And I Will Name Him — Success

I can’t prove it, of course.  And, in fact, it may not even happen.  But I swear to you that I won’t be surprised if the recent reports of H1N1 vaccine being available is reported as reducing the number of cases of H1N1.

Back in late November, experts were calling the H1N1 peak:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The pandemic of swine flu may be hitting a peak in the Northern Hemisphere, global health officials said on Friday, but they cautioned it was far from over.

Not sure that a lot of people caught that.  And for those that did, they may have responded like I did:

Big “effin” deal.  My family already got it.

But, when you combine the news that the outbreak has peaked with this bit of good news:

Raleigh, N.C. — About 200 people showed up Tuesday morning at the Wake County Public Health Center in Raleigh to get the H1N1 flu vaccine.

Tuesday was the first day the county opened the vaccine up to anyone over 6 months old.

Traffic was slow and steady at the Sunnybrook Road location, as well as three other health department sites in Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest and Zebulon.

Ray Martin, 71, said he was in and out of the Raleigh site in 15 minutes – a stark contrast to earlier this year, in which hundreds lined up and were turned away due to a limited supply of the vaccine.

Now look, I for one am very pleased to see that those folks who need a shot are getting one.  But really.  Providing a shot to people older than 6 months of age fully 2 weeks AFTER the peak is not really A-Okay in my book.  Especially considering that the vaccine takes nearly 2 weeks to fully “bake-in”.

Sadly, I am afraid that this is what we have to look forward to in the Government sponsored health care.  See, in the world of government, a vaccine is an expense that needs to be minimized.  In the private world, the vaccine is a product that needs to be available, marketed and sold.

‘Nuff said.

6 responses to “And I Will Name Him — Success

  1. And the private market or voluntary solution to this is?

    Can you explain how safe vaccines could have been provided faster?

    Also, passing the “peak” doesn’t mean that people aren’t still at risk ( http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/ ).

  2. And the private market or voluntary solution to this is?

    Remove many of the onerous regulations required to make this stuff.

    Also, passing the “peak” doesn’t mean that people aren’t still at risk

    I agree. The news being reported that we have passed peak makes it sound like we are all “okay” now. Like you, I feel there is still danger.

  3. What specific regulations would you remove? Would you eliminate the safety testing of the vaccine? The efficacy testing? Maybe we could have vendors selling their H1N1 elixirs from medicine wagons.

    In the absence of government action, what lab would have identified the H1N1 strain? What organization would have funded the medical trials?

    The current strain of H1N1 was isolated and identified in April. By mid-September (a little over months later), multiple vaccines had been developed, tested, and approved for distribution from 4 different vendors ( http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm182399.htm ). Also, dosage requirements for different populations had been developed.

    Would you have cut out these tests? Would you have guessed at the dosage instructions? Would you have adopted the promising, faster, but incompletely vetted cell-based production technology over the egg-based production technology? Given what we now know about the small actual risks of H1N1, would rushing these steps have been prudent?

    • What specific regulations would you remove?

      I would more aggressively consider the use of adjuvants. Not only does it make the vaccine more potent but it allows more of the vaccine to be created in the first place.

      Maybe we could have vendors selling their H1N1 elixirs from medicine wagons.

      The same way that we see cough medicine, Tylenol and Motrin available from “medicine wagons?” Or, maybe you mean in the same way that I get blood pressure prescriptions from Walmart at the ridiculous price of $10 for 90 days; but only if I agree to the silly inconvenience of having it mailed to me.

      Would you have cut out these tests?

      Of course there are tests that need to be made to make sure what we are taking is safe. But are you claiming that the government processes for those are efficient?

      Check this:

      The vaccine deliveries are contingent on a number of factors including government import/export regulations, regulatory approvals, approvals for outsourced packaging and filling as well as testing required by reference laboratories.

      http://www.gsk.com/media/pressreleases/2009/2009_pressrelease_10104.htm

      In the end I guess we have to ask why we face vaccine shortages at all. I think the reason is regulation and price controls. The US Government, regulating and buying the vaccine only to then hand it out, has created a situation where the margins are too thin to operate. We have gone from 30 manufacturers to 2, maybe 5. None in the US.

      I have no problem when work is outsourced because the “materials” are cheaper in another market. But when we influence those costs by artificial means, we create a situation where the supply fades.

      When you control the price of rent, you face a housing shortage. Why would it be different for vaccines?

  4. Can you point to evidence where adjuvants have extended the usefulness of a flu vaccine from one strain to the next? Adding an adjuvant to a new vaccine takes more time as the interaction has to be studied.

    Your quote on regulations had to do with exports of the vaccine to other countries and did not affect the supply in this country (it was from a press release given in the U.K.).

    We face vaccine shortages for several reasons. First and most importantly, new vaccines have to be made each year. In the case of H1N1 (which was unexpected), a brand new vaccine had to be developed from scratch. The vaccines are only good for one season’s flu. Unlike the products that you described, the vaccine can’t be reused from one year to the next.

    Second, the egg-based production technology is slow. Once a vaccine is developed it takes several months to cultivate sufficient amounts of it. Testing also takes time. Consider that if a vaccine requires two weeks to take effect and if it takes another few weeks to determine whether an exposed person gets sick, you’ve added at least a month to assess each subject. Add time to recruit subjects, administer the vaccines, and tabulate and analyze the data, and you’re easily up to two months.

    Instead of the standard one-year process for a normal vaccine, one was put in the field in about 7 months.

    Finally, companies are responding to tremendous subsidies and a guaranteed market for their vaccines. A recent conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute concluded that more government involvement in the form of subsidies and guaranteed markets was needed, not less.

    • Can you point to evidence where adjuvants have extended the usefulness of a flu vaccine from one strain to the next?

      As far as I know, they don’t. But what they do do, is allow for more vaccines to be made.

      Your quote on regulations had to do with exports of the vaccine to other countries and did not affect the supply in this country (it was from a press release given in the U.K.).

      All of our vaccines are imported.

      We face vaccine shortages for several reasons. First and most importantly, new vaccines have to be made each year.

      I agree. However, I would say that first and foremost is that the US Government is the only real purchaser of the vaccines in America. This is why we have seen the number of companies competing in the market drop from 30 to 2.

      Unlike the products that you described, the vaccine can’t be reused from one year to the next.

      I referenced those products in response to the claim that we allow medicine wagons to sell their elixirs. The fact is that many many drugs are made everyday that are safe.

      Second, the egg-based production technology is slow.

      This is true; I acknowledge that egg based solutions take time. Though you could argue under a more competitive system, we would have moved to cell based solutions years ago.

      A recent conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute concluded that more government involvement in the form of subsidies and guaranteed markets was needed, not less.

      Is that a position YOU would support?

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