The Title: line is the question: there appears to be no shortage of flu vaccine in Canada, while in the States senior citizens (and senior citizens only) are lined up wating for a shot like Soviet-era babushkas at the People’s Toilet Paper Collective Outlet #241. What’s the deal?
The big drug companies (who are oh so concerned with your well being) can’t make a big profit on the vaccine, so they don’t participate.
They vaccinate about 10 million citizens each year.
Even if the vaccines would be approved, they don’t have enough to really help.
For once, the Americans might be waiting for Canadian care? Normally it is Canadians waiting for U.S. services.
Well, yeah. Exactly. For whatever reason (regulation, liability, etc), a company finds that selling a particular product isn’t worth the hassle, and gets out of that business.
And what, exactly, is wrong with that?
There’s nothing wrong with that. It also has nothing to do with the shortage. That’s because one of the suppliers wasn’t making it properly. (And it wasn’t even an American company. Are we still allowed to call them big and evil?)
I doubt Canada has enough stored up to treat the entire US population, anyway. Not that everyone should get a flu shot. If you’re not a child or old person there really isn’t any need for it. A few days in bed won’t kill you.
Oops. Link for the above quotation.
freido: But a few days in bed will cost your employer a few days of lost productivity, and they’ll have to pay you for a few days of work you didn’t do. The flu vaccine campaign in Ontario is huge – ads everywhere, subway cars full of question-and-answer ads about the flu vaccine. They give out vaccine at pharmacies, malls and walk-in clinics, and many employers hire companies to vaccinate their workers.
Of course, for people at high risk from influenza, it’s not just an inconvenience, and children, seniors and the immunocompromised really do need the vaccine. But large-scale vaccination is more of a cost-benefit thing. It will cost less to vaccinate everyone than it will cost in lost work and health care if some healthy adults get sick for a few days.
I’m not saying that I oppose the vaccine in any way. Where it’s widely available, I do think it’s better for healthy adults to be vaccinated and potentially avoid themselves a week or so of suffering. (Even in healthy people, there are risks of complications and the risk that each year’s flu might be unusually virulent.) But, with this year’s supply problems, I don’t think healthy adults should be angry if there’s not enough vaccine for them. There are people for whom influenza poses a much greater risk than a few days of missed work.
Given the very high demand for the vaccine, I don’t understand why they can’t make a profit?
Technically, Chiron is based in California, which – last I looked, anyway – is part of the United States.
(More technically, it’s based in Emeryville, CA, the same city as Pixar Animation Studios. )
The explanation that I’ve read is that it takes several months to make the vaccine, and the vaccination period is for a relatively short time once a year only. This is contrary to many/most other illnesses which could be vaccinated against throughout the year, and thus a fairly steady supply is needed and requested.
It’s also worthwhile noting that predicting what strain of the flu should be vaccinated against is a gamble, and one that must be made several months in advance. Let’s say that next year we have enough vaccine for the US, and lots of Americans run out and get vaccinated. Let’s assume that the guess about the strain was wrong, and that the flu is particularly bad next year, so lots of people get really ill. Now how much vaccine should the company make for the following year? You might get a lot of people who say “forget it, I got my shot and still got the flu, it’s worthless.” Alternately, you might get a lot of hopeful people who say “wow, I don’t want to get the flu next winter too, I’d better get the shot, and I’ll hope they’re better at predicting the strain.” So… will there be a high demand the following year? Or will this company make a lot of vaccine only to find that the average healthy American is disillusioned by the bad prediction on strain type the previous year, and lots of vaccine goes unordered by US clinics, pharmacies, etc?
In essence, making flu vaccine is like putting a lot of eggs in one basket and waiting many months to see if your gamble paid off. Many companies understandably don’t want to take that chance, and would rather produce more reliable vaccines with a more steady demand and without all that concern about different strains.
Typically, one would assume that Chiron Corp Does make a profit on them. No other drug company attempted make massive doses for the US market because Chiron, Corp already had the contract. When British regulators shut down the plant for contamination, it was too late for other drug companies (such as Medimmune or Aventis Pastuer) to make them because time ot create the immunization is such that flu season would be past before the shots were ready.
I listed two companies, above, that are making the vaccine, in addition to the one that was supposed to have but failed due to manufacturing error. In addition, there are two Canadian companies trying to kick in the 1.2 million doses Canada has in surplus. That’s six drug companies mentioned without even searching. Your statement is simply incorrect.
Daily report: After choosing not to stand in line for 5-7 hours at 4 different floating flu shot clinics last week, I was underjoyed yesterday to hear Tommy Thompson state that no one should stand in line to get shots because there will be plenty of vaccine for all “high risk” folks. He did not state how to get them without standing in line.
My 7-month pregnant secretary was happy to hear that but she was already planning to go to the county health dept. today for one of the 3000 doses that the state had provided to them.
She got there at 6 a.m. and the line was a couple hundred feet across the parking lot, with many lawn chairs and beach umbrellas in use (no one gave her a seat). The staff were screening out the low risks and giving consent forms to the others.
As the line hadn’t moved, she gave up at about 8 and came to work. I called them at about 10 for a statrep. They said the line was now one and one-half times around the building (outside) and to call around noon. I was otherwise occupied so did not call.
Tommy reported again today that there will be plenty of vaccine, about 53 million doses in fact, for the 85 million “high risk” population, maybe by December.
According to the Washington Post (October 17, 2004) for the winter of 2002-03
It appears that hysteria may be driving the demand. But that’s OMO.
Largest US pharmaceutical companies (in order):
Pharmaceutical: Altus Food Co., General Nutrition Co. Inc., Wyeth-Ayerst, DuPont de Nemours, DuPont Merck, Eli Lilly & Co., Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Monsanto Co., Abbott Laboratories, Alza Corp, Andrx Corp, Aventis Pasteur, Barr Laboratories, Inc, Becton Dickinson & Co., Bio-Technology General Corp, Bristol Myers Squibb Co., Cephalon, Chiron Corp, DuPont Pharma, Genetics Institute, Geneva, Gilead Sciences, Inc, Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inverness Medical Innovations, Inc, Ivax Corp, Mallinckrodt, McNeill, MedImmune, Inc, Mentor International Inc., Merck Sharp & Dhome, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc, Mylan Laboratories Inc, Orphan Medical, Inc, Parke-Davis, Pfizer, Inc., Pharmacia & Upjohn, Inc., Pharmacia Corp., Purdue Pharma Co, Rorer, Sauflon Pharmaceuticals Inc, Schering Plough Corp., Sterling Drugs, TAP Holdings Inc., Whitehall Robins, Wyeth ex-American Home Products, Zimmer Holdings
It still seems to me the big boys don’t want to be involved. From a business standpoint, I can see their reasoning. But when they advertise with touchy-feely “we are concerned about your health” ads, I think someone should throw this crisis back into their faces.
Correction - Largest pharmaceutical companies:
To the extent that anything wrong has been done, it was that too large a percentage of the vaccine was purchased from a single supplier, putting the US supply of the vaccine at risk of a single point of failure. The “big boys” would be more than happy to provide flu vaccines; they didn’t because several of the other “big boys” had that portion of the health-care spectrum covered, not because they don’t care about your health. They may not care about your health; this incident doesn’t prove that they don’t.
The malefeaseance of drug companies not creating millions of dollars worth or vaccine that would be thrown away in most years is more properly the subject of Great Debates. The answer to the OPs question is simple: Canada has enough flu vaccine because Canada’s suppliers weren’t shut down for manufacturing defects, and the US’s was.