Vaccine Science's Conflicts of Interest

Overtreatment in the medical establishment is a well-known fact. For example, individual doctors have a tendency to overprescribe even sensitive treatments like surgery if they are rewarded for this by the insurance system they work under. That’s exactly why HMOs or "managed care" facilities succeed in containing healthcare costs: they remove the profit motive from the doctor.

Vaccines, like surgery, are a sensitive health practice, so at first it’s a little hard to imagine that anyone would have a motive to exaggerate their benefits and suppress information about their harmful effects. But vaccine manufacturers are private companies and private companies always have a profit motive. Although many companies may take part in activities that benefit the public (and vaccines do certainly have some public benefit), companies also have a clear goal of making money. In large-scale public healthcare, this can also result in overtreatment, such as the overuse of vaccines.

In the year 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform held hearings to examine conflicts of interest in the two official panels that control vaccine policy in the U.S. (there is one panel at the Centers for Disease Control and one at the FDA). Among the committee’s findings were widespread conflicts of interest among panel members in the form of financial ties to pharmaceutical companies who manufacture vaccines that the panels oversee. Following is a summary of the committee findings, assembled by Dr Joseph Mercola.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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