Saturday, October 08, 2005

Unprepared - again

Remember when the Bush administration was unprepared for the number of needed flu vaccines for the population? Remember when they were asking people not to be vaccinated because the elderly needed to be treated first? Then again, this was the administration that was unprepared for a terrorist attack, unprepared for an Iraqi insurgency, unprepared for rebuilding a nation we attacked, and unprepared for a hurricane that was predicted, so why should I be surprised by the Washington Post story (reprinted in the Seattle Times), that they are once again unprepared for a flu? Listen, I'm not a fan of flu vaccines, but if the Asian flu breaks out, then shouldn't we be as prepared as European countries? I mean, the President's press people made a big deal out of calling drug manufacturers together to produce vaccine, but the fact of the matter is in both the Seattle Times and the NY Times article:

The United States has 4.3 million 10-dose courses of treatment stockpiled — enough for less than 2 percent of the population — and has ordered 8 million additional courses.

By contrast, several European nations have placed huge orders to cover 20 to 40 percent of their populations.

"The World Health Organization has recommended that countries stockpile enough anti-virals to treat at least 25 percent of their populations," the senators wrote.

Indeed, according to the NY Times story:

Preparing the vaccines usually takes nine months and involves the eggs of thousands of chickens. Because chickens themselves could be wiped out in a pandemic, the present system of manufacturing vaccines is highly vulnerable.


Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, is among those who have been insisting for months that the government buy more Tamiflu. But he said the Bush administration largely ignored his and others' warnings.

"And now that they're finally worked up about it, the store is closed," Dr. Redlener said, referring to Roche's supply problems. "The U.S. is now in line behind much of the rest of the world."

Terence Hurley, a Roche spokesman, said that 40 countries had ordered Tamiflu to fill medical stockpiles in case of a pandemic. Many countries in Europe - including France, Britain, Finland, Norway and Switzerland - have ordered enough to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of their populations. The American stockpile would treat less than 2 percent of the population.

The government and industry officials, however, said that Roche had committed to delivering seven million courses to the United States next year and would not be able to deliver substantially more until 2007.

(my emphasis). In other words, this government is making a big deal about playing catch up - again.

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