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CDC vaccine safety advisors have financial conflicts

Jenny Decker RN's picture

With the recent H1N1 vaccine shortage and the CDC recommending that only certain target groups get their shots first, and with the fear of many who have yet to get the H1N1 flu shot that they will die if they contract the swine flu, it is disconcerting to find out that many of the CDC vaccine safety advisers have conflicts. A new report, yet to be released, has found that the Centers for Disease Control neglected to screen properly for medical experts who are hired to advise the CDC on the safety of vaccine use.

The vaccine safety advisory committee, and other committees, has several members that have financial conflicts that could bar them from even being on the committee by law. According to the New York Times, the report states that 64 percent of the vaccine safety advisers had potential financial conflicts of interest. These have either not been identified or they were left unresolved by the centers. Another 13 percent of the members did not fill out the appropriate forms appropriately or even at all. This should have barred them from participation in any of the meetings period. Shockingly, another 3 percent were already barred by the ethics officers and were voting anyway!

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The period of this review was for 2007 and it has been noted that the CDC has since strengthened its regulations with regards to financial disclosures and conflict of interest. However, the inspector general has made a recommendation to the centers to improve their screening and stay on top. The new agency director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden replied to the inspector general stating that he agreed.

There has been increasing concern from government agencies, medical societies, and medical journals that advisory panels have been recommending certain medical products based on their financial interests, even when they know the product to be unsafe, because they are being paid by manufacturers to say they are safe. This concern has increased since many medications were pulled from the market in the last few years due to being unsafe. Vaccine safety advisers were the parties of interest in this report to be released today.

Similar problems were found with the Food and Drug Administration. When this happened, Congress tightened its grip on outside consulting and the rules on reporting financial conflicts. However, the CDC was almost ignored in the potential conflicts in their safety advisers. These areas of conflict spilled over into what vaccines were sold in the United States, which tests were used to detect cancer, and how coal miners were to be protected.

The financial conflicts found included vaccine safety advisors having either employment or grants from certain companies or other entities that could potentially affect a decision based on safety for people directly involved, which are those who get the flu vaccines and other types of medication or tests done. Some of the advisers were even found to have stock in such companies that cause financial conflicts of interest for agency safety advisers.