Given that responsibility for the current shortage of flu vaccine has become an issue in the US presidential campaign, we thought it would be good to see how the problem developed in the first place. And while we were starting a post about how Dubya's administration had been warned about how the small number of suppliers could lead to a vaccine shortage, we received an email from the American Progress Action Fund that contained an excellent chronology of how the problem developed since 2001. Rather than steal the chronology and pretend we'd done the legwork (it was tempting, we admit), we decided to stick the most pertinent parts in this post and then refer you on to the rest:
BUSH WARNED ABOUT VACCINE SUPPLY PROBLEM IN 2001: In May 2001, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report concluding "a production delay or shortfall experienced by even one of the three remaining manufacturers can significantly impact overall vaccine availability." Specifically, the GAO expressed concern that, in the event of a shortage, "there is no mechanism currently in place to distribute flu vaccine to high-risk individuals before others." The report recommended robust cooperation between the federal government and the private sector to avoid future problems.
BUSH IGNORES THE PROBLEM 3+ YEARS: The GAO produced a follow-up report in September 2004, more than three years later. That report found "the number of producers remains limited, and the potential for manufacturing problems...is still present." Again, the GAO noted "there is no system in place to ensure that seniors and others at high risk for complications receive flu vaccinations first when vaccine is in short supply."
BUSH BLEW OPPORTUNITY TO SECURE ALTERNATIVE SUPPLIES: On Sept. 13, Chiron Corp. informed officials from the United States and England that there were unresolved contamination problems at its Liverpool, England, plant. The British government responded by contacting other manufacturers and securing alternative supplies. The Bush administration failed to act before all doses of the flu vaccine had been purchased.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION EXCUSE RINGS HOLLOW: FDA Acting Commissioner Lester M. Crawford suggests the United States could not find new supplies of the flu vaccine because they didn't know the Chiron plant would be closed until Oct. 5, by which time there was no more vaccine available. Crawford does not specifically deny, however, that the FDA knew there were unresolved contamination issues at the plant starting on Sept. 13.
The Progress Report has more on the flu vaccine shortage if you go here.
Of course, this chronology doesn't deal with how the increasing concentration in the pharmaceutical industry has helped reduce the number of vaccine suppliers. And how the profits-above-all orientation that's omnipresent among large corporations has led most drug-makers to abandon production of, for example, vaccines on which there is a very small profit margin.
Then, of course, the vaccine shortage might not be a problem at all.
Yeah. Right.Posted by Magpie at October 18, 2004 09:20 AM | Health/Medicine/Health Care | Technorati links |