Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rationing flu vaccine: WSJ considers the ethics

Good discussion in a FREE online article over at the Wall Street Journal: "If We Must RationVaccines for a Flu,Who Calls the Shots?," by Sharon Begley. Here's the teaser:

You have 100 doses of a vaccine against a deadly strain of influenza that is sweeping the country, with no prospect of obtaining more. Standing in line are 100 schoolchildren and 100 elderly people.

The elderly are more likely to die if they catch the flu. But they also have fewer years left to live and don't get out enough to easily spread or catch the disease. The kids are more likely to act like little Typhoid Marys, sneezing virus over anyone they encounter, and have almost their whole life ahead of them. But they're also less likely to die if they get sick.

Whom do you vaccinate?

This dilemma is haunting experts concerned that avian influenza might start spreading from person to person instead of (as far as we know) mainly from birds to people. But it also applies to regular old flu, which always has the potential to reach pandemic proportions. In response, studies now are shedding light on the ethical issues and the most effective strategy for reducing illness and death if vaccine must be rationed. Sadly, they make a pretty good case that current U.S. policies leave a lot to be desired.

posted by Tom Mayo, 8:20 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter