Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Influenza 2012: Potential Conflicts of Interest and the Role of Media

By Stephen Tunley, Director, SaneVax Inc.

Where is objective journalism?

During the last few weeks in Australia we have seen an increase in the number of news reports (print and broadcast) regarding this seasons Flu outbreak. A number of them have quoted Dr Alan Hampson who has provided his ‘expert’ opinion and encourages all to get the Flu shot as this year’s Flu will be worse than last year’s and so on, and so on…..

What the media fails to explain is that the good Dr Hampson, spent a large part of his career working for Australian vaccine manufacturer CSL, the same manufacturer which recently admitted

“ .. its (flu) vaccine production methods probably triggered seizures in children, in the first results from its two-year investigation into the Fluvax fits.

But … refused to say if it would pay compensation to the families of children hospitalised after being immunised with Fluvax, which has been banned for paediatric use after sending one in 100 children into febrile fits in 2010.

The preliminary results of CSL’s two-year investigation conclude that its manufacturing methods may have failed to fully split the viruses used to make flu vaccines.

As a result, gene fragments and lipids from “inactivated virus” — as well as “residual whole virus or clusters of both” — may have created higher levels of immune-stimulating hormones, known as cytokines.”

Basically they screwed up – and 1 in 100 Aussie kids who received the shots got very ill.

The same Dr Hampson who recommends everyone get vaccinated against the flu this year because of the ‘dire threat’ of a serious flu season was responsible for developing influenza vaccine production processes for part of his time at CSL. He is Chairman of the Influenza Specialist Group an organisation whose financial support comes mainly from sponsorship from Abbot, Baxter, and CSL, pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture and sale of flu vaccine in Australia. In addition, he is also Editor in Chief of the International Journal “Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses”, which lists as among its major sponsors two pharmaceutical companies Roche and Sanofi Pasteur. Roche via its Genentech subsidiary manufacture Tamiflu and Sanofi Pasteur the flu vaccine Intanza.

Given the reliance and general trust medical consumers place upon the opinions of these so called ‘medical experts’ the media has a responsibility to point out any potential of conflicts of interest; or find experts who are not conflicted?

Attachment 1:

Dr Alan Hampson, BSc, MSc, M.D. (Hon), FASM, OAM.

Dr Alan Hampson is a virologist with over 40 years experience working with influenza. His career includes responsibility for developing influenza vaccine production processes and senior R&D positions (Research & Development Manager) with the Australian biopharmaceutical group CSL Limited, and subsequently as Deputy Director and operational head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, Melbourne, from its designation in 1992 until his retirement in September 2005. Since retirement Alan has maintained an active role both in Australia as a consultant, Chairman of the Australian Influenza Specialist Group (ISG), a member of Australian Government advisory committees on influenza and pandemic preparedness, and internationally with the WHO including membership of its Pandemic Taskforce (now the International Health Regulations Roster of Experts) and Editor in Chief of the international journal ‘Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses’. He also holds an appointment as Honorary Senior Research Fellow, School of Applied Sciences and Engineering, Monash University Gippsland Campus. Alan has received numerous awards and recognition for his contribution to public health, including: recipient of the Asia Pacific Society for Medical Virology Excellence Award (2006); an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Melbourne (2006); the Order of Australia Medal for his contributions to public health, particularly with respect to influenza (2007); and was made a Fellow of the Australian Society for Microbiology (FASM) in (2007).

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