Critics Say Swine Flu Spending Is A Waste

Critics are saying that big spending on Tamiflu vaccines and face masks to combat the swine flu pandemic is an imbalanced fight.

Critics opposed to the spending strategy say that it is imbalanced and is only protecting the rich countries against H1N1, not the poor nations.

Others say that billions of dollars are being spent on a disease that is no more lethal than the seasonal flu. 

“It’s another example of the gap between the north and south,” said Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“In the (wealthy countries of the) north, vaccines are being stockpiled, antiviral drugs are being stockpiled, all with the risk that these things will not be effective,” he said in an interview with AFP.

“In the (poor countries of the) south, there are neither diagnostics nor treatment.”

According to the AFP, pharmaceutical giants are saving vaccines and antiviral drugs for poor countries under a United Nations strategy through gifts and donations.

However, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan say that they are worried of a shortfall.

They say that billions are being drawn up to help poor countries have a better defense against the virus.

“Manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccines is finite and woefully inadequate for a world of 6.8 billion people, nearly all of whom are susceptible to infection by this entirely new and highly contagious virus,” Chan said on July 14.

Others question whether spending on the swine flu is morally right.

About 11,500 people are killed everyday from AIDS, malaria and TB.  Swine flu has taken about 816 lives since April, according to a WHO tally.

Marc Gentilini, a professor of infectious disease and former head of the French Red Cross, says that the swine flu is a “pandemic of indecency,” adding that rich-world politicians opened the financial gates under scrutiny of critics saying not enough was being done.

He said that France spent $1.4 billion to buy enough vaccinations for its 60 million population.

According to the AFP, the vaccine is currently undergoing testing for safety and effectiveness, and it will be available in the upcoming months.

It is still not known whether the vaccine will provide a shield if the virus mutates into a more deadly form.

“A billion euros for a vaccine with so many unknowns, it’s pure haste,” said Gentilini. “This is money that can be better used elsewhere. It’s ethically unacceptable.”

People for the big spending on the vaccine bring up the pandemics in the 20th century, which was during a time that the “Spanish flu” took millions of lives between 1918-1919.

New York microbiologists Taia Wang and Peter Palese wrote to the journal Cell a day after the WHO declared the swine flu pandemic.  They said there needs to be a sense of proportion.

They said that there were little signs that the circulating virus will cause a pandemic on the scale of the past.  They added that vaccines, antivirals and antibiotics are all weapons that doctors did not have in 1918.

“Around 80,000 children die from malaria and more than twice that number of diarrhoeal diseases worldwide in any four-week period,” they said.

“On a scale of global health crises, the current H1N1 swine influenza outbreak would seem to rank low on the list. Why, then, has this outbreak caused such alarm?”

On the Net: