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US media needled over flu vaccine shortage

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 28 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1050
  1. Daniel Engber, freelance journalist (
  1. Washington DC, United States

    An outbreak of feverish media coverage has been unleashed upon the United States. “We're facing the prospect of a major epidemic,” says Dr Arthur Kellermann, of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who has been interviewed about the shortage of flu vaccine for no fewer than 14 television and print stories over the past few weeks.

    Fifty million doses of flu vaccine, or around half of America's expected supply, were condemned on 5 October when British regulators found bacterial contamination at the Liverpool factory where they had been produced. Newspaper articles were quick to deliver the relevant statistics: only 60 million doses would be available in the United States, for the 90 million Americans deemed to be at “high risk” from the influenza virus.

    “Scene by disheartening scene, the spectacle of a severe shortage of flu vaccine is unfolding around the country,” wrote Denise Grady in the New York Times. Two days later, the ubiquitous Dr Kellermann appeared on a PBS broadcast to point out that “without swift action, the vaccine shortage could cripple our healthcare system.”

    Although the …

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