Where are all the swine flu vaccines promised?
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has a consoling message for everyone who has tried unsuccessfully to get the H1N1 vaccine: Don’t worry – more vaccine is on the way.
That message might be more reassuring if the American people hadn’t already heard it.
Public and government awareness of the swine flu pandemic is more than six months old.
In July, federal health officials predicted that 160 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine would be available by the end of October. They were only off by about 130 million. In fact, approximately 30 million doses have been made available to the states thus far.
In an op-ed published in the Nashville Tennessean last week, Sebelius wrote, “Without question, we need significant improvements in vaccine production.”
That would be an understatement.
Both Congress and the Obama administration should be examining why production of the vaccine for a viral threat that was well known and that has caused nearly 4,000 deaths in the United States since April has been so distressingly sluggish.
The shortage has put state health departments in the position of rationing scarce vaccines. Texas, with a population of more than 24 million, has received only 3 million doses.
The process of determining how H1N1 vaccines are being allocated should be transparent.
Unfortunately, it isn’t.
As the Express-News reported, Bexar County received fewer vaccines per capita in the initial state allotment than Dallas, Harris, Tarrant or Travis counties.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says the allocation is based on the population of “priority vaccination groups, vaccine formulation, national supply, geography and other factors.”
Yet it also refused to release records indicating which medical providers in the state had requested and received the H1N1 vaccine.
Last week, the department belatedly responded to an open records request from The Dallas Morning News and released the information. It shouldn’t have required that.
When it comes to public health, information about where vaccines are going – and why – should be a matter of public record.
– San Antonio Express News