Pandemics have a lot of dominoes. Doubtless, many of the "falling domino" relationships aren't readily apparent. They include the finely tuned relationships in supply chains. And they include relationships between people in a community and even relationships between countries. (I posted about this on January 16, 2006, "Relationships: What happens between us if a bird flu pandemic occurs?.")
On this latter point, there's an interesting observation this week from Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and now a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. In an interview with Science magazine, Garrett made this comment about the current debate (friction?) among nations over who gets access to antiviral drugs and the upcoming limited supply of pandemic flu vaccine:
There is a very acute rift growing between roughly 12 wealthy countries and the rest of the world regarding access to the flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza and to a potential H1N1 vaccine. It's very clear that two things are conspiring to exacerbate this problem. First of all, it's hard to grow the seed stock for vaccine. All the pharmaceutical companies are reporting difficulties that will surely mean the date of availability will be pushed back, and there will be scarce supplies. Some of the companies said we're not taking any more orders. Well guess what? The countries that got their orders in are the wealthy world. Where does that leave 4 to 5 billion human beings on the planet? This could turn out to be the great challenge of our time in terms of global equity and globalization, and that could affect other global negotiations from the World Trade Organization to the next Doha Round discussions, and even I would argue the Copenhagen climate change talks. Each of these has ramifications to the scientific community, and they're being affected by how the poor and middle-income countries perceive the wealthy world's attitude about this pandemic.
Lots of dominoes.