Voices for Vaccines
In his rapid response, John Stone mentions the self-described “parent-driven organization” Voices for Vaccines, and correctly points out that it is an “administrative project” of the Task Force for Global Health, a non-profit with financial ties to CDC and vaccine manufacturers (among others).
I looked at Voices for Vaccines and the Task Force when researching my article. Here is what I found.
The Task Force is America’s second largest charity, and reports revenue in excess of $3 billion. (This valuation is driven by in-kind donations of medicines from pharmaceutical companies.) And Voices for Vaccines, which hosts a variety of advocacy toolkits on its website and runs a blog that carries first hand testimonials of parents who vaccinate, was one of the six organizations CDC partnered with on a blog relay for National Infant Immunization Week last year. Voices for Vaccines is also a member of the industry-funded “317 Coalition” I reported on (see Box 1 in my article), and is considered by the CDC- and industry-funded Immunization Action Coalition as another “reliable source” for vaccination information.
For years, Voices for Vaccines bolstered its image as an independent voice by explaining that it categorically refused donations from both vaccine manufacturers and the government. Under a heading that read “Independence,” the website stated: “To allay concerns about conflicts of interest, Voices For Vaccines does not accept donations from vaccine companies or the federal government.”
But the organization’s distance from the CDC is questionable. Both the Task Force for Global Health and its Voices for Vaccines project are the creation of influential former CDC employees William Foege and Alan Hinman.
In addition, the Task Force annually receives large grants from CDC: often over $10m per year and $18.6m in fiscal year 2016. CDC funded projects include $10m to support the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction, which aims to establish seasonal influenza vaccination programs in low and middle income countries.
But the Task Force -- which partners with the CDC on its other projects -- maintains that CDC has no relationship with Voices for Vaccines. Task Force president and CEO David Ross told The BMJ, “The Task Force serves as the fiscal agent for Voices for Vaccines. This includes processing donations and managing payroll for Voices for Vaccines staff. Voices for Vaccines is entirely funded through donations. Neither The Task Force's pharmaceutical partners nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have relationships with Voices for Vaccines.”
Task Force chief communications and development officer Poul Olson told The BMJ, “Fiscal year 2016 total revenue for Voices for Vaccines was $21,917. It is entirely self-funded through private donations and does not receive any funding from the U.S. government.”
1. Stone J. Re: The unofficial vaccine educators: are CDC funded non-profits sufficiently independent? [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2018 Nov 9]. Available from: http://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5104/rr
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Engaging Partners in Social and Digital Activities during NIIW [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2017 Jul 30]. Available from: http://web.archive.org/web/20161127064057/https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/e...
3. Doshi P. The unofficial vaccine educators: are CDC funded non-profits sufficiently independent? BMJ. 2017 Nov 7;359:j5104.
4. Immunization Action Coalition. Reliable Sources of Immunization Information: Where Parents Can Go to Find Answers! [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Aug 15]. Available from: http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4012.pdf
5. Task Force for Global Health. CDC Awards $10-million Cooperative Agreement to Expand Influenza Vaccine Project [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2017 Nov 9]. Available from: https://www.taskforce.org/newsroom/cdc-awards-10-million-cooperative-agr...
Competing interests: See http://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/editorial-staff/peter-doshi. The BMJ is published by the publishing company BMJ, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BMA. BMJ receives revenues from subscriptions, open access fees, advertising, and sponsorship (see www.bmj.com/about-bmj). This includes revenues from vaccine manufacturers.