I thought this deserved it's own Godwin-free thread.
Do companies that manufacture vaccines make large profits? Yes. But that's not the whole story. Vaccines are held to much higher safety standards than most drugs. The financial impact of extra-stringent prelicensure testing is huge, and the market for vaccines is relatively small compared to other drugs. The proof is int he pudding: in the last 50 years the number of companies making vaccines has dropped from in the mid twenties to just five. If vaccines were SO profitable, why are companies abandoning the practice of making them?
Of the four largest of these five companies, none of them make more than 10% of their total revenue from vaccines. In recent years drug companies have stopped making vaccines with little to no impact on their bottom line, leading to vaccine shortages.
Even though almost everyone gets a vaccine, they only get them a handful of times in a lifetime. Compare that to a blood pressure medication that a large number of people take every day for decades. The market for vaccines, even with vaccine mandates, are much smaller than for other drugs. The highest revenue generating vaccines is Prevnar. It has an annual gross of around 1 billion dollars. While that's a lot of money, a drug for a common condition like high cholesterol or impotence could easily gross 7 times that or more.
If you think about something like blood pressure medication, again, a doctor has a wide range of medications to choose from for a particular patient, the market is so large that multiple companies make similar drugs, or even the same companies make multiple drugs, and they can still make huge profits off of them. The market for vaccines is so small companies don't bother with a competing product once one has been established.
The price of vaccines is also effectively controlled by the fact that the largest single purchaser of vaccines is the government. The CDC vaccines for children program purchases 50-60% of all vaccines. they get a very low rate on their vaccines per dose, and even though the "private market" price per dose is higher, it's kept artificially low by the price the government pays. You can see how much the CDC pays and how much the private market pay per dose of various vaccines here: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/cdc-vac-price-list.htm
The requirements for testing vaccines, because they're given to healthy children, are huge and much more stringent than for other drugs. The blow back for even extremely rare adverse events is also much worse. The rotovirus vaccine was tested in pre-licensure trials that included 140,000 children and cost 400 million dollars. That's an investment in a vaccine before they even knew if it would make it to market.
Contrary to what you hear around here, vaccine makers do face liability for vaccines. Families who are dissatisfied with the outcome of NVICP can opt out and take their case to a jury instead. Vaccines that aren't recommended for all children aren't covered under NVICP. NVICP was developed after drug companies virtually had to stop making vaccines in the face of lawsuits over bogus adverse effects.
Yes, vaccines make a lot of money. Prevnar grosses 1 billion a year and that's a lot of money. But if you're a vaccine manufacturer and you can devote r&d and manufacturing dollars and space to a vaccine, with relatively modest profits and much higher obligations in terms of safety testing and greater potential liability, or a drug which could make you ten times as much money with a smaller investment, it doesn't seem like it's worth defrauding the public in order to keep making the vaccine vs. the drug.