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Who is responsible for the H1N1 vaccine debacle?

This is a somewhat complicated question, and I’m posing it because I don’t know the answer.

A cursory reading of the various press outlets across the country paint the villain as the respective provincial governments, which is in my opinion absurd. The vaccination shortage is being reported country-wide (indeed worldwide), which indicates that this isn’t an issue of provincial health authorities ordering too few doses of the vaccine. Indeed, in Nova Scotia the provincial health authority requested 1.4 million doses of the vaccine (our population is ~900,000). Really, the provincial governments are guilty of poor communications handling, but they aren’t responsible for the vaccine shortfalls. If any governmental body is responsible, it is the federal government, which ordered up 50.4 million doses of the vaccine from supplier GlaxoSmithKline in August. Which begs the question: whose fault is it? Presumably GSK has failed to deliver on their $400M contract to deliver the requested number of doses of the vaccine. Was 50.4 million doses impossible for one company to produce in three short months? I hope not. Hopefully a company as large as GSK has the collective brains to calculate their own production rates and would sub-contract to other suppliers if their production capacity fell short. Wouldn’t they? Did the contract include specific timelines, and did GSK meet any specified goals? Was there a federal team from Health Canada supervising the production to make sure that the order was completed in a timely manner? These specific questions need to be asked and answered to get a clear idea of exactly who dropped the flu ball. Probably other questions, too, but smarter people than me can come up with those.

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4 thoughts on “Who is responsible for the H1N1 vaccine debacle?

  1. Don’t leave out the municipalities. They’ve badly mishandled the rollout of the vaccine, even down to things as basic as making sure the clinics open on time.

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  2. Certainly there are administrative and logistical problems with handling the massive lineups these clinics have produced, but unlike ADHR I’d give the municipality a pass on blame as there has never been a situation like this in my memory.

    Given the details as laid out by Briguy, it’s hard to blame anyone but the company for not being able to meet it’s production commitments, reasonable or not. However, there is a curiosity in the dates – the Canadian government only okayed the vaccine for use on October 21. Even if the government ordered the medication in August, would the company be expected to go ahead with production in the intervening months in the expectation that it would pass trials and evaluation? If not, the production schedule looks more like one week rather than three months. Could this be part of the problem?

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