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2004 Influenza Vaccine Shortage

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2004 Influenza Vaccine Shortage

Internal PR Action Plan

MKT 438

November, 22, 2004


This year's flu season is supposed to bring a strain of the virus with a severity unlike any other seen in previous years. This supposed new strain is a mutated, currently untreatable strain that is expected to be responsible for several deaths. The media has caused such a wide spread panic over the Influenza bug this year and then claimed that 48 million vaccines mysteriously became contaminated rendering the public virtually helpless against the attack of this new strain of flu. This paper will discuss the strategies used by public relations representatives to calm the public as well as educate them by giving alternative ways to reduce the spread of catching this year's most infamous bug.

Internal PR Action Plan

Each year, the public is forewarned of the upcoming, potentially lethal, flu season. Along with the public warnings come the recommendations from the public health department identifying which groups of people including all small children, the elderly, and those with possibly weakened immune systems that are most at risk. There has been a growing concern that there would come a time that the supply of vaccine could not meet the demands of the population. However, no one thought that this shortage would come so suddenly, without fair warning, and would affect such high numbers of people. In fact, the current story is that approximately half of the total supply of the vaccine, roughly 48 million doses, were contaminated and therefore rendered useless. To compound the problem, this also means that 48 million people are being forced to play Russian Roulette with an invisible enemy. Many cases of the flu can be avoided through the quick release of information concerning the impending dilemma that we face as a nation, educating the public, and by communicating an effective internal public relations action plan.

Public Dilemma

America used to have five manufacturers that developed the flu vaccines that were used to vaccinate the entire nation. However, over the past few years, those five suppliers have diminished to only two suppliers, Chiron Corporation and Aventis Pasteur. Lester Crawford, acting commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, stated that he was fearful that the remaining two companies would ultimately become one, producing the vaccines for all of America. (

Following the confirmation that the 48 million doses of flu vaccine supplied by Chiron Corporation were actually contaminated, Chiron Corporation was shut down in Liverpool leaving America with half of the supply and little time to act or create a workable contingency plan. Mr. Crawford's predictions have become a frightening reality. America, although still considered to be a dominating world power, and still revered as leaders of the free world, has now been reduced to a population fearing an enemy that what we cannot see nor can control.


The means in which to notify the public can be a tricky situation. The object of a successful PR representative is to get the information out into the public as quickly and painlessly as possible all the while avoiding mass hysteria. However, the media launched a large effort to forewarn the public of the severe health threat that was to be brought on by the impending flu epidemic we would be facing this winter and emphasized the importance of obtaining a flu vaccine this year. This thwarted the efforts of PR representatives searching to find a way to avoid public panic. The release of the information needed to happen quickly and be received by as many people as possible in order to effectively notify the public of the current issue that had just surfaced publicly. The best way to ensure that the most amounts of people received this information was to hold a nationally syndicated press conference explaining the newly discovered lack of vaccine and the cause associated with it. At the same time that the press was notified, the media was notified as well so that the message could be released simultaneously across all airways. The flood of information caught most people off guard and caused a great discernment in our government. Unlike ever before and because of the inability to produce a vaccine that may severely affect the lives of our loved ones we, as a nation, have been forced to question the validity of the information that is released by our government.

Contingency Plan

A contingency plan was developed several years ago by PR representatives in the event that our country ever had to face this dilemma. The first step in this contingency plan was to locate as many resources that we could utilize to obtain more vaccinations. We have lost 46-48 million vaccines, but only managed to locate 2.6 million replacement doses. ( Over the past several years, several representatives from Health and Human Services have stated on repeated occasions that our government needs to purchase the unused flu vaccine doses to guarantee that manufacturers produce adequate supplies in the coming years. That part of the contingency plan, the part that involves



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