Swine Flu Line: Too Short?

By Ralph Hipp

I listened to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Tuesday morning on the Kansas City NPR station (KCUR and their excellent 11am talk show with Steve Kraske, "Up to Date.")  It was good hearing that Judge Gary is still here in Topeka, along with their son who's attending KU.. she still keeps up with the local politics.  Mr. Sebelius Goes to Washington about twice a month (yes, that could be a movie title..) and they catch up on the DC political scene when they get together.

Kraske asked her about this year's H1N1 pandemic, which Sebelius said was a genuine worldwide threat.  She told him the World Health Organization was right in sounding the alarms about the global effects of H1N1.  But two questions were bypassed.. how did this virus fizzle out so quickly after killing 14,000 people around the world?  And couldn't we all have been given the chance to take the doses in the arms or in the noses, especially in light of this week's news that 70 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine will be destroyed.. incinerated in the next two months?

In covering the Topeka H1N1 vaccinations last spring, I was curious about health experts insistence that they HAD to inoculate all the people in the high risk groups, and the rest of us were told "you can't have it right now."  Aside from some Kansans who worry about any unknown side effects this quickly produced vaccine, should we have been denied the vaccine when HHS is now destroying 40 million doses of the stuff now, and the other 30 million after they expire later this summer? 

The health experts wound up being a little too cautious about running out of the stuff, when production was roared and ramped up.  Now there are all these dosages we can't use.  The grand total of the expired vaccines is about $260 million.  And the USA and the HHS don't have that kind of money to burn right now.. literally. 

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