Government Fails on Vaccines

Published October 27, 2004

Dear Editor:

Your essay on the vaccine shortage (“The tiresome second best,” 11/01/04) dances around the fact there is no private vaccine marketplace. It has been regulated out of existence. To better understand why, just look over your shoulder to 1994.

A Democratic administration and Congress passed the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program 10 years ago. Despite the measure’s name, it covered adult vaccines as well.

The VFC included price controls, bulk government purchase of medicines, and drug importation–not to mention an over-abundance of lawsuits.

In 2002, the Institute of Medicine sent Congress a report asserting the vaccine industry needed to get out from under heavy-handed price controls and needed protection from frivolous lawsuits in order to encourage more investment by the private companies we rely upon to make expensive and much-needed vaccines.

While President Bush lifted the price controls, Senators Edwards and Kerry opposed any liability protection for vaccine manufacturers.

There is no free market for vaccines. It’s the government market that fails and comes in second best, at best.

Conrad Meier
Columbia, Missouri

Conrad Meier is a senior fellow in health care policy at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.