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Feather brained over avian flu

CommunityBlogsBryan Hubbard2007AugustFeather brained over avian flu

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Bryan Hubbard is Publisher and co-editor of WDDTY. He is a former Financial Times journalist. He is a Philosophy graduate of London University. Bryan is also the author of several books, including The Untrue Story of You and Secrets of the Drugs Industry.

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Feather brained over avian flu

August 22nd 2007, 10:46
8,102 views

Governments are good at wasting our money. After all, that's their job.

But the enormous amount of money that is being spent on avian flu vaccines for key public workers has to be up there as one of the most wasteful around.

The UK government last week committed a further lb155m of public money on a new vaccine that doesn't yet exist.

Absurd as that may sound, it is in fact a step in the right direction as nobody knows what the profile of the strain is until it begins to be transmitted between humans, if it ever happens at all.

So GlaxoSmithKline, the happy recipients of the government's beneficence, will be preparing an appropriate vaccine the moment it knows what the human form of the avian 'bird' flu virus looks like.

Not that the UK government has been that smart, really. It has already wasted millions of pounds buying in 14.6 million doses of Tamiflu, which even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the States has said is useless.

Although everyone agrees it is useless, the US government has spent $2 billion buying in 20 million doses of Tamiflu, followed by the Canadian government, whose own health spokesman reiterated the concerns about the vaccine.

All of this activity presupposes that the avian flu epidemic will actually happen. In 2005 we were warned that millions of us were about to die from 'bird' flu, more properly known as influenza A (H5N1) virus.

Since then, we have barely heard a dickey-bird (pun intended).

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