610,000 unused flu shots now expired

This isn’t good: CNN.com – 610,000 unused flu shots now expired.

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of flu shots ordered from Europe last year amid fears of a nationwide shortage now have expired and may go to waste, potentially costing taxpayers millions of dollars, officials said Wednesday.

Illinois never even received the vaccine because the Food and Drug Administration would not approve its importation. Nor has it paid for the shots, though a British wholesaler has demanded its contract with the state be fulfilled.

New Mexico and Cleveland — which have also balked at paying — were part of the deal as well, along with New York City.

The overseers of international health keeps telling us there’s a pandemic of either plain-old flu, or avian flu, or SARS just around the corner, and they’re doing a lot of planning.  However, this shows that when there was a shortage of vaccine for a known, seasonal disease the FDA not only couldn’t fix the problem, it wouldn’t let the states do so, either.

I’m hopeful things would be different if there were a true pandemic, but this gives me pause.


  1. Goat Whacker says:

    Many flu vaccines went unused in my state as well. At one point last fall there was tremendous public interest in getting the flu vaccine. Unfortunately there was so much dawdling trying to figure out where the available vaccines were, who should get them, and how to distribute them that by the time vaccine was available interest had waned and it was relatively late in the season. Despite the obvious lack of interest, our state was still recommending the vaccine be given to very high risk patients only. This led to large numbers of vaccine going to watse.

  2. How “expired” is expired, anyway? Utterly unusable?

  3. Wow. That’s so utterly wasteful. But I think it’s hadr to avoid. I’ve worked for a medschool med mission center that has a whole room full of expired medicine. It’s nobody’s fault, since everyone’s so busy that they only notice that the meds have expired when months have already passed, but it’s still sad to think that they could have been used on people who don’t have the financial capability to pay for their own treatment.

  4. Some expensive or hard to get (think smallpox) vaccines get their expirations ‘extended’, but usually they have to prove they’re still effective.

    Since we’re out of the flu season, and are planning for the next, there’s not a really great reason to do that amount of work to show they’re still ok. Next years’ flu strain will no doubt be different, so these won’t be usable, anyway.

    Still doesn’t reflect well on the public health establishments involved.