He opens with:
After months of hyping up the flu scare across the UK, the mad rush of citizens seeking to buy the vaccine has caused a severe shortage. UK hospitals and clinics have run out of the vaccine, and now a prominent doctor from the Royal College of GPs has publicly urged UK authorities to outlaw the purchasing of vaccines by ‘healthy people’ because they don’t really need the vaccine anyway.
Yep. Seriously. As reported by The Telegraph, ‘Dr Gerada said that allowing those who could afford it to buy the jab had upset the ‘delicate balance’ of availability and contributed to shortages, leading to general concern about who should and should not have the vaccine.’
So let me get this straight. As long as the vaccine supply was widely available (lots of shots to sell!), the big flu scare was being used to get everybody to buy as many vaccines as possible: Healthy people, pregnant women,
children, senior citizens, you name it. But now, as supplies have run out precisely because of the scare mongering pushed by the vaccine industry, they admit that healthy people really don’t need the vaccine anyway!
There is so much misunderstanding of UK health care in these three paragraphs that it is difficult to know where to start.
One obvious point is his claim that the ‘flu scare’ is being used to get people to “buy as many vaccines as possible”. Patients do not buy from the NHS, so doctors urging at-risk groups to have the vaccination is not about making money. Note “at-risk groups” by the way, doctors were never urging everybody to have the vaccine and nor were the pharmaceutical companies (in the UK at least – I don’t know what the situation is in the US). In some ways I find this difficult to understand: if everybody is vaccinated, herd immunity would help prevent epidemics spreading. If an immunologist is reading this, please enlighten me.
The reason for the current shortage are a little more complex than Adams suggests. When swine flu broke out last year it at first seemed to have a high fatality rate so when it spread world wide many countries (not just Britain) bought in stocks of vaccine for at-risk groups.
At this point the antivaxxers began claiming the vaccine was untested, unsafe and caused all kinds of side effects. These claims were repeated uncritically in newspaspers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express. The result of this scare-mongering was that many who were eligible for vaccination declined to have it, resulting in lots of wasted vaccine. Naturally, the right-wing press slated the NHS for wasting tax-payers money.
When the NHS stocked up with seasonal vaccine this year they had to estimate the likely take up so as to avoid more wastage. Unfortunately there were deaths from swine flu of patients not in the normal at-risk groups. The press began demanding to know why people were not being vaccinated and generally implying we were all about to drop dead if we were not vaccinated right now. The result was predictable – people began showing up at their GPs demanding to be vaccinated. Those not in the at-risk groups were told they were not eligible so, spurred on by tabloid scare stories, they bought vaccinations privately.
The pharmaceutical companies had only manufactured enough to fill the NHS orders – people in the UK do not routinely purchase private vaccinations and, despite Adams’ claims, Big Pharma was not urging them to do so. And they are not going to manufacture vaccine shots they do not think they will be able to sell. The result of some of the limited supply of vaccione being sold privately was that there was now not enough for the at-risk groups. Hence the current situation.
I cannot help wondering whether this chopping and changing of the views of right-wing mouth-pieces has a sinister motive; last year, due to tabloid scare-mongering not all the vaccine was used and thus tax-payers’ money was wasted. This year the NHS tried to purchase according to likely demand, so the same tabloids now whip up a fear of flu and a demand for vaccination, resulting in a shortage. How long before they start suggesting that the vaccination program be taken out of the public sector? The current UK Government despises the NHS, regarding it as a bit of left-over socialism but the problem they have is that people want it. If however, it is made to seem incapable of delivering, then people may be made a bit more amenable to privatising bits of it.
Vaccine provision will be privatised. You read it here first.