House committees probe pandemic vaccine decisions

November 18, 2009
by Lisa Schnirring
CIDRAP News, University of Minnesota

Good marks from TFAH
The government's handling of the pandemic vaccine got relatively high marks during today's hearing from Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America's Health, a health advocacy nonprofit group based in Washington, DC. He said vaccine developments moved forward with remarkable speed and the vaccine is a good match with the circulating strain.

"Whatever our concerns with production capacity are today, had the federal government not made the multi-billion-dollar investment in enhanced vaccine production capacity since 2005, we would be in far worse shape," he said. "We are depending on an inherently unpredictable technology and we are, unfortunately, still a few years away from US approval of newer, more reliable technology."

The federal government has been transparent about the vaccine and has made appropriate adjustments when supply issues have come up, Levi said. "While I cannot speak to when senior administration officials should have known about serious supply problems, when they did become aware of them, they adjusted policy and messaging appropriately," Levi said.

Though some of their responses have led to confusion and frustration, "it has reflected an honest attempt to reflect the current state of knowledge," he said.

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