While I was wonkishly wondering how to change the process that determines how much flu vaccine gets produced each year, a reader was thinking the obvious political thought I had missed: we just had another major screwup on George W. Bush’s watch.
The rationing of flu vaccine this winter is an issue that could be used by the Kerry camp. Ensuring adequate supplies of vaccine is a federal responsibility. News reports indicate that half the needed supply will be unavailable. Seniors in particular would be sensitive to that issue.
And no, this isn’t unfair. It turns out that U.S. officials were well aware that their British counterparts had concerns about the Chiron plant in Liverpool, and that public health types have been warning for years about the dangers of having only two suppliers.
Flu is responsible for 100,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths per year. I haven’t seen an estimate of how many more hospitalizations and deaths are expected to result from losing half the vaccine supply, but the numbers won’t be small.