With the great swine flu pandemic of 2009 largely forgotten by the U.S. public, health officials say they are preparing to burn 40 million doses of expired H1N1 vaccine they bought to guard the population--and another 30 million doses may soon find their way into the flames.
The 40 million doses bound for the incinerator represent about a quarter of the massive stockpile the U.S. contracted to buy from manufacturers as fears of a lethal wave of infections made headlines around the world. And if the other 30 million doses follow the path to the dumpster the U.S. will have disposed of almost half of its entire shipment, a record level of waste after tens of millions of Americans ended up shrugging off a virus that proved far more mild than was originally feared. But U.S. officials aren't apologizing for any miscalculations.
"Although there were many doses of vaccine that went unused, it was much more appropriate to have been prepared for the worst case scenario than to have had too few doses," Bill Hall, an HHS spokesman, told Local Tech Wire.
Japan and a long lineup of countries around the world have been able to cancel portions of their vaccine shipments. And officials at the WHO have been forced to defend itself against angry accusations that they colluded to whip up a frenzy over the swine flu virus to help the manufacturers sell their supplies. The pandemic did leave one positive lasting legacy: putting a spotlight on the old technology used to develop and manufacture vaccines. A host of vaccine developers have been at working proving the potential of new technologies that will be able to deliver bulk quantities of new vaccines at a much faster pace.