Thursday, October 29, 2009

H1N1 (GOP Flu) Vaccine: Why the Shortage?

When I was at the Doctor’s office the other day, they told me they had to postpone my H1N1 Vaccine against GOP flu, because they cannot give the mist to anyone over 49, and they haven’t received the shots.  The vaccine shortage is a major problem, and Republicans are lining up to blame Obama.  They’re even making “Obama Gave Me the Flu” T-Shirts for kids.  Where does the blame really lie?

GOP-flu The moment a novel strain of swine flu emerged in Mexico last spring, President Obama instructed his top advisers that his administration would not be caught flat-footed in the event of a deadly pandemic. Now, despite months of planning and preparation, a vaccine shortage is threatening to undermine public confidence in government, creating a very public test of Mr. Obama’s competence.

The shortage, caused by delays in the vaccine manufacturing process, has put the president in exactly the situation he sought to avoid — one in which questions are being raised about the government’s response.

Aware that the president would be judged on how well he handled his first major domestic emergency, the Obama administration left little to chance. It built a new Web site, — a sort of one-stop shopping for information about H1N1, the swine flu virus. It staged role-playing exercises for public health officials and members of the news media.

It commissioned public service announcements, featuring the fuzzy Sesame Street characters Elmo and Rosita singing in English and Spanish about “the right way to sneeze.” The president added a swine flu update to his regular intelligence briefing — he also receives an in-depth biweekly memorandum on the prevalence of the disease worldwide and in the United States — and appeared in the Rose Garden to urge Americans to wash their hands.

Early on, Mr. Obama told his aides he wanted them to “learn from past mistakes,” said John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s domestic security adviser, who has been coordinating the flu-preparedness effort.

Mr. Obama and his top aides studied earlier flu outbreaks, including one in 2004, when a vaccine shortage created a political problem for President George W. Bush, and another in 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford ordered a mass vaccination campaign for an epidemic that never materialized — and faced intense criticism for it.

In late June, Mr. Obama invited veterans of the 1976 effort to a private meeting in the White House Roosevelt Room, and asked what his own role should be. (Mr. Ford was photographed being vaccinated; Mr. Obama has not yet received his flu shot because children, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions are being vaccinated first.)

“We talked very realistically,” said Dr. David Mathews, who was Mr. Ford’s health secretary, “about the fine line he has to walk in being responsive and showing people that he cares, and that the federal government is on top of the issue, and on the other hand not provoking undue fear or irrational responses.”

Dr. Mathews advised Mr. Obama, “You’ve got to be willing to take the criticisms for being over-prepared, because there’s no defense for being underprepared.”

Now, with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that H1N1 is widespread in 46 states, public health experts and leading senators are giving the Obama administration only mixed grades. “I would give them a B for performance so far,” said Dr. Eric Toner, a senior associate at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who has advised the administration on pandemic planning.

The administration gets high marks for its public education campaign, as well as the scientific effort to develop and test a vaccine. “The vaccine was miraculously developed,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who was chairman of an oversight hearing last week on the government’s response to the outbreak.

But the administration, and in particular Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, have come in for strong criticism from those who say they created a false sense of expectations with overly optimistic predictions about the availability of the vaccine.

“The fact that there are vaccine shortages is a huge problem,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and co-chairwoman of last week’s hearing with Mr. Lieberman. “I believe the administration took the pandemic seriously, but I also believe administration officials were so determined to show that everything was under control that they sent the wrong signals about the adequacy of supplies of the vaccine.”

Ms. Sebelius has said she was relying on estimates from manufacturers, who reported in July that 120 million doses of vaccine would be available by the end of this month — a figure that was later lowered to 40 million doses, and then lowered again. She said Wednesday that 23.2 million doses had become available, including 9 million in the last week alone… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

I have to wonder here how Big Pharma could have been so far off as to promise 120 million doses and deliver a mere 23.2 million, less that 1/5 the promised amount.  One would certainly think that, given their expertise and experience in vaccines, they should have been able to peg the number quite accurately.  And as Republicans are buzzing that this is further proof that government can’t do health care, I frankly wonder if this was a set up.  Did Big Pharma create this crisis to underscore their desire to kill health care reform? Considering how the GOP was so ready to point the finger of blame, were they in on it?  Given the timing of Joe LIEberman’s move, was he?  I can’t answer this yet.  I have no proof.  This is mere speculation, but it is based om compelling circumstantial evidence.


the walking man said...

All the more reason to nationalize health care. they are still playing politics with lives and even though the White House gave them a back door deal they still want to derail the rest.

Holte Ender said...

I had the regular flu shot a month ago, a reason for the delay of H1N1 vaccine could be the manufacturers are having to make both, regular seasonal and H1N1 vaccines, maybe that's why, although I haven't read that anywhere. Also Walking Man could be right, a political game is being played out.

ivan said...

Funny thing.

Hini is kind of skinny in Canada too...Too little of it.

But maybe it's just as well. Some nut has posted on the internet that all new vaccines are laced with birth control synergies.

Infidel753 said...

There's an upside to spreading scare stories about the vaccine. The wingnuts will believe them and stay away, there'll be more vaccine left for the sane people, and the wingnuts will fall prey to what's known as natural selection in action.

Seriously, it's silly to blame the administration for the shortage when it was the pharma industry that failed to deliver on its own commitments.

Randal Graves said...

If only we hadn't taxed Big Pharma into oblivion, we would all be safe from the onrushing plague.

TomCat said...

Mark, that's an excellent observation.

Holte, that was my first thought, until I considered that they knew they had to make both when they promised 120 million doses by yhe end of this month.

Ivan, don't the same companies make your vaccines too?

Infidel, if natural selection were really in action, it would only infect Republicans.

Taxed them into oblivion, Randal? When?!!?

Lisa G. said...

I think Randal was being snarky - so he got you on that one!

This is just one more reason to hate Big Pharma.

Brother Tim said...

I'm sorry you can't get one if you want, Tom. No skin off my nose though; they ain't pumpin' that crap into MY body.

TomCat said...

LOL, I knew Lisa. We were all born nekked, but Randal alone was born flashing. ;-) I was feigning amazement.

Thanks, Brother. We each have to make our own call.

ivan said...

They do. But under contract here I think. Big vaccine company here is Connaught Laboratories in Downsview (N/E Toronto).

Wouldn't you know it that Paul Martin, a former Liberal Prime Minister, had a large piece of that company and had acquired it through money out the Canadian International Development Agency.
Development Agency(CIDA).
Paul Martin is a canadian Liberal, but I swear he has GOP tendencies.
And until he was accused of conflict of interest, He owned one of the biggest steamship lines in the world, Canada Steamship Lines.
Good God. Is everyone under Liberian registry where you pay no tax? Mr. Martin used to scold tax dodgers in Canada and yet hadn't paid a penny for his steamship line because of Liberian registry.
Seems to me Canadian Liberals migh as well join the neocon choir, as Canadian Conservatives have done for a while.
Durn old Play Dough. Everything is everywhere connected.

TomCat said...

Ivan, your liberal party seems quite conservative to me, and your progressive party, the NDP, seems virtually absent. :-(