We, Pharma Shills

There is a particularly petulant internet troll cruising some pro-science and pro-vaccine blogs and websites who has done two things to really scare the crap out of me. Number one, he once wrote that what is bad for public health is good for him. Number two, he keeps accusing people who work in public health of just being paid-off or even outright employees of pharmaceutical companies. “Epi Ren” once took him to task over his comment about public health. So let’s look at his conspiracy theory that public health workers are in the pockets of “Big Pharma”.
To believe that conspiracy, you first have to believe that vaccines are profitable to pharmaceutical companies. See, the cost of the vaccine schedule ranges from free (when subsidized by the government or a charitable organization – or pharmaceutical companies themselves) to a few hundred dollars. For that amount of money, you get to be protected from diseases that will cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat. For example, hepatitis B is a chronic infection that may even end up costing you your liver. Do you know how much a transplant goes for? Not only that, but how much is the immune-suppressive therapy to keep you from rejecting the organ?
That cost is much more than vaccines.
So, to believe the conspiracy, we have to believe that pharmaceutical companies do not want to make money from drugs for transplant patients, antibiotics for meningitis and other bacterial infections, antivirals for influenza or rotavirus, or supportive drugs for those on life support or in assisted/nursing care. No, no, no… No, they want to make money from vaccines that prevent all of those things.
Check out this awesome webpage explaining the costs of treating vaccine-preventable diseases from my friend Todd W: http://antiantivax.flurf.net/costs
Alright, so let’s say that vaccines are somehow profitable to pharmaceutical companies. How much money do they pay out to their “employees” to push vaccines on the population? To answer that question, we would first have to see who is involved in this conspiracy. I’m only going to cover the United States for this exercise. Alright, so there are 50 states and several territories in the United States. Let’s look at the States.
In every State, there are three branches of government. To pass a bill requiring immunizations, all three branches of government have to agree to the bill – or at least two of three if the legislature can override an executive veto. So “Big Pharma” has to have a majority of legislators at the state level, the executive, and a majority of the courts in their pockets. How much do they charge? How much money would you take to pass a bill that “pushes” vaccines to people only for the profits of the drug companies? Me? I wouldn’t settle for anything less than a cool million dollars, or two, or three… I’m a greedy bastard, yes, but it would mean the end of my political career if this is ever found out. I’d want to have a nice, comfortable parachute for a soft landing into an island in the pacific.
But it doesn’t stop there. You’d have to pay-off some of the politicians’ staff members. I mean, the politicians don’t do their jobs all by themselves, do they? They have secretaries, assistants, go-fers. All of them would have to be paid off lest they run to their blogs or to wikileaks with information on the conspiracy. Would they settle for less than their bosses? Maybe, but I wouldn’t trust human nature that much.
Alright, so that takes care of the decision-makers, what about the implementers? In every State, there is a Department of Health headed by a Health Secretary. Then you have their deputies, their deputies’ assistants, the State Epidemiologist, the epidemiologists, their assistants, the community health nurses, their assistants, and every other person involved in telling the public about the vaccines and giving them to the community. Not only that, but then you have to pay-off all the people at the local level who will actually, physically give the vaccine to the people.
Does the conspiracy go that deep?
Maybe not, but those people at the “bottom” of any State’s public health system are not stupid. They read – get this – scientific papers and know about the benefits and risks of vaccines. They would be able to smell a rat – and bullshit – and say something about it. At least some of those people would need to be paid off. So multiply all that times the number of local health departments in the country and then times the number of States in the Union, and you begin to see the huge investment “Big Pharma” must be making in promoting “the lie” that are vaccines, according to anti-vaccine groups and people.
Ah, but a good conspiracy would not stop there, would it? Big Pharma would have to pay an overwhelming majority of healthcare providers (MDs, DOs, PAs, NPs, Nurses) and allied health professionals (Medical Technicians, Respiratory Therapists), and basically everyone else who has seen the evidence of vaccines and promotes them.
So how much money would go into that? And would it be covered by the few hundred bucks per person in the United States? Of course not.
Then again, like good conspiracy nuts, they will say that you only need to have a few key people in your pocket and fool the rest of the people. That is also a stretch. You’d need to fool all of the scientifically-inclined people in the world. You’d have to fool doctors at all levels who agree that vaccines are quite the public health intervention. You would also have to fool law enforcement and those over-eager prosecutors. You’d even have to fool investigative journalists who are always looking for some juicy story to sell. What better story than “VACCINES DON’T WORK, ACTUALLY DEADLY”?
Seriously. Tell me.
But that will not stop the anti-vaccine groups from playing what is called the “Pharma Shill” gambit, where they accuse everyone and anyone of being an “employee” of the pharmaceutical industry if they should happen to support vaccines. In “The Poxes”, you will read over and over again how this accusation is used to place doubt in the hearts of many people looking for answers about what happened in the first chapter. See, it’s been my experience that anti-vaccine people will rabidly attack first during a time of crisis. Just ask the parents of that child in Australia who died from whooping cough. Not only did they have to deal with the death of their child, but they also had to deal with harassment from an anti-vaccine person who wanted them to claim the child did not die from pertussis.
In their universe, there is more than enough money to pay everyone off, except them. Also, vaccine-preventable diseases do not kill anyone. In real life, and in “The Poxes”, they do kill, and maim, and bring the world to its knees.
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8 thoughts on “We, Pharma Shills

  1. A search on pubmed and other sources show hundreds, if not thousands, of studies about vaccines. Even if they're not done in a controlled setting, studies like case-control studies during outbreak investigations give us the same results. So not only would they have to pay off the researchers, they'd have to pay off the epidemiologists and public health professionals who investigate outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. They would also have to pay off the physicians and other providers who have seen those diseases precipitously drop when vaccines are introduced and who rarely see a case of a disease like measles or rubella in a fully-vaccinated child.You decided to latch on to the conspiracy without realizing than more than just researchers and pharma marketers have access to the evidence. But you're forgiven. Not everyone can look beyond the obvious and see the patterns in the noise, like us epidemiologists.

  2. I don't know if there is a conspiracy or not but speaking strictly from the point of your logic, it is full of holes! Actually, you would only need to pay a few of those people who are in charge of collecting, publishing and distributing study and research results. They would make sure that the rest of the world gets the positive impression about the vaccines.As you are aware, medical studies can cost up to several hundred million dollars, so they can not be repeated very often. So if you get to manipulate several of those studies, the rest of the world will have to accept those results as the "truth" without being able to easily repeat the study to check. This includes all those people that you said would have to be paid off: politicians, health personnel… So your logic of having to bribe "everybody" is clearly false…

  3. Thank you for spelling this out so clearly. I guess the TL;DR version would be "Just like all conspiracy theories, you can't possibly get that many people to lie about something without anyone ratting on the conspiracy."

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