Democrats & Liberals Archives

Kerry Finally Playing up Flu Threat

Approximately 2800 Americans died on September 11, 2001. As a result of that one attack, President Bush has run a campaign that has emphasized his belief that he can better protect the United States from terrorism.

But Bush has clearly not done enough to protect the American population from something that is much deadlier.

"If you can't get flu vaccines to Americans how are you going to protect them against bioterrorism?" Kerry said yesterday. "If you can't get flu vaccines to Americans, what kind of health care program are you running?"

The failed public health policies of the Bush administration will directly contribute to thousands of preventable deaths this year. As it did last year.

According to a CNN.com article, "In a typical year, 36,000 Americans die from the flu. That mortality figure rises to 51,000 when flu-related complications, like heart attacks and strokes, are included."

The article also notes, "This year's flu vaccine shortage could cause deaths to spike by 25 percent, said Dr. John Treanor, an infectious disease expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center."

Twenty-five percent of 51,000 is over 12,500 deaths! Just from this year's flu vaccine shortage. That's equivalent to a Sep. 11 tragedy in each of Bush's 4 years in office. Just this year.

So while Bush is going state-to-state creating irrational fears about terrorism, he's not mentioning the real threat the flu poses to those same crowds? In all seriousness, what are the odds that somebody in Akron or Des Moines or El Paso will be a target of terror? Not very high! Yet residents of those cities could very likely catch the flu.

When drugs were needed to deal with potential bioterrorism, the Bush administration sure took action, signing agreements to buy massive quantities of Cipro in case the anthrax scare escalated. So while we're prepared for an Anthrax outbreak, we were not adequately prepared for a flu outbreak. And this is the third time in four years with flu shot shortages.

The problem rests is the fact that flu vaccines have not been a profitable segment of the drug market due to inconsistent demand and the rapid changes in flu strain. Vaccines not used in a particular season are thrown out. As a result of letting the market determine production volume, we sit at the brink of disaster as only two companies produce the vaccines -- contamination cut the available supply in half overnight! When more companies were in the market, such a problem would have not had so dramatic an impact on the overall stocks. Experts within the public health sector and even within the administration gave warnings, to no avail:

Dr. Irwin E. Redlener, associate dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, called the shortage "utterly predictable," arguing "you cannot have a vital function like vaccine production limited to the manufacturing capacity of two companies. It leaves no room for failure."
W. Paul Glezen, a flu researcher at Baylor Medical Center, said the Bush Administration was ultimately responsible for allowing the nation's flu vaccine supply to depend on just two companies. They "didn't display any comprehension of what the problem was and what should be done about it," he said."
The General Accounting Office, the government's own watchdog agency, raised the alarm three years ago, saying: "a production delay or shortfall experienced by even one of the remaining manufacturers can significantly impact overall vaccine availability."

But Americans are stepping up as the Bush administration fails them, trying taking matters into their own hands. Some have driven into Canada to get shots, prompting Canada to begin demanding proof of residency. The state government in Illinois is negotiating to buy its own batch of flu vaccine from a British wholesaler. However it has to await the FDA approval to finalize the purchase.

And how has the Bush administration proposed dealing with the flu vaccine crisis? Ironically, Bush proposed getting additional vaccine from Canada! So he's allowed to purchase drugs from Canada, but the rest of Americans can't!?!?

Posted by blipsman at October 25, 2004 2:16 PM