so many shots.
  2. Vaccines can cause autoimmune diseases.
  3. Natural immunity from diseases is better and safer than vaccine-induced immunity.

Basically, the article refutes the concept of “antigenic overload” and the association between vaccines and autoimmune diseases and claims that vaccines are effective and safer than the infections they protect against. The authors then proceed to discuss the “harms done by the anti-vaccine movement,” including decreased vaccine rates (resulting in death), alternate schedules (resulting in under-vaccination and putting children at risk from vaccine-preventable diseases), and Dr. Wakefield’s study (resulting in parents choosing vaccine exemptions). “With relatively cheaper and more global means of communication through the Internet, anti-vaccinationists now have the opportunity to spread their message more extensively,” say Poland and Jacobson. The result? Lowered public confidence in vaccines worldwide and the “risk of pandemics and extensive outbreaks.” By the way, an entire page is devoted to Dr. Wakefield’s role in the “anti-vaccine movement.” (Thank you, Andy!) Then, a study is cited in which 8% of physicians said that more than 10% of parents in their practice refused all vaccines, and 20% reported that more than 10% requested an alternate schedule. Still a long way to go, but sounds like progress to me.

The solution to the problem

Finally, in “Conclusions and call to action,” the authors maintain that vaccines are safe for the “vast majority” of people,” and they are effective in decreasing “morbidity and mortality” due to infectious diseases. They state: “Misinformation and lack of scientific understanding must be countered for the public good, and the false information anti-vaccinationists spread countered.” I have to admit that I agree with the next—and last—two sentences: “The only rational way in which to proceed in devising individual and public health policy in regards to the use of vaccines requires high-quality studies and resulting data, interpreted carefully and based on the scientific method. In this regard, physicians have a duty and an important role to play in education, and the public health and vaccine debates.”

Keyword: studies. How about an independent, controlled study? How about a study that isn’t funded by Big Pharma or anyone else who makes money off vaccines? How about a study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children? What a novel idea.


Some have health concerns

In a 2005 survey of Swiss doctors, “a significant proportion” of non-pediatricians either declined or delayed certain vaccines because of concerns about safety. [5] Last August, in an Age of Autism article, “Protecting Their Own: The Unofficial Vaccination Policy of Doctors in the Know,” L. J. Goes quoted (anonymously, of course) a physician who admitted that he didn’t vaccinate his own kids and claims “they are all perfectly healthy.” He went on to say that although he and other doctors “question vaccines all the time, among ourselves … you never say it openly. … You just don’t question, they look at you like you’re crazy.” He said that his partners tell him, “You make them vaccinate on schedule or they are out.” [6] I know. This is one doctor. But I bet it’s a conversation that goes on among other doctors. Behind closed doors, of course.

Some are losing money

But there’s another reason why some doctors have abandoned or at least decreased the number of vaccines they give their patients. Some vaccines just aren’t profitable. According to an article entitled “Is Our Vaccine System at Risk for a Future Financial ‘Meltdown’?” that appeared in Pediatrics, inventory costs and inadequate insurance reimbursement are posing a problem for some pediatricians. “Vaccine-purchasing costs account for approximately 20% of all pediatric practice expenses.” The AAP recommends that the reimbursement be 17%–28% more than the vaccine cost. And this isn’t happening, especially in smaller practices, which, in some cases, are losing money on vaccines. Many family physicians questioned by the authors said they were no longer purchasing the more expensive vaccines. As a matter of fact, one in five were actually considering stopping all recommended vaccines for privately insured children. [7]

What is appalling to me is that there are pediatricians and other doctors out there who may stop vaccinating their patients—not because of safety concerns (except for the rare few who have the guts to speak the truth and stand up to the other doctors in their practice)—but because they aren’t profitable enough. They defend the vaccine program to parents and pressure them to vaccinate their kids, even throwing them out if they won’t. But when it comes down to money, they have second thoughts. I really shouldn’t be surprised. It’s always about money. Always has been. God forbid our children should come first.

Mike Adams, who reported these findings on, makes an excellent point: “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the vaccine industry failed due to its own greed? If more doctors refuse to offer vaccines and more parents refuse to chemically assault their own children with those same vaccines, the vaccine industry could sharply contract and experience a substantial loss of business.” [8]

I think I may have an idea for an article down the pike: “A Parent’s Guide to Pro-Vaccine Doctors.”













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About the author

Jennifer Hutchinson

Jennifer Hutchinson is a freelance editor and writer. She has devoted the last few years to helping Jake recover, researching autism and vaccines, and sharing what she knows with others. She lives in Winchester, Virginia, with Ann and Jake.