Can we get flu vaccine from abroad at retail?

Canada has some. Wny not let Americans mail-order it?

It turns out that some Canadian pharmacies have flu vaccine they’re prepared to sell to Americans, and that some American doctors and patients are actually travelling to Canada to get the stuff. Given the relative population sizes, Canadian supplies can’t do much for our national problem. Still, is there any reason not to allow Americans to mail-order flu vaccine from Canada, rather than restricting this option to those who live near the border and are willing to travel?

Are there other countries that have extra supplies that we might tap into in the same way? Notice that this wouldn’t require FDA approval, which would take effectively forever; just an emergency suspension of the rules to allow free retail importation.

Even if it’s only a few tens of thousands of doses, that’s a few thousand avoided cases and a few avoided deaths. Worth doing some administrative paperwork, I’d say.

Politically, I like the idea of John Kerry proposing to get the bureaucrats out of the way and let the market handle the problem.

In particular, are there any stocks in Southern Hemisphere countries, where the flu season starts six months later, that might be “borrowed” now with the stockpiles to be replenished by April?

[And has anyone reviewed the bidding to make certain that the Chiron vaccine that’s about to be thrown away is really more dangerous than protective. We know it was the product of sloppy manufacturing practice for which Chiron ought to have its wrist slapped. But is someone at high flu risk really better off with no vaccine at all than with the Chiron vaccine? “Primum non nocere” — “First, do no harm” — is a cute slogan, but sometimes it’s lousy policy. Not helping when help is possible is a kind of harming.] For more information, see Gardiner Harris’s article in the New York Times.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com