History is made as a government panel does its best to beef up Big Pharma’s bottom line. The influential Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all smokers under 65 years of age be vaccinated with a pneumococal vaccine. This is the first time this government panel has recommended vaccination specifically for smokers. The vaccine, already recommended for anyone over 65 years of age, is touted as protection against bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis and other illnesses. The panel is made up of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization, appointed by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health. It issues recommendations for the routine administration of vaccines to children and adults. It works closely with the Centers for Disease Control.

While studies have shown that smokers are more likely to suffer pneumococcal disease the "experts" admit they do not know why this is. Sound familiar? It should since anti-tobacco has time and time again whipped up studies, using epidemiology, that find links between behavior and disease. Epidemiology isn’t science so proof is never a part of the conclusions reached by this method of inquiry. Lack of proof, however, never inhibits the "experts" from recommending actions that benefit the pharmaceutical industry, as can be seen from the call to vaccinate all smokers younger than 65.

Forget about science or epidemiology for a moment. Is there an "expert" anywhere who can state with a straight face that a 19-year old smoker has the same risk as contracting a fatal or debilitating case of pneumonia as someone over 65 years old? ACIP, as a governmental panel, does so state that absurdity and ups the ante by coupling its recommendation for universal vaccination for smokers with a call for "smoking cessation counseling." The panel is covering all Big Pharma’s bases. Get them with the shot or get them with the smoking cessation nostrums.

The vaccine, made by Merk and Co., costs around $30 a dose. Based on the laughingly low figue of 31 million smokers under 65, Merk would reap around a billion dollars based on ACIP’s recommendation. Obviously not every smoker will avail himself of a vaccine that, according to this article, hasn’t proved to be very effective against pneumonia. Still, Merk can be gratified that this government panel is hard at work drumming up big business for Big Drugs.



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