Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bush, Kerry on flu vaccine issue

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:04 AM |  

Neither candidate understands flu vaccine issue. From Minneapolis Star Tribune --

FLU VACCINE: How would you seek to prevent another flu vaccine shortage?

Bush: "Long before the current vaccine shortage, my administration took important steps to better protect Americans from the flu. We are spending seven times the amount on flu preparedness as we did when I took office in 2001. We
also stockpiled, for the first time, enough influenza antiviral drugs for 7 million Americans at risk of serious illness from the flu. There are sufficient doses of these drugs in the private sector to treat another 30 million people. We have already begun investing in domestically manufactured next-generation vaccines that will ensure year-round influenza vaccine capacity, and we will increase that investment in the future. My liability reform proposals also will ensure that vaccine manufacturers can do business in this country. On Oct. 22, 2004, I was pleased to sign legislation that takes a first step in this direction by adding the flu vaccine to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which provides some limited liability protections for flu vaccine manufacturers."

Kerry: "In the short term, let's crack down on price gouging, require disclosure of flu vaccines, encourage volunteer donations of vaccines and increase the national stockpile of anti-viral medications in case of a flu emergency. I would prevent another shortage by doing more to encourage the manufacturing of flu vaccines so every American who needs a flu shot can get one. I will do this by first guaranteeing manufacturers that the government will purchase any unused vaccines. We must also encourage more manufacturers to make the vaccine so that unlike this year, one company's inability to deliver vaccines will not endanger public health. I will establish an Office of Public Health Preparedness within the Food and Drug Administration that will have the authority to contract with manufacturers, accelerate approval for vaccines and other drugs, and waive requirements without compromising safety and efficacy in the event of a public health crisis."
With the exception of President Bush’s recognition of the negative impact of the threat of lawsuits on vaccine production, the answers of both men indicate paths that take us further into trees and less likely to see the forest that is the real problem.

For a “conservative” president to claim for credit that he is spending seven times as much on preparedness than we did when he took office is more than a little disconcerting. His stockpiling approach is both expensive and wasteful. But Kerry’s comments are downright dangerous.

First, he demonizes the drug companies for price gouging, which is not happening on any large scale, and calls for some to sacrifice for others through government “encouragement,” whatever form that might take -- the same concerns for the government “encouragement“ for manufacturers to produce more vaccines. He also goes the expensive and wasteful stockpile route and take it one step further by establishing a new department within the Food and Drug Administration with some pretty vague and spooky authorities.

It’s always amazing that when faced with a “crisis,” government officials can see their way clear to “accelerate approval” and “waive requirements” but fail to recognize the damage those unnecessary required approvals and requirements cause in the first place.

It’s sad that neither candidate recognizes or has the courage to advocate a free-market solution.