The San Francisco Chronicleran an editorial yesterday by three leading global health experts, calling for the US and other wealthy countries to immediately donate ten percent of their H1N1 vaccine stocks. This isn’t as radical as it sounds – the sticking point is the time frame, not the quantity. The US has already committed to donating ten percent of its swine flu vaccines to low income countries. However, the plan is to wait until it’s fully distributed in the US before donating overseas.
Ruth Karron, Orin Levine, and Ruth Faden argue that poor countries can’t wait for delayed vaccine donations. People in developing countries are already at greater risk for H1N1 complications. Their health care systems are less capable to respond to problems, and complicating factors like malnutrition and environmental contaminants are more common. It’s a mistake, they say, to delay swine flu vaccines when people need them so badly.
I think they’re right. We’ve already seen swine flu ripping through Afghanistan as the country waits for vaccines, and we know Afghanistan is not alone. The US should do everything it can to minimize the impact of H1N1 around the world, and that starts with giving away the vaccines we clearly won’t use – as soon as we can.