The flu SNAFU: “knew, or should have known”

When Chiron announced in late October that some of its flu vaccine was contaminated and shipments were being delayed until October, that should have been a warning flag. Apparently no one in Washington was paying attention.

The Bush Administration has denied that it had advadvance warning of flu-vaccine problems at Chiron’s Liverpool plant. If so, it must have been because no one asked.

It turns out that some of the product was found to be contaminated in late August, and as a result Chiron announced that shipment was being delayed until October. The BBC ran a story.

Under those circumstances, with half the flu vaccine supply for the country being held up, wouldn’t you expect someone in Washington or Atlanta to get on the phone to London and ask the British authorities what was up? It’s a case of “knew or should have known.”

If we had started scrambling then, additional supplies might have been available by early winter; flu vaccine reportedly takes a minimum of three months to produce. That wouldn’t have been ideal timing, but it would have been better than nothing.

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