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The Vaccine Crisis
Webber has crafted an excellent overview of America's troubling vaccine shortage, and its implications for our ability to counter potential bioterror attacks and natural pandemics.
To the dismay of public health officials, vaccine shortages have become routine in the United States. Most vaccines now come from only one producer, and that leaves no margin of error when things go wrong in the production process&3151;and they sometimes do. Between 1998 and 2004, nine of the 12 vaccines routinely given to children were in short supply at one time or another. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported shortages of vaccines for chickenpox, diphtheria, flu, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella (German measles), pneumococcus, and tetanus.
Exposure to crushing product liability lawsuits, high-development and testing costs, and government price controls have all played a part in driving vaccine manufacturing out of the U.S. A number of policymakers—including Republican Senator Bill Frist and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman—have proposed potential solutions, including protection from lawsuits, government tax credits, or even patent extensions. To date, however, consensus on a broad program of reforms has eluded lawmakers.
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