Here’s the NY Times on the flu vaccine shortage:
Experts are pondering ways to induce more companies to make flu vaccine for the American market. The issue is not that manufacturers are worried about lawsuits over liability, as President Bush has suggested. Litigation is seldom, if ever, cited in authoritative analyses of vaccine shortages. The main problem is that influenza vaccine needs to be reformulated every year, and companies suffer huge losses if they overestimate the amount that will be needed because they end up having to destroy millions of doses. The administration needs to find a way to expand and stabilize the vaccine manufacturing base. The lesson of the Chiron debacle is that a diversity of supply is critical.
So who is to blame? Did the Health and Human Services Department drop the ball? Maybe. Did the FDA miss the viral writing on wall? Perhaps.
Should we pick a president based on this situation? I don’t think so. And I don’t think comment like this one from John Kerry help his campaign one bit:
“If you can’t get flu vaccines to Americans, how are you going to protect them against bioterrorism?”
Is that as absurd as the comments made by Bush and Cheney on a daily basis? Probably not. But maybe we should set the bar a little higher.
I’m not saying that the Flu isn’t a fair issue. Want to criticize the administration for failing to admit there was a problem early enough and connect that with a running theme that seems to define the Bush years? Fine. Want to demand an apology and/or some accountablility for those in charge? Go ahead. Better yet, want to point out that members of Congress and their staffs get all the vaccine they want and then tie that back to the Kerry healthcare theme of giving Americans the same healthcare advantages enjoyed by Senators? Perfect.
This is already the cold and flu season. Don’t make us sick.
Update: Now I see that the Kerry campaign has a radio ad on the matter during which they say: “If they can’t even deal with the flu vaccine, how are they going to deal with bio terror vaccines?” That seems like fairer game than the Kerry quote above. But I still doubt it moves undecideds in the direction one wants them to go. The folks most susceptible to these are going to be too sick to vote anyway.
Update 2: Here’s a look at how the flu issue is playing (especially when its connected to broader healthcare questions).
Update 3: Cheney got his flu shot. Handlers explained that he gets one every year on the advice of doctors because of his history of heart disease and because he has a lesbian daughter.