Forbes, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal report that the Food and Drug Administration found contamination problems at the Chiron plant in Liverpool in June of 2003. Yet even after Chiron announded six weeks ago that quality-control problems required delaying shipments of vaccine from August until October, apparently no one at the FDA, the CDC, or the office of the Assistant Secretary for Health got on the horn to UK authorities. Instead, FDA kept listening to happy h.s. from Chiron itself, and was caught by surprise when the Brits pulled the plug.
Apparently the FDA is now convinced that none of this year’s Chiron product is salvageable, so this wasn’t just the UK regulators giving Chiron a hard time about its recordkeeping.
The acting director of FDA, Lester Crawford — a Bush nominee, of course — has obviously learned that not admitting mistakes is the fundamental principle of the Bush Administration:
Crawford said the FDA followed standard procedures, and he would not change anything the FDA has done. “This is the way we’ve always done it, and it’s worked very well in the past. So, no, we would not have altered the procedures.”
On the other hand, in saying that U.S. officials knew that there was going to be a shortage — as opposed to having reasons to think there might be shortage and that something needed to be done — Senator Kerry was almost certainly wrong. What would have been the point? This looks like a mistake, and a big one. No need to make it into a conspiracy.