No vaccine today, comrade

The present shortage of flu vaccine reminds us of stories from the old Soviet Union. The government mandated how much bread would be needed, ordered the proper supply and set up a distribution system.

As a result, there was often not enough bread. Rumors would spread throughout Moscow about where bread was available. Hundreds of people would swarm to a government bakery to wait in line. Maybe some people would get some bread but many others would have to go find another line to stand in. At the end of the day, lots of people went home with no bread. On the positive side, those who did get some bread had to pay hardly anything for it.

Last weekend in Snohomish County, government officials announced swine flu vaccine would be available at several locations. Literally thousands of people drove to Stanwood and other sites, causing massive traffic jams. The vaccine was gone before most people could even find the clinic.

People want both the swine flu vaccine and the regular, seasonal flu vaccine. In Island County on Monday, the local flu vaccine hotline (678-5111 et. 6011) reported that “we have exhausted our supply” of seasonal flu vaccine. The recording was less clear about swine flu vaccine, where the government officials were “working with private health care providers,” whom you were supposed to call to see if they had any.

Predictably, there were strict rules on who could receive a swine flu vaccination. Everyone age 6 months to 24 years was in luck, assuming they could find a supplier. The good news is that since the government purchased the vaccine, it’s very inexpensive.

There are plenty of drug manufacturers in the world. They all saw the flu scare coming months ago and they should have been competing for the business. That’s why the U.S. has always had plenty of bread.

There’s only one reason we don’t have enough flu vaccine, and that reason is the government. Perhaps we’ll have some vaccine tomorrow, comrade.

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