NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hillary's Vaccine Shortage

August 18, 2003

Everyone knows America's vaccine industry is in serious trouble, with an ever dwindling number of producers and recent severe vaccine shortages. What everyone also should know is that the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine has now pinned much of the blame on the government vaccine-buying program promoted by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The panel of doctors and economists issuing a report on vaccines last week identified as a fundamental cause of the problem the fact that the government purchases 55 percent of the childhood vaccine market at forced discount prices. The result has been "declining financial incentives to develop and produce vaccines."

The root of this government role goes back to August 1993, when Congress passed Clinton's Vaccines for Children program. The plan, promoted by the Children's Defense Fund, was to use federal power to ensure universal immunization. So the government agreed to purchase a third of the national vaccine supply (the President and Mrs. Clinton had pushed for 100 percent) at a forced discount of half price, then distribute it to doctors to deliver to the poor and the un- and under-insured. As a result:

  • Where 30 years ago, 25 companies produced vaccines for the U.S. market., today only five remain, and there is only one producer for a number of critical shots.
  • Recent years have brought shortages of numerous vaccines, including those for whooping cough, diphtheria and chicken pox.

The Institute panel in effect said that one of Senator Clinton's pet projects is a bust. As Congress considers Medicare legislation that could do similar harm to prescription drug makers, the vaccine tale is a timely alarm, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Hillary's Vaccine Shortage," Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2003; based on Committee on the Evaluation of Vaccine Purchase Financing in the United States, "Financing Vaccines in the 21st Century: Assuring Access and Availability," Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, August 4, 2003.

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