Money Talks, Even in Healthcare

In 2009 when the Swine flu pandemic first hit, I think I was with most Americans in asking “What is the Swine flu? Did it come from a pig?” The questions continued from the public, along with bigger questions “Should I get vaccinated?” “Is a fever reason enough to be quarantined?” and “Can I still eat bacon?” The World Health Organization has recently come under scrutiny for its role is escalating the Swine flu in an effort to help vaccine makers turn a profit.

Millions of vaccine doses went unused and according to WHO, the world is still grossly unprepared to handle a reemergence of the virus – which some speculate could be soon rather than later. Currently, wealthy nations are over stocked with vaccines and are attempting to get rid of their surpluses, while our neighbors in developing countries around the world are still facing the virus, and not receiving any vaccines. In the United States, the Federal Government went about purchasing vaccines and distributing them to healthcare facilities to administer.

At the start of the Swine flu pandemic, 95 countries informed The World Health Organization that they had no means of getting the Swine flu vaccine; as of February 2010 only two of those countries have received vaccines. We are seeing first hand how the socio-economic status of a country greatly affects the health of humanity.

Sadly, this isn’t a new story. The world has been facing health disparity for much longer than I can even grasp. When we look at the types of diseases that have been eradicated from the United States, yet are being fought in developing countries across the world, we are reminded that dollar signs speak louder than suffering. We can ask why? But the answer is sadly simple: If there isn’t a profit for the large pharmaceutical companies, then there isn’t a desire to produce. Though this story is about vaccination there are other reasons to reexamine healthcare on a global scale. Vaccines are one of the many things that developing countries do not have access to, and quite possibly, not even the most important. In many places, the most basic means of care are unavailable. The goals of medicine are fueled by financial gain rather than what we intuitively think of healthcare to be: care for those who are ill and suffering.

References:
New York Times, Swine Flu
New York Times, Health Policy

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