Skeptically Speaking on vaccines

There was no time to blog last night due to a lovely night out with my beautiful wife. Fortunately, this week being Vaccine Awareness Week, I have an interview with a “friend” of mine on…vaccines! Yes, Skeptically Speaking somehow thought this dufus was worth interviewing. Fortunately, he makes a lot of sense when it comes to vaccines.

Check it out.

Fear not, though, there are plenty of targets topics for tomorrow and beyond…

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

32 replies on “Skeptically Speaking on vaccines”

Pretty good interview, I thought. It seemed as though you really restrained yourself as far as unleashing on AoA, GenRes and their mouthpieces. Which is a good thing.

I think that an important point to make when discussing herd immunity, is to mention that it assumes equal distribution of susceptibles. Anti-vaccinistas (thanks Prometheus) caterwaul that they couldn’t be possibly eroding herd immunity because reported vaccine uptake is so high. Well, first, I don’t think we have very accurate numbers on vaccine refusal, and secondly, vaccine refusers tend to cluster in substantial numbers.

Skeptically speaking, who gives a rat’s ass what you Adam Bly/pharmacy whores think? I mean really, you paid bloggers make me sick. anyone who doesn’t support what pharma wants is “Ehgartnered.” it’s really all about the money…so sad for the kids.

What the heck do you mean by “Ehgartnered”, Jen? All you’ve given us is a nonsense word, numerous accusations (paid bloggers?), and no evidence whatsoever. You can’t even prove that vaccines are a big moneymaker. This is because they aren’t. If the pharmaceutical companies were really only out for money, they wouldn’t make vaccines, which cut down medical costs significantly.

I mean really, you paid bloggers make me sick

@Jen: Commenters who make unsubstantiated accusations make me sick.

OhmyGod, Gray, you are too cute!
Can’t prove vaccines are a big moneymaker? What planet do you live on? I live on earth:
Sorry but links will likely fail-am playing with new iPad.
vaccines aren’t a moneymaker. You have just made my day.


You need to prove that you’re not actually being paid in secret to comment on blogs to forward a pro-disease philosophy.

Who pays you?

Why, clearly the secret Malthusian society that’s infiltrated anti-vaccine groups in order cause mass deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases is your paymaster.

Also asking “who cares” is idiotic as well. Not only do the rest of us care, but you obviously do or you wouldn’t comment on it.

Actually, jen, you are promoting more profits for Big Pharma. Just think of all of the after care required for kids who actually get the diseases: “Moron” why anti-vaccine groups are in bed with Big Pharma.

jen, do you have stock in hospital supply companies? You know, the ones that provide ventilators, monitoring equipment, all those gloves and all the other stuff required when an epidemic hits.

Economic Evaluation of the 7-Vaccine Routine Childhood Immunization Schedule in the United States, 2001
Zhou F, Santoli J, Messonnier ML, Yusuf HR, Shefer A, Chu SY, Rodewald L, Harpaz R.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159:1136-1144.

An economic analysis of the current universal 2-dose measles-mumps-rubella vaccination program in the United States.
Zhou F, Reef S, Massoudi M, Papania MJ, Yusuf HR, Bardenheier B, Zimmerman L, McCauley MM.
J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S131-45.

Pediatric hospital admissions for measles. Lessons from the 1990 epidemic.
Chavez GF, Ellis AA.
West J Med. 1996 Jul-Aug;165(1-2):20-5.

Measles epidemic from failure to immunize.
Dales LG, Kizer KW, Rutherford GW, Pertowski CA, Waterman SH, Woodford G.
West J Med. 1993 Oct;159(4):455-64.

Impact of universal Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccination starting at 2 months of age in the United States: an economic analysis.
Zhou F, Bisgard KM, Yusuf HR, Deuson RR, Bath SK, Murphy TV.
Pediatrics. 2002 Oct;110(4):653-61.

Impact of specific medical interventions on reducing the prevalence of mental retardation.
Brosco JP, Mattingly M, Sanders LM.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Mar;160(3):302-9. Review.

Skeptically speaking, who gives a rat’s ass what you Adam Bly/pharmacy whores think?

Classy Jen. Channelling the equally classy Ms. Stagliano I see. I honestly don’t think you would know sceptical even if it came up and thwacked you between the eyes.

Rats, got caught in moderation.

I will repeat, jen, that the Pharma Shill Gambit is old, boring and hackneyed. Could you try something more imaginative, like actual evidence to support your claims. Something along the line that is in my moderated comment?

Yawn, another nonsense attack from jen, spouting her “holier-than thou” ad hominem attack nonsense here.

But then again, someone like her will keep on that same tone, since she really can’t find any support for her “position”.


Every time you come here and make a ridiculous statment like “vaccines are a big moneymaker for pharma” you are promptly corrected. Instead of accepting that fact or rebutting it, you simply wait a while and the come back and make the same (or a similar) charge. And you’re then subsequently corrected again.

So what’s the deal? Are you intentionally ignorant or lying on purpose? Or do you truly believe what you say about vaccines in the face of all good evidence to the contrary?

A-non (0r coward): I did provide evidence. (sorry about the linking problem). Just 2 days ago I read an article on the high profit for (I think) a plasma maker. I am not going to go crazy looking for more evidence since I have kids to look after and work, too. My husband seems to be in the process of a retinal detachment so I can’t do much today in terms of research. vaccines are the future money-maker for pharma, though with tons more vaccines coming down the pike (unfortunately for our children- and adults). The whole Gardasil market seems to looking pretty good for them (0ther than lots of people are hearing about the problems). Nice try,though, to state the disease treatment costs , Chris. Too bad the cost of all the autism,allergies and seizures would pretty much blow all that out of the fucking water

I’m sorry to hear about your husband, Jen. I hope he pulls through. I’m not familiar with how that gets treated, but it sure sounds scary. I think the one thing that terrifies me the most is the possibility of losing my sight. Good luck.

Too bad the cost of all the autism,allergies and seizures would pretty much blow all that out of the fucking water

You sound awfully sure of that. Of course, that’s assuming the vaccines are even responsible for a significant proportion of those things, rather than merely being plausibly tied to some cases. Asthma and allergies have been in my family for so many generations that vaccines cannot possibly be to blame in our cases. Personally, I think asthma and allergies have always been with us, but have a strong hunch that they’ve increased due to hygiene (and vaccines do play a role there).

Note, also, that respiratory infections increase the risk of asthma considerably. This includes vaccine-preventable respiratory infections such as pertussis. Even if vaccines do play a role in the increase of asthma and allergies, it wouldn’t be very clear-cut from an economic standpoint.

Allergies and asthma are big money-makers. Seizures, not so much, though because treatment can be lifelong, it should not be sniffed at either. Seizures have a wide range of causes, ranging from congenital problems to pathogens to cancer to poisoning to anoxia to physical trauma; this means that even if some are due to vaccines, you could not use the entire profit from seizure treatment in the cost-benefit equation for vaccines. Especially since, as with asthma, we know they can be triggered by vaccine-preventable diseases. It is not so clear-cut.


Even if pharmaceutical companies break even or derive profit from vaccines:
(a) it does not follow that they would not make even more profit from treating vaccine-preventable diseases;
(b) it does not follow that pharmaceutical companies making a profit (that is, future capital for investment, capital purchases, research and/or a return on investment for shareholders) is illegitimate.

Also, when considering the reliability & quality of evidence, can you kindly explain why we here should consider your sources as authoritative as extracts from the peer-reviewed literature.

If memory serves, you have, in all your time contributing to this blog, yet to present credible evidence that “autism, allergies and seizures” are vaccine adverse effects as you assert, and even if they were, if you were able to crunch the numbers, it strikes me as unlikely that they would tip the money balance in favour of widespread circulation of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Finally, perhaps you can kindly explain how a-non’s online handle detracts from the force of his arguments. Strictly speaking, it’s not like there’s a shortage of ‘Jennifers’, ‘Jens’, &c in North America, so your adoption of that handle, which I assume is your real name, is scarcely less anonymous.

By the way, congrats on the iPad. I’ve started seeing a few around where I live, they look pretty nice.

autism’s your huckleberry.

Jen, please remember that when trying to communicate, most of use the English language. You still haven’t explained “Ehgartnered”, for that matter. I’m autistic, and I’m not sure whether to be offended or not by that statement.

Also, if you think my being pseudonymous makes me a coward, you can call me Maxfield Stanton.


Too bad the cost of all the autism,allergies and seizures would pretty much blow all that out of the fucking water

Which are more often caused by rubella (CRS can cause autism), measles, mumps, Hib, pertussis … etc. Something you would have realized if you had actually clicked on the blog link I used. My kid had seizures due to an actual illness. Even with insurance the bill for the ambulance and emergency room was a whole lot more than the entire rotavirus vaccine series.

Then there were all those years of paying for speech therapy not covered by insurance.

So, jen, where is that data in lieu of the the very boring Pharma Shill Gambit? Show us exactly how not preventing diseases will save money. Come on, show us exactly how much can be saved by not vaccinating for pertussis. Be sure to include the cost of baby funerals in those calculations.

For those who have trouble with Jen’s (@ #6) links, here they are:



I noticed that I was unable to go to either link, due to the typo’s in Jen’s original post. Probably due to some mis-copy with the new ipad or something (I want one).

As for myself, I’d like to argue Jen’s point about vaccines as a primary money-maker for pharmaceutical companies, as argued by the first link.

The two companies (and profits for vaccines) the article mentioned were: Sanofi Aventis (with sells of E2.78 bln) and Merck (with sells of $4.3 bln). These are both from 2007. Note that these are also all of their vaccines. Not just one.

Compared to that, here’s a list of the top selling drugs (2010 data)
1. Lipitor (cholesterol)—Pfizer———————-$11.7 bln
2. Plavix (anticlotting)—Sanofi/Bristol (BMY.N)——$9.6 bln
3. Advair (asthma/COPD)—-GlaxoSmithKline————-$9.0 bln
4. Remicade (arthritis)—-Merck/J&J——————-$7.4 bln
5. Enbrel (arthritis)——Pfizer/Amgen—————-$7.1 bln
6. Humira (arthritis)——Abbott———————-$6.8 bln
7. Avastin (cancer)——–Roche———————–$6.7 bln
8. Rituxan (cancer)——–Roche———————–$6.1 bln
9. Diovan (hypertension)—Novartis——————–$6.0 bln
10.Crestor (cholesterol)—AstraZeneca—————–$5.8 bln

So all of the vaccines that Merck or Sanofi sells do not even make it near the top ten for best selling drugs.

I’ll help you out, though. I found some more data on vaccine sells from 2009.

The total sells from all of vaccines from all companies world wide was around $26 billion. That’s less than just the top three drugs added together. And if you take the #1 company for vaccine sells (2009 data), which is Glaxo Smith Kline, it comes to $5.78 bln, which rounded up only matches the lowest on the top ten list. If you make a more fair comparison, and only compare a single brand of vaccine, you could look at Prevnar (by Sanofi), which is the top selling vaccine with only $3.0 bln in sales worldwide.

I guess Jen could be considered correct when she says that vaccines are a big money maker ($3.0 bln in sales), until you compare it to other drugs being sold by those same companies.

…And I just realized that I’m an idiot for mixing the proper use of “sales” and “sells” in my post #21. Gah. Proofreading is good.

Jarred C: What really stands out for me is that that list, apart from being mainly treatments for chronic conditions, the category that dominates is arthritis. It’s a condition which nearly everyone will get, if they live long enough. Arguably, one could say vaccines do contribute to profits, then, by keeping patients alive long enough to spend the big bucks.

BTW, the link to the article about the top-selling drugs is broken.

@Grey Falcon #22

If I recall correctly, huckleberry is a slang term for friend or person who can get a job done.

Looking at jen’s comment, it looks like she’s trying to insult anon (and probably the other commenters on the blog), but what do you expect from a person who constantly invokes ad-hominem attacks.

Calli @ 25:

Perhaps you’ve uncovered the next anti-vaccine talking point? 🙂

“Vaccines are a conspiracy between government & Big Pharma to keep us alive long enough to pay outrageous taxes and then get sick with chronic illnesses that are ridiculously expensive to control or treat!”


Yeah. Another note on the arthritis drugs on that list: they’re all protein based drugs. Huge molecules. And I know, for at least Remicade and Enbrel (I’m not familiar with Humira, but we can assume the same), that these drugs cost – on average – about $30,000 per patient per year of treatment.

Thanks for all the info, Jarred. I will look at it but I wish I could remember where I had seen the plasma $ article. thanks, Callie- he just saw an eye specialist this am who said it was a “natural part of he aging process” and that unless he has some kind of “curtain effect” it ‘s not a worry. Who knew. I hear of so many new vaccines coming our way. And so I’m sure they’re looking for big growth in that market. Also, I’m hearing a lot (on tv etc.) about adult vaccines.
nova lox, I’m not insulting anon. I think this whole autism thing is pharm.’s “huckleberry.” I do think corporate greed has got in the way of good science.
Don’t be too jealous of the I-pad, it’s a little tricky for the typing…

jen, I’m very glad to hear your husband’s eye condition is not considered serious. It sounded scary, but I suppose a lot of things do unless one deals with them every day (like if one’s an opthamologist)

I hear of so many new vaccines coming our way. And so I’m sure they’re looking for big growth in that market. Also, I’m hearing a lot (on tv etc.) about adult vaccines.

That’s pretty much a given; the pharmaceutical market is so competitive that they’ll look for growth anywhere. Some of the more interesting (and expensive) vaccine research going on is not really the same sort of vaccine as what we’ve been talking about here. There’s been some interesting talk lately about this new vaccine therapy for prostate cancer — a million bucks to do it, and it may only buy you six months to a year. In one article I read, a patient who was interviewed said he was only doing it because Medicare covered it; if he had to pay it out of pocket, even if he had a fortune, he wouldn’t consider it worthwhile. I know people get all scared and think it’ll lead to death panels, but I think that’s where we need some health care reform; if these therapies are getting so expensive even the patients themselves don’t see the value, Medicare probably shouldn’t be reimbursing them or it’ll be bankrupt even quicker.

That one’s a custom vaccine; it’s made to train the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer cells, so each one is truly unique. It’s amazing, it’s wonderful, and it’s ethically disturbing in a number of ways. I’m sure this is only a harbinger of things to come. Some will hopefully be less ethically ambiguous. A million-dollar vaccine which will cure ovarian cancer in a 25 year old woman is probably worthwhile.

One thought . . . I wonder if the real money in future vaccine research will be in these highly customized vaccines, or in vaccines for things that only affect part of the population. One of the big reasons why the routine vaccines aren’t big money-makers is because all the governments which require those vaccines also engage in a bit of price-fixing since it’s not really fair to require people to get a vaccine they can’t afford. This limits the profit potential, as well as putting a tidy cap on the actual growth potential. So the growth would be in the more exotic vaccines.

(BTW, tricky for typing or not, I’m jealous of your iPad too. 😉 I kinda want one to use for drawing, though admittedly it’s a tad pricier than art supplies.)

Comments are closed.


Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading