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HomeCOVID-19How Big Pharma sold vaccines to the world – Part 1

How Big Pharma sold vaccines to the world – Part 1

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Starting today, exclusively for TCW, is Paula Jardine’s revelatory investigation into the vaccine movement’s takeover of global public health policy to the exclusion of almost everything else, the vast billions this has made for pharmaceutical producers and investors in the process, and the role it is now playing in the development of surveillance states. In this first part she traces the origins of the vaccine ‘cure-all’ obsession back over five decades to the Rockefeller Foundation’s disease eradication campaigns through to the role it played in subverting the World Health Organisation’s broader health strategy to tackle economic and social conditions, specifically malnutrition, poor water and sanitation.

OVER the last five decades – long before governments used the fear of Covid-19 to accustom their citizens to bio-security surveillance through continuous mass testing of healthy people, Test and Trace, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports that replace people’s rights to participate in society with conditional permissions – the control and elimination of diseases via medication has gradually become the sole and ultimate goal of global public health policy. Clean water, ending malnutrition, improving food production and supply and education have been all but eclipsed in the pursuit of universal vaccination.

Writing on the politics of vaccination in 2017 the international health policy expert William Muraskin http://qcurban.org/faculty/william-muraskin/  warned that ‘an all-out war on microbes is being planned right now by eradication proponents who intend to prevail regardless of developing-country governments’ or their peoples’ choices.’ Like the ‘war or terror’ it was an open ended concept, ambiguous and useful to justify a range of actions.

That vaccines have become the weapon of global health choice is down to two influential philanthropic foundations which have been working relentlessly towards the hubristic goal of eradicating diseases via universal vaccination.  

For the past quarter-century the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has been front and centre of this widely perceived humanitarianism, inviting humankind to ‘reimagine the way we use our immune systems to combat disease’ through ‘just-in-time’ vaccines and surveillance. In fact BMGF is but a newcomer to this great vaccine game, joining another influential private American organisation, the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), which set the groundwork for this years ago. Set up by the family of John D Rockefeller, the world’s first billionaire who made his money through his company Standard Oil, RF’s role in vaccine promotion traces back to its pioneering disease eradication campaigns against hookworm and yellow fever. The foundations for what was to become the war on microbes was laid over the next decades with the RF making most of the running; exerting its influence through the placement of RF trustees across numerous international organisations, always evading the type of public attention that the BMGF has attracted by operating largely under the radar.

At the World Health Organisation-convened 1978 World Health Assembly in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, member nations agreed a broad vision for ‘Health for All’ as a fundamental human right, which was set out in a clear declaration. This was a manifesto to improve health in the developing world by the year 2000 by raising living standards through clean water, improved sanitation and nutrition – the fundamental contributory elements to good health. In this call for primary health care, immunisation against the major infectious diseases was but one of the tools in the box alongside ‘education, food supply and proper nutrition, the adequate supply of safe water and basic sanitation; maternal and child health care, including family planning; prevention and control of locally endemic diseases; appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries; and provision of essential drugs’. 

The Alma Ata declaration displeased the Rockefeller Foundation because the vision and strategy ran counter to the disease-centric cure or eradicate model it had pioneered against hookworm, yellow fever and malaria. The RF convened a conference of its own six months later in Bellagio, Italy, to develop a counter-response. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, it was one of their own employees, Dr Rafe Henderson, who first encouraged the WHO to embrace vaccines. In 1977 he was seconded to WHO to run the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).  

Addressing the World Health Assembly 30 years later, the Danish physician and former WHO director general Dr Halfdan Mahler reminded his audience ‘of the transcendental beauty and significance of the definition of health in WHO’s Constitution’, health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.  

He lamented donors’ speedy loss of interest in and distortion of the very essence of the Alma Ata vision and its primary health care strategy ‘under the ominous name of Selective Primary Health Care which broadly reflected the biases of national and international donors and not the needs and demands of developing countries’.

Selective Primary Health Care, the Rockefeller Foundation’s riposte to Alma Ata written by its director of health sciences, Dr Kenneth Warren, was a ‘band aid’ package of ‘scientific’ solutions to paper over infrastructure and systemic problems. It was believed that ‘GOBI’, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) acronym for its four essential measures for the maintenance of child health in developing areas – Growth monitoring, Oral rehydration, Breast-feeding and Immunisation – could halve the child death rate in developing countries. According to Warren, the GOBI scientific advances were more realistic and cost-effective interim measures.

While WHO director general Mahler was endeavouring to deliver his broader Health For All programme, the Rockefeller Foundation was busy finding a way around it. James P Grant, a Rockefeller Foundation trustee and a member of its executive committee, was nominated as a candidate to be executive director of Unicef. Grant, feted by Bill Gates as a ‘visionary leader’,  was appointed to this post in 1980 by United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.

Writing later about the start of the global health strategy, Dr Kenneth Warren focused almost exclusively on vaccination. He explained how in May 1983 Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine who campaigned vigorously for mandatory vaccination throughout the rest of his life, calling the universal vaccination of children against disease a ‘moral commitment’, and Robert McNamara, the President of the World Bank who had advocated for population reduction claiming that population growth was second only to nuclear war as a global threat, together convinced Unicef that the Expanded Program on Immunization that Rafe Henderson was running for the WHO needed to be accelerated. Warren records how in 1984 the Rockefeller Foundation helped to organise a consortium of agencies, including the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, to foster that goal, and how, within six years, 80 percent immunisation was achieved.

Yet it is striking how infrequently the WHO Health For All reports of that time, the early 1980s, mention immunisation, by contrast consistently noting how disease in developing countries caused by parasites, insects and infections was closely related to economic and social conditions, notably malnutrition or marginal nutrition and poor water.  When vaccination is mentioned in these reports it is as ‘a’ tool rather than as ‘the’ tool for addressing disease. 

The insertion of the word ‘universal’ before vaccination coincided with the arrival of Grant at Unicef. However innocuous it may have seemed, the inclusion of this single qualifying word has had far-reaching ramifications. Universal vaccination was a policy choice, and the one preferred by the RF and its acolytes at the CDC. 

Two years into his tenure, Grant rebranded the RF’s Selective Primary Health Care as Unicef’s Children’s Survival and Development Revolution. Phrases referencing Mao’s Cultural Revolution are, astonishingly, scattered throughout. He was soon touting vaccines as cutting-edge and low-cost and the push for universal vaccination began in earnest, aiming for 90 per cent of children in the developing world to be inoculated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTP), polio, measles, mumps, rubella and tuberculosis by 1990, never mind whether these children had clean water to drink or adequate food or sanitation.

Tomorrow in TCW Paula Jardine tells how two ‘philanthropic’ foundations joined forces to promote a global programme that would ‘reverse the fortunes of the stagnant vaccine manufacturers’.

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Paula Jardine
Paula Jardine
Paula Jardine is a writer/researcher who has just completed the graduate diploma in law at ULaw. She has a history degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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