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Article Archive >> Senior Life

The Elderlaw Forum: Swine Flu Vaccine: Fear and Profits?

The Elderlaw Forum
Swine Flu Vaccine: Fear and Profits?
by Professor Michael Myers

"Fear" is profitable. It outsells sex. It outsells sports. It outsells good haircuts.
Fear of "disease" and "death" is and always has been a good seller. It sells best when the private sector-seeking profit-and the government-seeking campaign funds and continued employment-combine their marketing prowess. The private sector creates or invents a product reputed to avoid pain and delay death. The government declares it to be "safe."
And so it is with the arrival of the H1N1 flu vaccine, or in non-agrarian circles, the "swine flu" vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline will be selling billions of dollars of the stuff this year. Some 160 million doses are being delivered this fall to U.S. clinics and hospitals.
It will sell for about $10 per dose. Do the math: 160,000,000 x $10. But to be truly profitable, people will have to ingest the vaccine, either orally or via a rolled-up-sleeve and a needle. But before Americans bare their arms, they need to be assured the vaccine is safe and they are better off with it than without it.
"You need to write a column telling seniors about the dangers of this vaccine," said a senior legal helpline caller. "I am a nurse," she declared, "and I know what I am talking about. Further, my sister is trying to talk my mother into taking the shot. It's dangerous. Clinical trials have just begun. Anyone who takes the vaccine is nothing more than a test subject."
There appears to be two types of seniors: Those who embrace "western medicine" and its promise of cure and longevity versus those who rely on diet and exercise, avoiding physicians and hospitals. I am a member of the latter group, having last been examined by a physician in 1987 as a requirement to being appointed the Administrator of Mayo-St. Mary's Hospital.
The last swine flu vaccination campaign took place in 1976 led to thousands of lawsuits. Damage claims totaled $1.3 billion. The vaccine claimed 25 lives and the Guilian-Barre Syndrome crippled hundreds of previously healthy young adults.
German lung specialist Wolfgang Wodarg contends the pandemic is an "orchestration," stating: "It is a great business for the pharmaceutical industry. Swine flu is not very different from normal flu. On the contrary, if you look at the number of cases it is nothing compared to a normal flu outbreak."
Consumer Reports says only 34 percent of American adults plan to take the vaccine. Are you going to be patriotic and roll up your sleeve? Or not?

Pro bono legal information and advice is available to persons 55 and older through the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1800-747-1895; mmyers@usd.edu. Opinions are solely those of the author and not the University of South Dakota).

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