Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Let's get a couple of things straight . . .

Picking up the NYWT today, I see a piece by Gardner Harris and Seth Mydans, lead:

As worries increase about the possibility of a flue pandemic, public health officials are hoping that this year's flu season will be the first in years with an abundance of vaccines.

They go on to say that demand for vaccines has been up this year, but that there should be plenty to go around in the U.S. Then they talk about Michael Leavitt's trip to Asia to encourage international cooperation in response to the threat of a pandemic.

What they don't seem to understand -- they certainly never say so and clearly imply otherwise -- is that the flu vaccine which will be available this year will be of absolutely no use against a pandemic of the new H5N1 strain of avian flu. In today's editorial on the subject, Gail Collins and the gang don't appear to get it either. They write: "No country has enough medicines or vaccines to control a widespread outbreak of the avian influenza now circulating . . ."

No. Wrong. No country has any vaccines whatsoever to control a widespread outbreak, or for that matter a small outbreak. No vaccine against this threat exists. There is an experimental vaccine against H5N1 flu, which has not been approved for use, for which no production capability exists, and which may not be effective against any actual human transmissible strain which emerges.

I post this because it is so widely misunderstood, not only at the NYWT but among a large segment of the blogosphere and in my own hometown fishwrapper, and I'm sure in lots of other places as well. Now I'm off to write a letter to the editors, which will not be published.

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