Bush "took his eye off the ball" and should pay dearly. As usual, the Europeans took the PRAGMATIC approach and are reaping the benefits. Politics in the US for the last four years have been more about spreading favors than promoting the public good.
European Health Agencies, Using Many Vaccine Suppliers, Are Facing No Shortages:
While patients are panicking over a shortage of flu vaccine in the United States, vaccination programs in Europe are progressing smoothly with a good supply of medicine, health authorities say.
The crisis in the United States was set off when a factory in Liverpool, England, owned by the biotech company Chiron, lost its license to produce vaccine for the season after some batches were found to be contaminated by bacteria. The United States government and individual doctors had contracted with Chiron to provide 50 million doses of flu vaccine this year, nearly half of the national requirement.
Most countries contract with several makers, in part to avoid critical dependence on any one supplier. And though countries other than the United States had placed orders with Chiron for a smaller part of their vaccine needs, no other country was so dependent on the Liverpool factory.
New York Times, 10/23/04
It's great to hear logical responses on this important topic. The mortality of 20-30K lives due to flu is not a trifling matter. It needs serious attention. Serious regulatory and tort reform are needed. Not politics! I am no fan of GWB. But blaming him for the vaccine problem is stupid. And, using Paul Harvey as an information source is also ... let's say naive. Also, Kerry and Edwards have proposed mechanistic changes in court procedures to limit the lawsuits.
That said, Bush is not getting my vote, and this is not for his policies, but because he is simply a man too far out of his depth. He really does not know what he is doing or what is needed for the job. Kerry, despite his voiced policies, will be a better president. Same could be said during Clinton years. Clinton was a far superior man. He did alot of good. Fortunately, the Republican Congress gave us grid-lock in Washington, and they did not spend us into oblivion. We need to get back to that. After Nov.2, the Republicans will clearly have the House, and maybe the Senate too. If Bush gets in again, we are in deep economic
It is tempting to place the blame for the flu shot shortage on the Bush administration or greedy capitalism. However, the root cause may be the result of many years of government regulation, derived from the efforts of many well-meaning people. Another example of 'unintended consequences' at work?
Following is from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Infectious disease experts are calling for more attractive regulatory and financial conditions to entice companies back into the vaccine market.
"Many vaccine producers feel the U.S. regulatory bars are too expensive," said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chairman of the task force on pandemic flu for the Infectious Disease Society of America and an infectious disease expert at the University of Utah.
The Infectious Disease Society would like to work with U.S. regulators to streamline the vaccine licensing process, he said. Canada and European countries also have stringent safety standards, but those countries require less expensive clinical trials to license vaccines.
Liability concerns and uncertain demand for the products are also concerns for vaccine-producing companies.
"You need to have a market. Vaccine demand is something that sort of waxes and wanes depending on public enthusiasm," said Dr. Walter E. Stamm, president of the Infectious Disease Society.
Flu vaccine has been disposed of more often than desired. Every year, up to last year, companies could count on throwing away about 10 percent of the flu vaccine they made, Stamm said.
From the NYT
The reason for the shortage is this: Preventing a flu epidemic that could kill thousands is not nearly as profitable as making pills for something like erectile dysfunction, a decidedly non-fatal condition. Viagra, for example, brings in more than $1 billion a year for its maker, Pfizer. The profits to be made from selling flu vaccine are measly in comparison. If selling flu vaccine were as lucrative as marketing Viagra, sports broadcasts and the nightly news would be flooded with commercials warning that "winter is almost here; ask your doctor about flu vaccine" - and it would be available to anyone who wanted it. Instead, while many of those at risk of the flu go without the vaccine, primetime programs are sponsored by the makers of Viagra ("Get back to mischief"), Cialis ("Will you be ready?") and Levitra ("Stay in the game").
The flu vaccine shortage is not George Bush's fault. You should not attribute this problem to him or to any of his policies.
Yes, multiple suppliers would reduce overall supply risk. But, the question to be asked is why are there so few suppliers. The answer is, I think, litigation risk drove many suppliers out of the vaccine business. If the President had been more successful in gaining tort reform litigation, we would possibly now have more companies entering vaccine area.
(Frankly, I don't think the mental muscle behind the White House - Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld - thought tort reform would be easy for Bush to speak about. Too complicated. Plus, where is the oil in a shot?)
Mostly, I think the vaccination problem is our own fault. We let lawyers go ape in class action suits. We let our schools go to hell, so that the graduates have limited critical thinking skills. And we expect something (healthcare) for nothing (low premium rates) in this environment. Much of healthcare is taking on the form of a utility (e.g., vaccination) and we are reluctant to provide utility business form for it.
OK. Done ranting.
Everyone, I hope your team does well this weekend.
And for the head-knok & natcho-ma, the yo mama jokes have been a great relief. "Ruler to bed to see how long she sleeps! ...thanks "
<And we expect something (healthcare) for nothing (low premium rates) in this environment.>
I dont think anyone expects something for nothing.
Again, we can look to any number of truely first world countries for guidance on how to provide healthcare to all citizens.
But then again, we have the mental equivalent of chimp RUNNING the White House.
Ignorant arrogance - a dangerous, costly combination.
<The flu vaccine shortage is not George Bush's fault. You should not attribute this problem to him or to any of his policies.>
Hmm...the Europeans dont have a shortage.
The Europeans use 5 and 6 sources/producers for their supply.
What's stopping the US from doing the same...the dumb-ass, arrogant, myopic policies of the Bush adminstration.
While litigation risk is a factor in the profits incurred producing influenza vaccine, the larger factor is the nature of the illness and its treatment.
Each year, the influenza vaccine mutates and a new vaccine is required to facilitate immunity in the person receiving the shot. If the flu on a given year is mild and many people don't request vaccination, then the company has to eat the cost of the vaccine made but not used because it can't be used again. This type of profit and loss is a crap shoot. However, in certain years such as when there is a pandemic, vaccine production becomes profitable to the drug company and quite life saving to people. This then meets what I would consider to be reasonable criteria for government support. How this is structured is a whole different arguement.
As to litigation, the use of pseudoscience in associating vaccination with autism is poor science and legal policy in the long-run helping to increase drug company costs without providing economic support to those who are hurt. Autism does not appear to be related to vaccination. If we are going to just dole out money to people with bad illnesses, let's say that vaccination causes Down's syndrome and make the drug companies pay for this. This is just plain stupid and allows lawyers to make out like lawyers.