Pharmaceutical Companies' Role in State Vaccination Policymaking

The Case of Human Papillomavirus Vaccination

Examining the degree to which pharmaceutical companies play a role in policy-making regarding state immunizations, this article discusses key stakeholders’ opinions about the appropriateness of this behavior, and how it affects relationships between the industry and policy outcomes.

Using a nonrandom selection of six states and interviews with 73 key informants, this article specifically took the case of Gardasil, the first vaccine approved for human papillomavirus and the position that Merck & Co., Inc. had in the immunization policy-making process. The article discusses interviews with the respondents on whether they thought Merck acted appropriately or not in these varied roles: (1) providing information; (2) lobbying and presenting policy alternatives to legislators; (3) mobilizing legislators, stakeholders, and the public; and (4) filling gaps in access to the vaccine.

Key Findings:

  • Pharmaceutical companies should ensure that their lobbying efforts be carefully executed depending on the political climate.
  • Actions that are too aggressive or that lack transparency can undermine the prospects for legislation that foster acceptance of new vaccines.

Relationships among industry and policy-makers are important regarding new vaccines and should operate cautiously depending on the political climate and the interest of the public.