Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Wacky World of Vaccine Production

This is from an AP wire story by Theresa Agovino, published way back in December of 2003:

It's no comfort to people scrambling to find a flu vaccine to learn that last year Aventis Pasteur ended up discarding 5 million extra doses of the 43 million it produced. This year, the drugmaker again produced 43 million doses - 35 percent more than were ordered - and yet it still sold out.

It isn't supposed to be this way. The flu vaccine business is supposed to be predictable: Customers place orders so manufacturers know how much to produce and they don't lose money throwing away unwanted product.

But it seldom is that easy. Over the past few years there have been shortages of several vaccines, either caused as in this case by a severe flu season or in other instances by a manufacturer ending production.

Every time there is a vaccine shortage, doctors lament how public health is dependent on for-profit companies. That reliance is considered especially problematic for vaccines, since drugs help individuals but vaccines protect the public.


Public health officials worry about what would happen if a company making one of those vaccines decides to quit the business or experiences production mishaps.


"We don't believe we need to create more competition in the vaccine industry. It would just create redundancies in the market," said Chris Grant, vice president for public policy and government affairs at Aventis Pasteur.

Redundancies? God forbid!

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