How money is made with vaccine skepticism

Wo financial interests are involved, it is better to be on guard. This applies to millionaires looking for a partner as well as to the small investor in conversation with the charming bank employee. We know from numerous well-documented historical examples that this truism also applies to consumers of scientific information. The tobacco industry, for example, demonstrated this in textbook form from the 1950s: By the late 1980s they had invested more than $130 million in researchto deliberately cast doubt on the connection between smoking and cancer through thousands of studies influenced in their favor – with impressive success. There were similar cases in the pharmaceutical industry, around the 1980s, when manufacturers of antiarrhythmic drugs gave particular support to research promoting their drugs as anti-heart attack drugs – even though they had the opposite effect.

The pandemic also involves a lot of money, and in this respect it is certainly not a mistake to always keep an eye on possible conflicts of interest. The fact that vaccination skeptics are particularly sensitive here is a praiseworthy quality. Unfortunately, this sensitivity has its own distortions a recent study in “Plos One” vicinity. The Danish data scientists Bjarke Mønsted and Sune Lehmann evaluated almost seven million vaccination-related tweets from the years 2013 to 2016. In particular, they categorized embedded links.

The result: In addition to the YouTube video platform, opponents of vaccination particularly frequently linked to sites that also offered alternative health products for sale, which were therefore pursuing their own commercial interests in the vaccination debate. In the case of vaccination advocates, such links were almost impossible to find. The authors are surprised by this blind spot of the opponents of vaccination, after all mistrust in view of conflicts of interest is a reason for the skepticism about vaccination. But there may simply be a lack of interest in recognizing such conflicts.

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