Saturday, October 09, 2004

Since word first was released that the flu vaccine fiasco was hitting the US hard but the UK not at all, despite the fact that the vaccines in question were produced by a British firm in a British plant, I've been wondering how in the world this happened. How has the UK dodged a bullet while the US takes its full force?

The Washington Post has some very revealing information today.
Records at Britain's Department of Health show that the plant's owner, Chiron Corp., warned officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency on Sept. 13 that potential contamination problems remained unresolved at the plant, according to Alison Langley, a senior spokeswoman at the department. . . .

Unlike the United States, health officials in Britain responded to the warning by making "plans by contacting other manufacturers," Langley said. . . .

Britain had been scheduled to receive about 2 million doses of the vaccine, known as Fluvirin, or 10 to 20 percent of its total need.

A British Department of Health statement said officials had already arranged for an additional 1.2 million doses from some of its five other suppliers by the end of the month, with an additional 1 million due to arrive by mid-November. . . .

"This plant has been well known in the industry," said a British pharmaceutical executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's passed through a lot of companies' hands very quickly. . . . One or two companies who have owned this plant -- perhaps they haven't spent the money on it they should have done, while milking it pretty hard." . . .

British health experts said U.S. officials should have realized the potential scale of the plant's problems and taken steps to locate other suppliers.

"The American policy has been cruelly exposed -- their decision to put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak," said John Oxford, an international expert on influenza at Queen Mary's College in London. . . .

. . . Britain was wise to line up a half-dozen suppliers. . .
This sharp contrast between the UK and US only shows up the cynical opportunism practiced by the libertarian nutjobs at Truck and Barter who claim the problem is rooted in the government's refusal to allow pharmaceutical companies a big fat profit.

I can't believe this issue didn't come up in last night's presidential debate. However, it looks like Kerry is picking up the story in his stump speeches and had better bring it home in the third and final debate in Arizona. People are going to die this winter because of this idiotic mess, and Tommy Thompson -- and his boss -- have yet to face the music.

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