People who regularly get the seasonal flu shot each year are, in some areas of the country, being put on waiting list for the seasonal flu vaccine. This can be blamed in large part on the H1N1, or swine flu pandemic. This is because vaccine manufacturers have reportedly shift some of their production capacity, normally reserved for production of the seasonal flu vaccine, to making doses of the H1N1 vaccine.
In addition, many people who are eligible for the H1N1 vaccine, may also be eligible for the seasonal flu vaccine, thus driving up demand. I wrote an article for Associated Content on the CDC recommendations for dispersal of the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines at, www.associatedcontent.com/article/2058733/should_you_get_the_h1n1_flu_vaccine.html, which illustrates how many people, such as pregnant women, may be eligible for both vaccines based on the CDC’s recommendations.
In any given year, pregnant women, although recommended to get the annual seasonal flu vaccine, may not take advantage of this vaccination. However, due to the publicity swirling around the H1N1 flu epidemic, and the fact that this flu epidemic is more deadly in pregnant women, many pregnant women will be asking their doctor for the H1N1 flu vaccine. And most likely they will also be offered and given the seasonal flu vaccine which can be safely administered to pregnant women.
All of these factors and more have combined to create a perfect storm whereby there may be a shortage of seasonal flu vaccinations this year, at least in the following weeks before the seasonal flu season. There is some controversy as private pharmacies, such as Walgreens, have bought up huge quantities of the seasonal flu vaccine in anticipation of increased demand this year.
The real root of the problem, at least how I see the situation, is that private companies sell flu vaccines, be it for the seasonal flu or for rarer forms of flu such as the H1N1 flu, for profit. This means, first of all, that most likely rich countries, such as the United States, will always be outbidding for flu vaccines supplies, and will likely receive them much sooner than developing countries.
I recently wrote a critique of an article in the New England Journal at, www.associatedcontent.com/article/2078467/why_isnt_there_enough_swine_flu_vaccine.html, in which it is argued by the World Health Organization’s Director, Margaret Chan, that private pharmaceutical companies should deliver their flu vaccines to people most in need, many of which may be in the developing world. Indeed, since pregnant women are so vulnerable to the H1N1 flu epidemic, then pharmaceutical companies should have pregnant women on the top of their list, and should be sending huge quantities of H1N1 vaccine to developing countries.
As far as I know, this is not occurring, while pharmaceutical companies are great at selling their products to the highest bidder, I doubt that private industry would do more than make a token effort with regards to supplying the developing world with flu vaccines. Ironically, in times of panic such as during the H1N1 flu, or even during a worst flu pandemic, this is the time when politicians and health care leaders might be the least likely to promote providing the developing world with flu vaccines: when there are millions of scared mothers and fathers in the United States that want to vaccinate their children against the H1N1 flu.
Even when mobilized, the private industry response to the dual seasonal and H1N1 flu epidemic this years has been slow to adapt to the need for vaccination, if the lack of and maldistribution of seasonal flu vaccine is any evidence.
So what could the world do to truly prepare for a flu pandemic much worse than th current H1N1 flu pandemic? I think that the best solution would be for world governments to create an internationally funded world flu response center, which also would handle production of seasonal flu and other flu vaccines. While pharmaceutical companies make large profits from erectile dysfunction medications, within the industry flu vaccines, and other types of vaccines, are not see as profitable.
However, because the public health depends on flu vaccines, especially during dangerous flu pandemics, their production should be overseen by an NGO dedicated to providing flu vaccines to people based on their risk. Private pharmaceutical companies could try to compete with such an international effort, but I doubt they would be able to make it profitable.
Likely many lessons will be learned from this year’s dual flu pandemics, and hopefully government will take a larger role in flu vaccine production at some point.
Flu vaccines get scarcer in Chicago-area doctors’ offices.