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Vaccine Shortage A Disturbing Trend

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NEW YORK, Dec 08, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- The Wall Street Journal Monday called the nearly instant shortage of flu vaccine caused by a bad influenza season a sign of a deeper, more chronic problem.

The Journal described the shortage as the malfunctioning of the small but vital marketplace for preventive vaccines in America.

The influenza-vaccine shortage, reported Friday by the only two suppliers of flu shots, is the eighth major shortage of preventive vaccines in the United States since the beginning of 2000.

Vaccine shortages "aren't a one-time act of nature," said Frank Sloan, an economist at Duke University, who served as chairman of an Institute of Medicine study that explored vaccine issues in a report issued last August.

The report by the institute, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, noted there has been a steady erosion in the number of vaccine producers over the past three decades. In the 1970s, there were 25 vaccine makers; today -- because of slim profit margins and legislative and liability issues -- there are just five.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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