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"There Is No Flu Vaccine Crisis!"

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(CNN - Oct 18, 2004) -- The shortage of flu vaccine in the United States is "not a health crisis," a spokesman for Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said, urging people to be patient as the government works to reallocate the nation's limited number of vaccines.

"I would like to tell individuals just be calm and don't stand in line, because we have approximately 24 million doses of vaccine that have not been shipped yet."


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Comments (31)

Does the man make history o... (Below threshold)
Mojave Mark:

Does the man make history or does history make the man? Bagdad Bob, a desparate man for desparate times.

If Kerry/Edwards get electe... (Below threshold)
JAB:

If Kerry/Edwards get elected, I think you're looking at the new White House Press Secretary.

Remember “SWINE FLU?”... (Below threshold)

Remember “SWINE FLU?”

The Present Fuss about the flu vaccine is another occasion for headscratching about the utter perversity of the Public, The Media, and Politics. Several times in recent years, the flu vaccine question getting all the media attention has been that the vaccine MIGHT CAUSE MUCH GREATER HARM THAN THE FLU ITSELF; so many consumers were complaining about coming down with “flu-like” symptoms which they insisted were caused by the vaccines that they were foreswearing submitting to the darn vaccines ever again.

Here’s a little background information:
Each year, a number of influenza strains emerge in different parts of the world, and begin to spread outward from their points of origin, in a steady march that brings them to the United States a few months later.

Human flu viruses exploit pigs and other animals as “vectors” (when they can’t get humans) and sometimes even viral strains from ducks and other critturs intermingle and we get unprecedentedly... well, “VIRULENT” new strains to attack us. This works for the viruses because humans and pigs and fowl have long-standing intimate living arrangements in some places. Like rural China, for instance. That’s why many of the new strains emerge from that region of the world, and bear such evocative names as “Asian flu” or “Swine flu.”

Somebody --- actually, teams of somebodies--- have to be out in the field researching the new strains all year, and other somebodies have to make educated guesses as to just which ones will eventually spread to the U.S., in order to formulate and then manufacture and distribute a vaccine that will be reasonably effective against the flu strains that are expected to show up in the U.S. months later.

The public take this whole process of critically complex interactive steps for granted. They complain when it works, and complain when it doesn’t work.

A Harvard School of Public Health study copyright 1997 by Elissa A Laitin and Elise M. Pelletier about that, which gives you an idea of the complexity of the flu vaccine issue.

(The full article is available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/Organizations/DDIL/swineflu.html)

Joel Warner authored another fairly daunting technical analysis of the 1976 epidemic, available at: http://www.haverford.edu/biology/edwards/disease/viral_essays/warnervirus.htm)

The best discussion of that event is in the book “The Coming Plague,” by Laurie Garrett, former NPR science correspondent. Despite the sensational sounding title, she gives you a very clear understanding of how public health issues have been approached in a number of problem areas--- Ebola, the new vicious strains of TB, HIV, and how everything is affected by promiscuous overuse of antibiotics. It’s pretty darn comprehensive--- something close to 500 pages, with indexes (okay, “indices”)--- but it’s very readable, and doesn’t assume or require the reader to have any specialized science education beyond maybe middle-school-level biology & chemistry.

My reason for this dense post is just to say that it is typically irresponsible disgusting mud-slinging for someone like John Kerry to be blaming the present vaccine shortage on BUSH. To quote from the Galen Institute: “This crisis is the result of a series of policy decisions dating back a decade. In 1994, First Lady Hillary Clinton led an effort to enact the Vaccines for Children program, and the government now purchases 60% of all pediatric vaccines. “

Don’t just take my word for it, because I’m a registered Clinton critic. Look up the “Vaccines for Children” 1994 proposals and resulting legislation, which are credited to Bill and Hillary Clinton, with inspiring introduction by then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shilala:
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/pre1995pres/931222.txt
A critical 1994 article in Reason Magazine:
http://reason.com/9411/col.pollock.shtml

I don't bother getting the ... (Below threshold)

I don't bother getting the flu shot at all. Why does the vaccine only last 1 year?

Thank you, David March!... (Below threshold)
BR:

Thank you, David March!

Anyone with common sense would run a mile away from these immune-killing vaccinations. I did - when I was 6 years old, I ran away from school when they had us stand in line to get injected. Even a 6-year old has common sense!

I saw that picture on Drudge - what's the matter with these people sitting in the cold catching their death while waiting for vaccinations!

This whole issue has become... (Below threshold)
Jim:

This whole issue has become a manufactured crisis by the media. Again, it's the DNC-MSM attempting to hurt the President. Look at the dynamic. It's as if the news media and DNC have morning meetings to figure out how to blame Bush for different events that occur. When I first heard about the problem with the flu vaccines I had turned to my wife and jokingly said, "Watch, Kerry and Edwards are gonna blame Bush for the flu." Well, now look. The media are hyping the issue and Kerry is demagoguing it. Personally, I'll take my chances with the flu.

Jim,You may want t... (Below threshold)
Rance:

Jim,

You may want to take your chances with the flu, bu remember these numbers from the CDC.

Every year in the United States, on average:

* 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
* more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and
* approximately 36,000 people die from flu.


It's amazing to me how people assess risk. We're talking 13 times the 9/11 death count every year and most people say "So what?"
Most of us are much more likely to lose a family member to flu than we are to have a terrorist fly a jet into our house in the 'burbs.

If we lost 36,000 people a year to terrorism, we'd be bombing half the countries in the world.


Tommy Thompson: the guy who... (Below threshold)
Jane:

Tommy Thompson: the guy who said "Anthrax, no problem, he probably caught it fishing."

Those who don't get vaccina... (Below threshold)
Tom:

Those who don't get vaccinated are reliant on those who are vaccinated to limit the spread of flu. The chain of contagion is interrupted more frequently because of the resistance the shots create. It stands to reason that with 1/2 the number of vaccinations there will be a greater spread of illness, since there are fewer individuals to short cicuit the virus. The 36,000 a year death rate from flu is with a normal rate of vaccinations. I would like to ask a health professional( not a poliitician or someone with political bias) what the projected death rate will be under the present circumstances. If that number comes out, there will be more panic than what you see today. If you have friends or relatives who have compromised health and have not been able to get a shot, you should be concerned.

One wonders how we all surv... (Below threshold)
Mike:

One wonders how we all survived to this age when we didn't have the flu vaccine 10 years ago, hey Rance?

I have never received the flu vaccine, and don't want to either. I'm not saying that we don't need it, but as long as you are relatively healthy you should not have to worry about dying from the flu.

Rance your statistics have no comparison. There are roughly 294,000,000, so 0.1% of the population dies from the flu. Is that reason for a national panic? In 2002 there were 43,000 deaths from auto accidents, should we stop driving cars?

Mike's right. If only those... (Below threshold)

Mike's right. If only those who are really at risk get the vaccine, that's a far more efficient use of the resource.

Although Rance's apples-to-... (Below threshold)

Although Rance's apples-to-kiwi-fruit comparison is amusing. We bomb terrorists because they're human being acting out of malice. Who would Rance have us bomb over the flu vaccine?

Wait, don't answer that.

Rance, you don't know me --... (Below threshold)
Jim:

Rance, you don't know me -- I'm actually invincible. And to be perfectly honest, I think comparing an illness to to the 9-11 terrorist attacks is just the kind of thing one expects from a Liberal. The sad thing is that Libs don't realize they sound like fools. Why not compare deaths on 9-11 to those from auto accidents? From murders? Suicides? Actually, the system that failed us in securing vaccines was instituted by Bill Clinton and his healthcare expert Hillary.

Henry, the vaccine is only ... (Below threshold)
Sarah:

Henry, the vaccine is only considered protective for one year because every year the flu strains in circulation are different. The vaccine only works if the strain used to make the vaccine matches the strain in circulation. Sometimes it's a good match, like this year, and sometimes it's a poor match, like last year.

Henry:The flu viru... (Below threshold)

Henry:

The flu viruses mutate pretty quickly. It's the same reason why they have to make a new batch each year.

I've never had a flu shot i... (Below threshold)
SarahW:

I've never had a flu shot in my life; I hardly see any reason to be upset about limited availability for healthy persons. Flue shots have never offered perfect protection, never protected against new strains.

Probably my opinion was shaped at an early age by the swine flu debacle, and the injection site complications my mother had when she got her swine-flu shot.

If I get the flu, I'll get a flu- shortening med, and sip tea by the fire. Big whoop.


"Flue? " sorry.... (Below threshold)
SarahW:

"Flue? " sorry.

Sarah -- I'm sure that didn... (Below threshold)

Sarah -- I'm sure that didn't put a damper on enjoying your comment. ;-)

- She sips, tea nips, by th... (Below threshold)
Hunter:

- She sips, tea nips, by the fire flue?....*chuckle*

- She thwarts, flu and wart... (Below threshold)
Hunter:

- She thwarts, flu and warts, meds to see her through...
- She dips, rose hips, makes a heady brew...

- She scoffs, shots and coughs, sitting on the loo....

- She sips, tea nips, by the firey flue....

- Ok.....I'll stop now......

Does anyone know someone wh... (Below threshold)
JEW:

Does anyone know someone who died from the flu? I'm 49 and know of no one. Either the climate is extra healthy here in Indiana or it's not as big a deal as the MSM is making it.

The point is not who we wou... (Below threshold)
Rance:

The point is not who we would bomb, the point is that flu is that we are much more concerned about something that is a much smaller threat to the average individual.

Mike - If there were a vaccine against auto accidents and/or firearms, I'd line up to take the shot in an instant.

For those of you who are unaware, the flu killed 70 million people worldwide in 1918-1919. That was before the days of jet travel which makes it possible to spread the virus around the world in a matter of hours.

JEW- Just look in the obitu... (Below threshold)
Tom:

JEW- Just look in the obituaries of your local paper during the peak of flu season (Dec- Feb). Some of the elderly who pass away then are done in by complications from the flu, just as many die from pneumonia, which can also be a consequence of flu. BTW, my brother died last winter from pnuemonia. He was 54. Thought he could tough it out, that it was a bug that some tea and honey and bed rest would fix. Bad call.

My grandfather spent his WW... (Below threshold)
VR:

My grandfather spent his WWI tour moving bodies of those who had died of the flu. My mother nearly died of scarlet fever, my father had a terrible case of whooping cough. Most families they knew had lost at least one child to disease. When polio season came, before the vaccine, my sisters stayed home as much as possible.

The point is: The attitude about disease has changed dramatically because of vaccines, antibiotics, and other fairly recent medical improvements. Should you be especially worried because you don't get a flu shot this year? Probably not. But the bigger issue is that the current vaccine process is a big mess, and when we do get another superflu, you're not going to be laughing.

Some responses to some of t... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Some responses to some of the issues raised here, should anyone want to read further:

"We all survived" for as long as we have as a species "before the flu vaccination(s)" because we weren't in such close contact with so many others all the time, as we are now, nor were individuals, accordingly, capable of leaving their little respective family groups and hamlets and jetting to wherever in a single day, intermingling with others there, and then coming back home again and sharing all those newly acquired bacteria and viruses with their families and neighbors, if they even had any.

The mere fact that people are alive today in such huge population numbers and in such concentrated areas, shares more of everything far easier than ever before (and will continue to do so)...

These various viral outbreaks ("the flu" whenever it occurs) are certain virus that are literally 'bred' into existence and then proliferate in concentrated numbers in various hosts in more isolated areas, then spread from there.

Such that, populations in one area are constantly being introduced to infectious agents from other areas, and this process goes on everywhere that people come and go and interact, bringing with them various bacteria and viruses that they've been exposed to elsewhere. Grandma shows up from South America and she brings with her everything she's been in contact with in South America, that her family in North Dakota have lived well without. And Grandma then shares with everyone she encounters in North Dakota (or has the potential to share) everything she brought with her from South America.

And vice versa! Grandma goes back to South America, and all the things she acquired from her family and the locality in North Dakota go back with her. And she then shares in South America with everyone there, whatever she acquired in North Dakota.

When individuals become "sick," by the time you notice that you don't feel well, then that's already after such a time that whatever has infected you has already replicated to such numbers that you are feeling the effects of a badly impaired immune system (your T-Cells have been fighting off and being killed all the while by whatever the infectious agent is), and you start to feel "tired" (because you are, your white blood cells are reduced due to warring with an infectious agent), you show symptoms, all that, because your body has been or is being overcome with a virus (or bacteria, depending) by something that is more aggressive in replicating numbers than your body is in manufacturing more white blood cells to fight the infectious agent.

So, not everyone responds badly to an infection, but people with already impaired immune systems do (the elderly, those with impaired immune systems from other conditions, some children, etc.), so, THOSE ARE PERSONS who are most easily infected and overcome by the infectious agent, and are also the "breeding ground" for to replicate greater numbers of any infectious agent within a population.

So, you vaccinate those people first because you want to limit the possibility of a rampant, "wild fire" outbreak...the elderly, young, the weak, etc. get infected and then share all those bugs with others, etc., and then it spreads to the healthy population and can pose a terrible problem from there.

The best hope is to vaccinate the most vulnerable first so that they don't allow a bad bug to proliferate within that population and therefore spread outward. You try to stop that process, then you go on to the generally healthy as safekeeping but the necessity is to not allow an infectious bug to proliferate within a population to such an extent that it can then overtake a population.

We need "new" vaccinations because viruses and bacterial change and evolve and modify over time. They adapt to existing antibacterials and antivirals and so the vaccination has to change to address ongoing modifications. Also, new "bugs" are constantly being introduced or reintroduced into populations, so you have to modify vaccinations ongoing to meet the challenge. There isn't just one vaccination against "all flu" or something, because the agents that cause "the flu" is a variety of ongoing and changing things.

AND, generations within populations lose resistance over time and isolated circumstances to particular bugs. Such that, what your grandparents were immune to, you may not be, etc. Or at least, over time, the immunity and resistance relationships change, depending on a lot of different factors. Thus, new and ongoing "vaccinations" are necessary to suit whatever the current conditions are.

Biology is not a fixed study, the information is dynamic and ever changing. Many physiological processes remain constant (chemical formulae, process of metabolism, regeneration, etc.) but the actual science continues to change, as does biological life and physical conditions change and interact, over time.

The End.

Quote:..the elderly,... (Below threshold)
cj:

Quote:
..the elderly, young, the weak, etc. get infected and then share all those bugs with others, etc., and then it spreads to the healthy population and can pose a terrible problem from there.

Well, I'm no expert, but I think this is one of the problems with our approach (and I think Silfray Hraka -sp?) also addressed this issue.

The problem isn't that the elderly, young, weak, etc. "get infected" and spread it. The strong, healthy, etc., ALSO "get infected" -- they just have an immune system that keeps them from being killed. But BOTH groups become infected, and become carriers. To me, it makes more sense to have the immunization go to those that are more likely to SPREAD it. Not to be cruel, but if you are looking at Preventing a world-wide pandemic, the "critical" groups would be office workers, airline passengers, healthcare workers, etc., not nursing home residents. Nursing home residents might be more likely to *die* from a case of flu, but the toll booth worker is probably more likely to *spread* it.

And if every "work environment" that usually sponsors flu shots would instead sponsor "a free extra sick day" so that workers would stay home rather than show up sick, it would probably do more good to decrease the spread of the virus.

Finally, I haven't heard if the flu vaccine this year is the "right" one. I think the inevitable pandemic will be from a strain that wasn't anticipated.

Tom – Sorry about your loss... (Below threshold)
JEW:

Tom – Sorry about your loss, really, and after thinking it through I can see where this can have a domino effect with someone whose health is precarious, I’ve just not heard of the flu listed as being the cause of death. However I still see the MSM as sensationalizing the story.
I just get tired of attitudes that seem to claim the President, or for that matter anyone who makes a mistake, should have god like ability to foresee the future, know all, and be able to prevent and fix everything. I’m not giving out a blanket pass, but come on, let’s use a little common sense.
Isn’t the reason there is not enough serum, because the factory that makes it was shut down for contamination reasons? Events like these are largely out of the control due to imperfect people in an imperfect world. I have proof of imperfection, just look at my previous flippant, insensitive remark. But I do have a hard time assigning blame as if those who have influence consciously make these decisions knowing (or is that all knowing) that it was not the best decision.
I can see some logic behind cj’s comment but would rather give the protection to the weak. This is a yearly reoccurring problem that does not look like it will ever be eradicated. As much as it hurts we have to learn to live and die with problems.

From a political point of v... (Below threshold)
Tom:

From a political point of view, if there is a problem, the administration(any adminiistration) gets the blame, whether or not they are actually at fault. If there is a snowstorm and it is perceived that the snowplows didn't plow fast enough, a mayor can lose an election. Same with hurricane relief and governors. Same with the economy and the president (any president). As long as politicians will take credit for things that their policies may have only had a marginal effect on, they will also take the blame when things don't go well. Long lines of worried seasoned citizens in wheelchairs and walkers waiting to find out there is NO SHOT FOR YOU is not good two weeks from election day in Florida.

PS- I just noticed on the n... (Below threshold)
Tom:

PS- I just noticed on the news that senate and house "lawmakers" (didn't indicate who and from what party) did get flu shots. A great opportunity for unvaccinated opponents, especially from districts with senior populations.

The flu vaccine only works ... (Below threshold)
Jordan:

The flu vaccine only works about half the time, and that assumes that you get it at the right time. It only lasts about 2-3 months at best. Previous to now, about 25 million people were vaccinated each year. There was always an abundance of leftover vaccine. The reason for the "shortage" is that the media made a big deal about one of the suppliers vaccine being contaminated. This caused the rush for the vaccine that occured. I know at least 4 people who normally don't get the vaccine but are getting it this year because of the media coverage.

Thank you for the infomrati... (Below threshold)

Thank you for the infomrative postings, however, I'm of the belief that the more you live naturally, the stronger your immune system will be. I've never had a flu shot (the entire process seems overblown anyway).

-Henry




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