Monday, April 12, 2010

Disposing of excess swine flu vaccine: government pays again

This article from the Bucks County Courier Times doesn't address how the 25 mcg. mercury-containing doses (in multidose vials) will be handled, since release into landfills and rivers is not safe or acceptable. Most swine flu vaccine used in the US was packaged in multidose vials, including a mercury preservative, with small stocks of single dose vials reserved for young children and pregnant women.

Too bad the vaccine product wasn't made with a longer expiration date, since this vaccine will be included in the 2010 fall-winter flu vaccine shot.  So our taxes pay to destroy excess vaccine capacity and then pay to buy more identical vaccine antigen for the coming winter's vaccine.  What a brilliant business model.

Stuck with thousands of unused swine flu shots, local health care providers find themselves paying to discard flu vaccine for the first time in recent memory...

Meanwhile, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman said the agency is preparing a swine flu vaccine disposal plan but won't offer suggestions in the meantime...
UPDATE April 13:  (Reuters) "It is too soon to determine whether tens of thousands of doses of H1N1 swine flu vaccine may have to be thrown out if they are not used before their expiration date, a U.S. health official said on Thursday... Dr. Anne Schuchat, head of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said it was difficult to say how many H1N1 vaccine doses may be discarded. Yet Pennsylvania's state health department reports it has already disposed of 27,000 doses.  And those doctors and clinics left holding the bag (I mean vials) will have to pay themselves to dispose of what is left. UPDATE 2 April 24:  Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has 100,000 doses to destroy, plus an unknown amount in doctors' offices and clinics.
Hello?  The US ordered 251 million doses of swine flu vaccine, according to the LA Times, or 229 million doses, according to Reuters.  It used 1/3 of this stockpile.  Yet instead of admitting there are about 150 million excess doses, most or all of which will expire before the next flu season, A "US health offical" loses 4 decimal places (4 orders of magnitude) and suggests that only tens of thousands of doses may have to be discarded.

Furthermore, the amount spent worldwide to respond to the swine flu pandemic has suddenly shrunk, according to the American delegation to a WHO meeting on swine flu and the role of WHO.  It was only 4 billion dollars, claim the Americans, citing a World Bank estimate.

Yet vaccine cost about $10/dose in the US, so that was about $2.5 billion alone.  The cost to administer the vaccine (wages for those holding clinics, costs of advertising the clinics, syringes, gloves, etc.) is approximately $10-20/dose.   Add to that the costs of Tamiflu and Relenza.  So the cost of the swine flu preparedness program in the United States alone exceeded the alleged cost to the world of swine flu preparation.

UPDATE 3 (April 28): The UK won't admit what it spent on Swine Flu, but Glaxo earned 700 million pounds (1.07 billion dollars) in swine flu revenue during the first quarter of 2010.

Do our government health agencies think the public has no memory and cannot do arithmetic? Where are the names of these anonymous spokespeople?  Is anyone accountable for these spending decisions and shifting of health priorities?

1 comment:

Roberto said...

The whole swine flu opprobrium was inexplicable - unless you factor in mass stupidity. That's the only thing I can come up with. Covering up stupidity by bureaucrats is nothing new. No matter how hard the press tried to sell the epidemic, people didn't buy. People are as smart as the press is stupid, it seems.