Flu vaccine shortage blame

In an entirely predictable development, Cragg Hines blames the Bush administration for the flu vaccine shortage that the media is busy whipping into near-hysteria:

In May 2001, four months into the Bush administration, Janet Heinrich, director of GAO's health care division, testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The title of her statement could not have been clearer: "Steps Are Needed to Better Prepare for Possible Future Shortages."

Heinrich's testimony was an eerily exacting guide to what is now afoot.

"Manufacturing difficulties could occur in the future and again illustrate the fragility of current methods to produce a new vaccine every year," she said. "Compounding the problem is that when the supply is short, there is no system to ensure that high-risk people have priority for receiving flu shots."

On Tuesday, Heinrich was far from pleased that her forecast has come to pass. "This has been a long-standing issue," she said matter-of-factly.

And then Hines says:

The Bush administration has blamed the current vaccine shortage on virtually everyone but itself.

A favorite whipping boy is, of course, trial lawyers and liability suits against pharmaceutical houses. So, it's interesting to note that the National Vaccine Advisory Committee said in a report last year that shortages in vaccines against childhood diseases "do not appear to be liability-related."

Okay, Cragg, what is the reason for the shortage? What did the Bush administration actually do to cause a shortage, in an election year? Did you do any digging into what the root cause might be?

Hines' lack of intellectual curiosity isn't surprising, given what is one of the biggest reasons for the vaccine shortage. Buried in this 2001 USA Today article is a big hint:

Price caps also hinder production, the group says. "Most of the vaccine market is effectively price-controlled, so there is not a true market for vaccines," says Sara Radcliffe, research director for PhRMA. She said those controls help explain why the number of vaccine makers has dropped from a dozen 15 years ago to four today.

Radcliffe's concern about vaccine price controls stems from federal legislation enacted in 1994. The law capped at 1993 levels the prices of childhood vaccines bought for use in public health centers through a national contracting system overseen by the CDC. From 50% to 60% of all vaccines for children are purchased through such arrangements.

Hmmm. A 1994 law that capped the price of vaccines. Now who was in office in 1994?

If car makers are suddenly faced with a law that limits the amount of money they can charge for a car, how many car makers are going to keep producing cars, while losing money? Strangling government regulations strangle businesses. It's common sense and it's lacking in many old media dinosaurs.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 10/20/04 08:25 AM | Print |

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