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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Being Sick

Posted Monday, December 28, 2009, at 7:03 AM

Among the holiday traditions, which abound during this time of year, sickness seems to be one of them.

Whether you believe your mother when she tells you that you did not dress properly for the weather, or you believe the doctor who said that you spent more time indoors with germ carrying people, wintertime brings sickness.

At the moment, I'm sick. Sick enough that my vision is blurry and I am finding new meaning in my Pink Floyd albums.

The good news is that the Swine Flu was more of a worry than a reality this year. The season flu has also stayed below the radar screen. Most of what is out there are just cases of the seasonal crud. As I slave over a hot keyboard, feeling slightly more horizontal than vertical, I can't tell you how much better that makes me feel.

For the past few years, the world was on the verge of coming to an end. Avian Flue, aka the bird flu, was going to start spreading from man to man and the population of the Earth would be decimated or worse. Last year's eruption of the Mexican Flu, aka Swine Flu, aka H1N1 flu, was going to wipe us out; children and pregnant women first! News broadcasts and educational TV were examining the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed more soldiers than combat in the trenches of France in the same year. The idea was to compare the flu pandemic of 1918 to the Apocalypse on the horizon. We were about to experience the opening sequence to Steven King's "The Stand."

Have you noticed in the last several years how difficult it has been to get flu vaccine to the public? Have you noticed that inevitably not enough is produced and that it has to be rationed? Why would that be?

About a dozen or so years ago, in an effort to help make sure everyone could get a flu shot, our friendly feds passed regulations requiring manufactures to sell flu vaccines basically at no cost. Not only did the feds take away the profit motive for making flu vaccines, manufacturers are still subject to product liability suits whenever someone believes that they have been injured by a vaccine. Therefore, more flu vaccine is imported from places like France where there is legal protection. Even if a domestic vaccine manufacturer wanted to make flu vaccine as a public good, it would be a financial disaster without profits to offset litigation costs.

Federal regulations and the law of unintended consequences. Who knew?

Imagine a world where once a drug or medical device was approved by the FDA there was immunity from litigation. Imagine a world where vaccine producers can sell their product for a profit. In such a world, how much flu vaccine would be available? If there were multiple producers, imagine the competition and the pressure to reduce price to increase market share.

I think my fever is starting to spike and I am getting delirious. Time to head for bed.

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