The Bush administration loves it defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies. Despite years of warnings, it did nothing to expand the production of vaccine beyond the two companies to which it grants a virtual monopoly on flu vaccine production. As the New York Times points out, Britain—a much smaller country—has five vaccine producers. It is the Bush Administration’s preference for big pharma that exacerbated this problem, bringing it to a head this year with the flu vaccine shortage.
During the debates, President Bush blamed “a British company,” but in actuality Chiron Corp. is not based in Great Britain, it is based in Emeryville, Calif. In fact, it was action by the British regulatory agency, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, that forced the shutdown of the Chiron production facility in Liverpool.
Bush has had four years to solve these problems. Since the flu vaccine is exactly the kind of resource that will be needed in the event of a bioattack, which is one of the Bushies’ great bogeys in the War on Terror, this is a patent failure of its homeland security strategy, as well. There should be an open and broad-based production process for such medicines and, based on companies’ ability to deliver safe product, the federal funds for these medicines should be paid to many more firms than today in order to create the redundancy needed in a complex system like healthcare.