Can a website actually accumulate dust? If one could, I’d nominate VaccinateYourBaby.org as perhaps the web’s dustiest. Remember them? Waaay on back in 2008, actress Amanda Peet called non-vaccinating parents “parasites” and--in full retreat immediately after that PR disaster--did just enough interviews to not look like she was sprinting for the hills…and then sprinted for the hills! Nowadays, she does her work advocating with the United Nations for third world vaccination awareness, perhaps reasoning that Masai tribesman are less likely to send her nasty emails.
Peet’s aging pro-vaccine website links you to the VaccinateYourBaby YouTube Channel, where the last video was posted in 2011…and, as I’m writing this, has the following views for their 5 most recently posted videos: 67 (posted in 2011), 168 (2011), 216 (2011), and 38 (2011). Back in 2008, when the Amanda Peet campaign was rolled-out, the flagship video of Peet being interviewed has, today, 4 years later, a total of 11,965 views--not particularly robust when you consider that Jenny McCarthy, arguing the other side of the vaccine-autism debate, routinely garners hundreds of thousands of views for any number of interviews she gives (or, heck, 80,000 views for me here yelling at The Doctors.)
Before moving on to talk about the real topic of this post, I’d like to point out a few delicious ironies about all of this:
- The Amanda Peet campaign was engineered by none other than the lord-vader-in-chief himself, Paul “Pharma Pimp” Offit. Peet’s brother-in-law worked at CHOP where Merck sponsors Offit’s activities, and Offit used his connection to Peet and his medical degree to hatch a brilliantly disastrous marketing campaign that nearly ruined Amanda Peet’s career. Good stuff!
- Recently, Amanda Peet has told the story in interviews that her daughter, in 2010 (2 years after the VYB campaign), contracted whooping cough AFTER being vaccinated, and this series of events somehow made her even more pro-vaccine. Now, I’m certainly not going to celebrate a 2 year-old child contracting a very painful bacterial illness--I don’t wish that on anyone--but I will celebrate the lunacy of becoming more pro-vaccine after the vaccine doesn’t work for your own daughter!
Which brings us to Every Child By Two, the pharma front group that bankrolled the Vaccinate Your Baby campaign. If the VYB website looks dusty, Every Child By Two’s website looks like it was designed by a 10 year-old in 1994. If you click to the “news” section of the website, their last newsletter was issued in August, 2008, more than four years ago.
By the way, I wrote about Every Child By Two, waay back in August of 2008, the very same month of the last newsletter they ever wrote. As I clearly demonstrated back then, ECBT is really just a Wyeth vaccine division marketing organization:
“First, a little background. By nonprofit standards, ECBT is a rat-shit organization. With a grand total of 3 employees, a tiny office suite in a crummy Washington D.C. neighborhood, and an annual budget under $1 million, they are a blip on the radar screen. As usual, the devil is in the details… And, how much did Wyeth [the vaccine maker] give ECBT? Wyeth gave $350,769. That's 68% of their non-contract revenue and 48% of their total revenue. From one company. A vaccine manufacturer named Wyeth. And Craig Engesser, a Wyeth spokesperson, has been on the board of ECBT for as long as I can track it. He even served as the organization's treasurer!”
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What’s different about ECBT in 2012 versus 2008 is that four years ago ECBT actually appeared to be doing something. They had Amanda Peet, they had a new marketing campaign, they had timely newsletters, and they had Pharma funding. Today, nearly everything looks like it’s stopped, like the money dried up, and everyone went home.
Unfortunately, 990 forms for non-profit organizations have a time delay. At present, I can only find financial information on ECBT through 2010, but I find their 990 forms for 2009 and 2010 raise all sorts of interesting and delicious questions. Consider:
- The organization appears frozen in time after about August of 2008, yet Amy Pisani, the Executive Director, was still making $136,000 a year in 2010, two years later.
- As of today, Amy Pisani no longer works out of Washington DC where ECBT still maintains a small office next door to the Vietnamese consulate office, but rather out of her house in Connecticut (which ECBT’s voicemail calls the “Connecticut Office”)
- Their sources of funding have become even more clear and blatant. In 2010, they were: Wyeth vaccines ($307,000), Sanofi Vaccines ($245,171), and Public Health Solutions, aka The NY Dept of Health ($182,136).
Doing some research on front groups like ECBT, it turns out these "Special Interest Dot-Orgs"—SIDs for short—are nothing new. Unfortunately, the 501(c)3 code of the IRS is very vague on what constitutes a non-profit organization and there are very few disclosure requirements for funding sources any public filings nonprofits have to make. As an example, if you wanted to find out where Generation Rescue gets its funding, you wouldn't be able to. No filing requirements exist.
As we’d all expect, drug companies have taken full advantage of this murky area. To my surprise, the press has been covering this story for years, just not specific to vaccines. In a 2005 expose titled, "A little too cozy? Not-for-profits may have undisclosed funding ties to for-profit drug companies", Sacramento Bee reporters Dorsey Griffith and Steve Wiegand went after the practice:
"The public may be getting hoodwinked because they may think these nonprofits are independent," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watchdog group that provides information about nonprofits.
"But how can they do it independently if they are paid by the drug companies?"
Borochoff and other critics say that even the best-intentioned advocacy groups can ignite public fears about conditions that may not be medical problems, divert attention from more serious health issues and put pressure on doctors to prescribe medications that may not be necessary. While some of these advocacy organizations begin as true grass-roots associations that later come to rely on financing from the pharmaceutical industry, others sprout directly from drug company seed money. And some are hybrids.
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OK, we all get it. ECBT is a pharma front group. Their activity seemed to stop after 2008. So what, you say? Well, I say, what are they actually doing with the hundreds of thousands of dollars they claim to be spending on behalf of pharma? For example:
In 2010, ECBT claims that, on behalf of vaccine maker Sanofi, they spent almost $250,000 doing the following [with my remarks in parenthesis]:
“Sanofi – This program allowed Every Child By Two to continue our online activities outreach initiatives and website hosting [website not updated since 2008]; set up RSS feeds for vaccine news to keep users up to date [you could do that for free]; develop a widget which will allow parents to create a personalized immunization schedule and email reminders of appointments [my web guy told me he could do this for about $250]; set up and maintain vaccine twitter feeds [Amy Pisani has a twitter account with 364 followers, she makes $136,000 per year]; run Google keyword ads [I couldn’t find any keyword ads at all using 50 of the most obvious search terms], do media outreach and provide media training to coalitions [if they are doing this, they sure aren’t publicizing it, can’t find info anywhere].”
For a quarter of a million dollars, I’d argue Sanofi got a whole lot of nothing. Worse, perhaps, is the $300,000 ECBT spent on behalf of Wyeth, to host what appears to be a Las Vegas boondoggle at the Four Seasons Hotel:
“Wyeth Vaccine- This program allowed Every Child By Two to host a series of meetings in Las Vegas with several groups including WIC and private provider offices.”
A series of meetings in Las Vegas? According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Every Child By Two sponsors an early December conference in Las Vegas at the Four Seasons. Who was last years featured speaker? Read:
“The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in Las Vegas December 9 to speak at the Immunization Update at the Four Seasons Las Vegas, sponsored by the Southern Nevada Immunization Coalition (SNIC) and Every Child by Two, Carter/Bumpers Champions for Immunization. The Immunization Update was held to inform Nevada's immunization providers of the latest immunization information, deliver updates about influenza vaccinations and discuss the importance of whooping cough prevention, a concern for the CDC, particularly in Southern Nevada.”
Yes, the CDC needs to send their Directors to the Four Seasons in Vegas in December because they are so worried about Southern Nevada’s immunization practices. What a joke! Here’s how it works:
- Wyeth gives ECBT money
- ECBT holds a “conference” at the most expensive venue in Vegas
- ECBT invites CDC employees as featured speakers and pays for their whole trip
- Wyeth pays CDC employees without paying CDC employees-presto!
You might be wondering what got me back to writing on AoA and, of all things, writing about ECBT. Well, for all their dormancy, ECBT has been busy very recently, with an email I recently received that reads:
As some of you may have heard, Jenny McCarthy was recently hired by the Chicago Sun-Times to write a daily blog on parenting, dating and family. McCarthy has been a staunch advocate for the debunked vaccine-autism myth and should not be given the opportunity to influence readers of the Sun-Times about her dangerous claims against life-saving vaccines.
We are asking you as parents passionate about protecting your children from the spread of infectious disease to write to Chicago Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Jim Kirk and explain how McCarthy's dangerous stance on immunizations and new role puts all of our children at risk. Sample language for your letter has been provided below, should you need it.
To learn more about the benefits of immunizations, visit our Vaccinate Your Baby page for more information. Thank you again for your continued voice in support of childhood immunizations!
Executive Director, Every Child By Two
Pisani, the $136,000 a year Executive Director working out of her house, goes on to offer parents a form letter to sign your name to. Brilliant! Editor-In-Chiefs of national newspaper are really moved when a person they don’t know sends them a form letter! (Do pharma trolls sign their real names to form letters?) In return, I have prepared a form letter for all of you guys to send the CEOs of Wyeth and Sanofi:
Dear Pharma Big Wig,
It has recently come to my attention that you have been paying Every Child By Two hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to do almost nothing with your money. With today’s cost-efficient web, most of the things they claim they are doing could be done for less than $2,000, yet somehow they are spending, in total, almost a million dollars of your money!
Their Executive Director works out of her house, their Twitter account has less than 400 followers, their websites haven’t been updated this decade, and Amanda Peet’s campaign was over before it started. Can you please fly me to Vegas instead of all those CDC employees?
[INSERT PERSONAL EXAMPLE OF WHAT YOU COULD DO WITH ALL THE MONEY ECBT HAS WASTED HERE]
I ask you to seriously reconsider giving ECBT so much money every year, you’d be far better off just setting it on fire.