David Rodeback's Blog

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Thursday, October 14, 2004
On Shortages of Leadership and Flu Vaccines

First, there's Nicole Brodeur, writing in the Seattle Times. She's looking at the presidential candidates, longing for leadership, "for a hint of something that will settle our souls." (Here's a hint: For her, it's not President Bush.) So where does she find this soul-settling leadership she seeks? In Mikhail Gorbachev! It's a bad day for John Kerry when his own party looks at him and publicly wishes for a former Soviet General Secretary.

Second, I sometimes write here about unintended consequences. Some such consequences, though perhaps unintended, are certainly foreseeable. For example, if the government forces vaccine makers to sell its vaccines for children (or anyone else) in massive quantities and at a price that is below production costs, those companies quite predictably will cease to make vaccines at all. Why shouldn't they? If they can't at least break even, they can't stay in business. So the predictable, virtually inevitable outcome of such a policy is a vaccine shortage, because companies will get out of the business of producing vaccines.

According to a report a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine gives much of the blame for our flu vaccine shortage to a government vaccine-buying program promoted by Senator Hillary Clinton and the Children's Defense Fund. (You have to be a subscriber to view the WSJ article, but here's a summary. See also the IOM study itself.) It was for the children, you see. Now children can't get flu vaccines.

One wonders: Why, amid all of the media frenzy on the subject of flu vaccine shortages, have I only heard of this particular cause once? Actually, one really doesn't wonder. It's an election year.

Here's another predictable consequence: Fake flu vaccine scams. Today I heard radio news reports of such things happening around the country.

A soft heart is an admirable thing, unless it comes with a soft head, too. Then it's just dangerous.

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