Vaccines, Money Down the Drain

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The CDC says that it is too early to confirm the Washington Post s reported estimates that 71.5 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine may be discarded. Some of the doses will expire as soon as June.

Well, you heard it here first, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. An underlying story about vaccines that we ve talked about for years is that millions of doses end up being discarded. It is a disincentive for pharmaceutical companies to make the vaccines in the first place, but in this case, all of these doses that will be thrown away were purchased with U.S. tax dollars.

The American public is fickle about influenza vaccines. They want and expect them to be available, but they are not always motivated to roll up their sleeves and get the shot. I recall when, a few years ago, there was a serious shortage of seasonal flu vaccine because of a problem with contamination at a manufacturing plant. People panicked about the possibility that they might not be able to get their yearly shot, but even that year, we had to discard unused doses of vaccine.