Gargantuan Global Vaccine Surplus Looms
In the wake of the H1N1 pandemic panic, Swissinfo, an enterprise of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, reported last week that a long list of Western European countries are attempting to return, resell, donate, or otherwise offload hundreds of millions of surplus doses of the swine flu vaccine. In one of the more extreme examples, France is attempting to negotiate with its pharmaceutical suppliers to cancel 50 million of the 94 million doses it had ordered. Oops. Switzerland also finds itself with millions of extra doses, after only 15-30% of their population chose to vaccinate, according to Swiss health authorities. Read the full story here. The problem is not limited to Europe - a quick Google search for "surplus H1N1 vaccine" reveals that North America is also facing the prospect of a serious oversupply. Assumedly, many other countries can expect a similar outcome.
This gargantuan global surplus raises many concerns, and even more will be raised if the vaccine manufacturers refuse to accept returns. According to the Swiss article, "Council of Europe member states are considering whether to launch an inquiry into pharmaceutical companies' influence on the global swine flu campaign". German doctor Wolfgang Wodarg, chairman of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (Pace) Health Committee, alleges that the World Health Organization's "false pandemic" flu campaign was "one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century". Personally, I would like to see any inquiry expanded to examine the role of the media in the pandemic - surely they too should be culpable for their role in creating a climate of public panic.
One lesson that should be taken from all this is that our grandmothers were probably right - an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Your chances of avoiding any illness can be greatly reduced by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise and avoiding environmental toxins. To learn more about personal and social responses to common public health threats, check out Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic and Diabetes: Sugar-Coated Crisis: Who Gets it, Who Profits, and How to Stop it.