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For Immediate Release
Contact: Media Relations, (202) 777-2509
media.relations@apha.org

New Book Shows How the U.S. Ended Up with a Flu Vaccine Shortage Last Year and Why Changes Are Needed to Improve the Country’s Vaccination System

A Warning Shot: Influenza and the 2004 Flu Vaccine Shortage

Author: Timothy J. Brookes, MA

Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2005 – Last year some people stood in line for six hours to get a flu shot after half the nation’s supply was recalled due to bacterial contamination at a U.S.-owned production plant in England. Just as public health officials had begun to succeed in convincing many people to get a yearly flu shot, there simply were not enough shots to go around.

Author Tim Brookes writes a fascinating account of the shortage, the way the U.S. vaccination system is structured, and even the time-consuming manufacturing process of influenza shots that begins with the sorting of chicken eggs one by one.

The book was “specifically written to be readable by someone who knows nothing about influenza,” said Brookes, a leading health author and director of the Professional Writing Program at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt. “On the other hand, we did an awful lot of research to make sure that even specialists in the field would regard the information as being accurate and current.”

Among the book’s key lessons are that the country’s vaccination standards are actually hampering the ability to garner needed vaccinations when a shortage arises. Also, Brookes points out, vaccine production capacity as well as the public’s sense of the seriousness of influenza needs to dramatically increase if there ever is to be universal flu vaccination.

“All of our planning in terms of vaccine production needs to, first of all, consider all diseases, and secondly, it needs to consider all people,” said Brookes, who illustrates the need for globalization in the book. “Supposing, for example, we have a potentially fatal flu and the U.S. manages to produce 100 million doses. What happens when 75 countries in the world have people dying like flies? What happens to those 100 million doses? Or, what happens when there is a limited number of doses and member of Congress are immediately given all the doses they need, while over the rest of the country people are having to stand in line for hours?”

Donald A. Henderson, MD, MPH, an infectious disease expert affiliated both with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pittsburgh, calls the book “…informative in a very straight forward and understandable way – great overall background, superb environmental context setting and accurate portrayal of the basic history of this past season.”

“There is no more important work on the flu vaccine debacle than Tim Brookes’ study,” said Arthur Caplan, PhD, bioethics professor and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. “He supplies both the facts and the analysis requisite to understanding what happened and how best to avoid similar public health crises in the future.”

Brookes has written books on the SARS outbreak, asthma and hospice care and is a regular essayist for National Public Radio. He was born in London, England, and educated at Oxford University. His other books on medical subjects are Behind the Mask: How the World Survived SARS, the First Epidemic of the Twenty-First Century,”“Catching My Breath,” a first-person account of an asthmatic’s struggles to understand and control his illness, and “Signs of Life,” an account of Brookes’ mother’s death under hospice care.

Ordering Information: Published by the American Public Health Association, 2005, ISBN: 0-87553-049-4, 92 pages, softcover, cost is $19.99 ($13.97 for APHA members), plus shipping and handling. To order, call toll free (888) 320-APHA; fax (888) 361-APHA; e-mail apha@pbd.com or visit APHA’s Web site: www.apha.org/media.

Please send your request for a review copy on letterhead to APHA Publications Marketing, 800 I Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001-3710, or fax to (202) 777-2531. Author Tim Brookes is available for interviews. To schedule an interview, contact Sabrina Jones, (202) 777-2509 or sabrina.jones@apha.org.

The American Public Health Association is the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world and the foremost publisher of public health-related books and periodicals promoting high scientific standards, action programs and public policy for good health. More information is available at www.apha.org.

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The American Public Health Association is the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world and the foremost publisher of public health-related books and periodicals promoting high scientific standards, action programs and public policy for good health. More information is available at www.apha.org.