By Jefferey Jaxen
A new strategy perpetrated by pharmaceutical manufacturers is slowly permeating society’s consciousness. You may have fallen victim to it without even fully understanding how you’ve been targeted. The strategy revolves around slick product marketing rooted in fear and aimed at you. The trend is direct-to-consumer vaccine marketing. The most recent ad, in an increasing stream of vaccine commercials, involves a warning to grandparents to “understand the dangers your new grandchild faces.” Grandparents viewing the commercial may ask, what dangers? Well, according to vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), it’s the unvaccinated grandparents themselves.
Vaccines have long been pushed as a benevolent public service in a class high above the trenches of dirty marketing tactics and slick ad campaigns. Yet the truth is vaccines are for-profit products that have enjoyed liability protection by law since the late 1980s making them the backbone of pharmaceutical company profit margins. Judging by GSK’s new ad it appears that the green light has been given for Big Pharma ad departments to conjure up vaccine scare campaigns to propagandize the public with.
GSK’s recent ad is simple using the image of a grandmother’s face, juxtaposed with a wolf’s head, to symbolize the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ danger the grandmother has embodied because she is not vaccinated against pertussis with GSK’s vaccine.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), under its Truth In Advertising law, states the following:
“When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence…The FTC looks especially closely at advertising claims that can affect consumers’ health…”
GSK’s commercial has one simple premise surmising it is better to be vaccinated than to not be vaccinated against pertussis. Yet GSK’s ad has holes in it revealing major scientific gaps that can’t be ignored.
A 2014 study done by members of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal refutes GSK’s vaccine ad claims making it appear to violate FTC’s Truth In Advertising law. The acellular pertussis (aP) vaccine, a component of the DTaP and TDaP vaccines, is the primary strain used in the US for all age groups. The 2014 study states the following:
“In this study, we show nonhuman primates vaccinated with aP were protected from severe symptoms but not infection and readily transmitted Bordetella pertussis to contacts.”
According to the study, not only did the aP vaccine fail to prevent infection in recipients, it turned the vaccinated into non-symptomatic transmitters of pertussis giving a possible scientific explanation for the resurgence of the illness in pockets of vaccinated populations. The science laid out in the FDA study backs one claim GSK’s ad gets right when it claims “Unfortunately many people who spread it [pertussis] don’t know they have it.” According to the 2014 study findings, the people who “don’t know they have it” may turn out to be the non-symptomatic vaccine recipients not the unvaccinated populations as GSK’s ad would lead the viewer to believe.