My wake-up talk radio was all about swine flu this morning. The New York Times says, in part:
…despite months of planning and preparation, a vaccine shortage is threatening to undermine public confidence in government…
It doesn’t surprise me at all that there’s a vaccine shortage. What I want to know is: why is there any vaccine at all? If I were an investor, I’d be looking up the companies making it and shorting them like mad.
Let us imagine the best possible case: the vaccine works as expected without side effects. Nobody who takes it gets the flu or gets sick from the vaccine itself. What’s the result?
Clearly it wasn’t a big problem in the first place! Now, let’s convene a Congressional investigation inspired by the legions of news stories complaining about the fact that the drug companies charged the Government six bucks a dose for something that cost them pennies to produce. After all, the CDC, inspired by the sheer Goodness and Compassion of the Dear Leader (who wouldn’t be in office for a year after the effort began, but that’s a picky detail), identified the strain and provided the seed stock; all the drug companies had to do was grow the stuff, which is easy, not to mention cheap. Damned profiteers grasping for every dollar…
The most probable result, of course, is that the vaccine works well but not perfectly. Some people who take the shot get the flu; some people who take the shot have side effects, perhaps serious ones. What will the political climate look like?
The damned profiteers can’t even get it right! The CDC, inspired by the sheer Goodness and Compassion of the Dear Leader (who wouldn’t be in office for a year after the effort began, but that’s a picky detail), provided everything they needed… and they screwed it up. People got sick when they shouldn’t have! People got sick from the messed-up vaccine! Let there be stories in the Press! Let there be huffs from Arianna and company, let there be fire-breathing denunciations at FireDogLake, spitting on the damned drug companies for cutting corners in making the vaccine, all to make a profit! Let there be investigations by every committee of the Congress that can claim a corner of the issue! And, of course, the ATLA will immediately grasp the opportunity presented by the sufferers of side effects. Surely twelve good cretins and true can be found in Alabama to make them hand over million$ for the unnecessary pain and suffering caused by their negligence!
Of course, the worst case is that the vaccine works badly or not at all, or has severe side effects. In that case, just take the reaction to the normal or best-expected version, above, and multiply by approximately one hundred.
Defense? Don’t make me laugh. Given the clear orientation and past behavior of the Obama Administration, you can expect them to be leading the charge to blame somebody, anybody, other than themselves — which, in this case, would mean the damned profiteering drug companies, the Republicans who allowed them their grasping greedy ways, and (of course) George W. Bush (yes, they’d find some excuse). The talk-radio host, this morning, suggested that the drug companies would do it out of patriotism and desire for the health of the American people. If they know, in advance, that even in the very best case they’re going to be insulted, and in the worst case destroyed, with no chance whatever that anyone in a position of responsibility will defend them, how strong would that motive look?
So in the very best case the drug companies can expect to be denounced and calumnified for nasty vicious profiteering, and in any situation where the results are better than perfect they can expect ordure to be heaped upon their heads, with the possibility of losing the company entirely to the trial lawyers. What sane person would take that bet? If I were a stockholder, I would already be sending indignant missives asking why the Management is assuming such a risk for no reward.