Feed on

The AP reports today that:

ATLANTA (AP) — About a quarter of the swine flu vaccine produced for the U.S. public has expired – meaning that a whopping 40 million doses worth about $260 million is being written off as trash.

“It’s a lot, by historical standards,” said Jerry Weir, who oversees vaccine research and review for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The outdated vaccine, some of which expired Wednesday, will be incinerated. The amount, more than twice the usual leftovers, likely sets a record. And that’s not even all of it.

About 30 million more doses will expire later and may go unused, according to one government estimate. If all that vaccine expires, more than 43 percent of the supply for the U.S. public will have gone to waste.

Federal officials defended the huge purchase as a necessary risk in the face of a never-before-seen virus. Many health experts had feared the new flu could be the deadly global epidemic they had long warned about, but it ended up killing fewer people than seasonal flu.

This is what happens when decisions are not guided in any way by benefits and costs, profits and losses. Some will argue that the safety of the $260 million wasted was “worth it.” Tell that to the homeless man who dies from exposure because a nearby shelter closed due to lack of government funds. We’ll have a series of follow-up posts on disease prevalence and the “precautionary principle.”

In the meantime, consider the irony here. When it came to infectious disease prevention, the government spared no cost, and vastly overestimated the vaccines it would need – and said it was necessary and OK to spend an “extra” $260 million. Then how in the next breath can supporters of national health care (who I would wager are very much in favor of the government’s massive effort to get the Swine Flu vaccine distributed) also argue that health care spending is too high? After all, isn’t there never enough spent to prevent never before seen, and perhaps known, diseases?

Leave a Reply