I apologize for the length of my response. But since a pro-vaccine voice has been requested I want to oblige with my personal viewpoints. And this isn't a topic that lends itself to a short answer.
1. Based on the above definition, are there conflicts of interest in vaccine research and policy-making?
Yes, there are conflicts of interests based on that definition in absolutely everything that involves research and/or policy. By that definition I honestly think pretty much everyone has a conflict of interest.
2. If no, what gives you this impression? If yes, what specific COIs do you see?
I know this is fishing for Paul Offit has a ROTA vaccine patent. and scientists go from the CDC to private industry and vice versa, so we must ignore everything because COI COI COI. I get that. Yes, I see that by this definition he has a conflict of interest. But I will also point out some other specific conflict of interests.
Pharmaceutical companies and medical establishments would make a lot more money treating VPD than they do for vaccines. For example, paying full price for a polio vaccine is listed at $82 at CVS the profit is likely less than the total charge. However, an Iron lung to treat polio I am sure is much more than $82 (though I truly have no idea). The Daptacel DTAP vaccine costs $25.98 according to the CDC. Hospitalization for Whooping Cough cost is around $3000/day. So this could be a clear conflict of interest that those profiting from treating vaccine preventable diseases could in fact by the definition provided have a COI because it would benefit them for more people to contract VPD.
Andrew Wakefield- his subjects for his discredited (scientifically at least) study were received through a personal injury attorney hoping to collect money for the autism/MMR link. COI.
Then there are the COI involved in organizations treating what they promote as vaccine diseases. Generation rescue does this as does Joseph Mercola. Selling many supplements, treatments etc. that they would not sell if they didn’t first promote the idea that Vaccines have caused you harm whether your know it or not. The total cost of Chelation therapy that I could find is $3350. When I add up the supplements recommended by Mercola and others it as high as $1000/month. COI. They stand to profit from for the most part unregulated therapies to treat having been vaccinated. To get that money you first have to convince people that vaccines are the root cause of there medical problems. This is a huge COI.
Dr. Sears vaccine book gets a royalty for every copy of the book that is purchased. I don’t know what it is, but it does exist. There is a COI because for any research that is done to show that a selective/delayed schedule isn’t beneficial takes money directly out of pocket for selling this schedule.
the vaccine epidemic book has glaring COI every here you look. The book is edited by someone with a masters in international policy and an attorney, not people with scientific backgrounds. Inside you will find 5 different attorney’s writing multiple articles about the dangers of vaccine. Huge COI because what they are looking for is lawsuits. And the biggest way to make bank is to keep pushing the idea that vaccines cause autism. And working to try to get people to ignore ALL other research on autism as if it is a done deal that vaccines are the real cause, even though the peer reviewed and scientific research does not point in that direction.
Then we can look at the National vaccine Information Center. They make over 800K per fiscal year in donations to their organization (which sounds like a federal agency and that in and of itself is problematic). If vaccines safety is shown, that research damages the NVIS. Their salaries depend on people being skeptical of vaccines. They also have research grants, which clearly will only show problems with vaccines given the Barbara Lou Fishers career depends on the idea that vaccines are damaging more children than they are helping. She also has three books and is paid for appearances. That also is a huge conflict of interest. .
As for rivalries. JB Handley, Jenny McCarthy, Rob Schneider, Barbara Lou Fisher and others have put everything they have professionally and otherwise into the idea that vaccines are the cause of Autism, and every disease that is increasing in the world. They cannot ever back down from that, it has become all encompassing. Any research that illustrates a different cause for anything, or that demonstrates safety in any vaccine is bad for them professionally. No one likes to be wrong. Each and every one of them has a COI because they have put their reputation on the line that vaccines are causing all of our problems from diabetes, to adhd, to autism, to lupus and on and on.
3. How problematic do you consider these COIs? What, if any, consequences do you see emerging from these COIs?
I don’t view most them as problematic for me personally. I value the scientific method and I am familiar with the manner in which research is disseminated. I have been through the peer-review process myself and I understand that it is grueling. I do not believe that the conflict of interests will impact the research that policy is based on, nor do I accept research that has not been tested through peer review impact my health decisions . I think that if someone truly was trying to present fraudulent research for personal gain it would be discovered during the peer review process. Since I do not research using blogs or websites without scientific rigor personally those Conflicts of interest do not impact me.
I do not view the potential COI regarding pharmaceutical companies hoping more people get VPD to profit from treating them as serious because I don’t think it actually happens (though it theoretically could). I also understand they make far far far more money on products that are neither vaccines nor treatments for VPD and I think at the base they want to focus on what makes them the most money (Cancer drugs for one).
I also am concerned with the COI to keep pushing the vaccines are the cause of autism. The reason this COI concerns me is it manifests as people trying to discredit all other Autism research. I think that it can set us back for actually understanding the causes of Autism more clearly when every step towards that understanding that doesn’t focus on vaccines has to deal with “this is just part of a conspiracy to hide the truth”. For example, the hearings on autism that took place in congress, that wasn’t about autism at all, it was about vaccines. While I am not concerned about the COI of this in terms of people choosing not to vaccinate (because that is there decision to make and whatever they want to base that on is actually fine with me). But I am concerned about what this COI means for autism research.
4. What steps, if any, should be taken to address COIs? What would you personally be willing to do (e.g. speak out against them, write letters to policy-makers, etc.)?
I don’t think anything can be done to address COIS as we are defining it in this discussion. We have a first amendment right to free speech. All I am willing to do personally is educate on the peer review process and encourage people who are doing research on health decisions (or any other decisions) to investigate the source and make sure it has been through peer review and has rigor before accepting it as truth However, for the most part I am finding individuals who are claiming to do research on in fact looking for affirmation and not information. They don’t care about COI unless it is a COI from the viewpoint of that which they dislike, they are only looking for ammunition to support what they already believe not actually looking for scientific validity.