Lawsuits cause hurricanes & the flu vaccine shortage

This Meet the Press interview with Ken Mehlman and Bob Shrum is a joy to read. Shrum asked Mehlman several times how Bush plans to pay for his Social Security ideas and each time Mehlman ducked with the usual lame attack Kerry by all those votes for tax increases. But the real fun started when Tim Russert wanted to talk abot the flu vaccine shortage. Here was the exchange:

Mehlman: The reason that we have the situation we have today is very simple. There are two manufacturers in the world that provide this flu vaccine. Congress tried to act on it in 2003 with legislation called The Health Act that, among other things, reduced liability for flu vaccine manufacturers. Why is that so important? Because there’s a very small profit if you’re making flu vaccines and liability is a real issue. What did John Kerry do? Well, he missed the vote and came out against it. There’s another example where John Kerry, as he’s done on so many issues, has taken the sides of wealthy trial lawyers, personal injury trial lawyers, as opposed to taking the sides of doctors and patients and public health …

Shrum: Well, first of all, they think lawsuits cause hurricanes. It’s their answer to everything that’s a problem in America today.

Alas, Mehlman did not take a chance to read this discussion from Kevin Drum.

And Mehlman’s claim that only two manufacturers in the world produce flu vaccine was rebutted by Chef Ragout here. Kevin updates his discussion today by noting that other companies are entering the flu vaccine market.

If this Administration is so clueless as to the number of vaccine producers or the potential for new entry, should we be surprised that the U.S. is facing a shortage. Of course, Kevin argues:

The FDA has a famously tight regulatory regime, made even tighter in the late 90s, and as a result the United States has only two approved manufacturers of flu vaccine while Britain has half a dozen.

Update: CNN is reporting that HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson is assuring us that there is no flu vaccine crisis. Oh, it would be too easy to comment…