Friday, October 15, 2004

What Are The Causes of the Flu Vaccine Shortage?

Whenever you hear the word "shortage" immediately think "government intervention" as the cause. In other words, Hillary Clinton price controls.

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
Where's My Flu Shot?

A few weeks from now, when the country has run out of flu vaccine and people want to know why, we suggest they knock on the doors of Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Lincoln Chafee. Perhaps the three Republicans can explain when they intend to honor their promise to hold an open debate about the tort liabilities facing vaccine makers.

The only two suppliers of flu shots reported Friday that supplies are running out. The Centers for Disease Control is now urging health-care providers to reserve the shots for those most at risk. That leaves millions worrying that someone in their family might be next to die from a bad case of flu.

The reason for today's shortage -- as well as seven previous preventive vaccine shortages since 2000 -- is that there are just five vaccine makers. This lack of suppliers is partly thanks to Hillary Clinton, who as first lady turned government into the majority buyer of vaccines and pushed prices so low as to make business unsustainable. (This price-control approach, we'd note, is what Democrats would now like to inflict on the new Medicare drug program.)

But just as worrying to manufacturers is an explosion of class action lawsuits. Vaccine makers are supposed to be protected from suits by 1986 legislation, but tort lawyers have found loopholes and filed more than 200 cases. The Republican leadership fixed this by including a liability provision in the Homeland Security legislation of a year ago. That is, until Ms. Snowe, Ms. Collins and Mr. Chafee objected to its "dark of the night" insertion and forced Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist into repealing it.

In return for their victory, the Senators promised an open debate on broad liability reform within six months. That would have been ... June. But the Senate canceled a markup on a reform bill in April and the Senators have gone quiet. Apparently, making sound vaccine policy isn't as politically rewarding as preening before the media by standing up to "special interests" (vaccine makers). So what's your solution for the flu-shot shortage, Senators?

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?