Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Avian Flu, Lawyers, and Me

I’m not going to rehash all the news (panic?) about Avian Flu and a possible pandemic. There’s plenty on that out there and more coming. But there’s an important angle that is being ignored, and there’s a (much less important) personal angle as well.

First, we are not in a good position to prepare for a flu pandemic. The U. S. just doesn’t have much ability to produce needed flu vaccines. And a big reason why is the lawyers.

Vaccines are not risk-free. After all, a vaccine does consist of the virus you are trying to protect people from. People have gotten sick and even died from vaccines. And there are other ways they are far from foolproof, especially when aiming at moving targets such as mutating flu viruses. Combine these scientific facts with a legal environment that rewards ambulance chasing trial lawyers, and the lawsuits have gotten so bad, there is at best one or two large vaccine makers left in the U. S. Our courts are simply too hostile to such a risky, if needed enterprise.

There are been modest legislative efforts to protect vaccine makers from unscrupulous trial lawyers. But those efforts have been too slow in coming.

So if we run out of flu vaccine this winter, you know one group of jackals to thank.

On a personal note, in the past few days, I’ve been wondering if a pandemic might put a crimp on my plans to travel to England for Advent. Now I see the possibility of travel restrictions is entering conversation in the news media. CNBC has been talking about Avian Flu a lot today, by the way.

I sure hope the UK keeps Avian Flu out, especially between now and Christmas. I suspect it won’t spread that far that fast, but who knows. It may only take the wrong guy taking the wrong flight.

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