Enough of the vaccine, already
Ah, the heady drama of last fall. H1N1 was a steady source of worry, creating the Worried Well and sparking a fevered drive to stock up on vaccine. In October CBS interviewed Dr. Troyen Brennan, the Chief Medical Officer of CVS, the drug store chain.
Asked if there will be enough H1N1 vaccine to go around, Brennan said, “We do believe there will be enough. The government’s been very careful in terms of the amount of H1N1 it’s ordered and that’s coming online right now.”
And so millions of Americans queued up for a Swine Flu shot, some at CVS, along with a seasonal flu shot. Boy, was there ever enough of the H1N1 vaccine. Too much for Europe, where some claim that Swine Flu was a fake epidemic. From NPR, “Governments all across Europe are canceling orders of swine flu vaccine as frantically as they were clamoring for it a few month ago.” Alas, we’re more determined to be protected in the US.
The government is thinking about how much more swine flu vaccine to order up and pay for. But Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall says any decision to scale back vaccine orders is “weeks away.” Let’s take stock. Last spring the US government signed contracts for $1.5 billion worth of vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus–251 million doses. So far, 55 percent of that amount has been shipped, and something like 60 million Americans have been vaccinated. That leaves 45 percent of the contracted-for vaccine yet to be delivered. That’s 115 million doses, worth about $675 million.
Okay, it’s under a billion dollars, so it won’t even show up in the US budget.
But the cost of stress-induced concern about health, missed work time to vaccinate, isolation of the populace that didn’t want to risk being in this epidemic: much greater. There’s a payoff for coverage as breathless and shallow as the CBS Early Show stuff, thank goodness. We’re being innoculated from the sudden panic of virus outbreaks.What we’re left with is some education about how to contain the spread of infectious disease. Turns out these remedies are not offered by the likes of the big pharmas, like PharmAlliance in Viral Times. Makers of soap products, tissues, vitamins, toothbrushes and the like kept us more protected. The media made us aware. And it would have been somebody’s career on the line if somehow a country ran out of vaccine to combat a more powerful flu.
We’ll be at this point of biological terror again, over and over. Vaccines are wonderful tools, but weak against a virus. There’s some talk of storing any extra vaccine that didn’t make its way into vials for next year. But that’s another flu season and a different viral strain. It would be better to store up the collected practices to boost your natural immunity: exercise, diet, sleep, supplements, meditation, santitation. You can’t really get a shot to create immunity as powerful as your body makes.