Those counting on the availability of vaccine may want to reconsider:
Under present circumstances, it will take at least six months from the start of a pandemic to get vaccine to the public. Global production is now approximately 900 million doses a year, enough for only about 15 percent of the world's population. Most of that is produced in Europe, and no one expects vaccine to be traveling across borders if things go bad. On March 17, the federal government asked vaccine companies to submit proposals to increase domestic production. The sole U.S.-based plant, in Swiftwater, Pa., can produce about 60 million doses per year. Many of the first doses produced would probably go to healthcare workers and emergency-service providers. "We have to get the message out loud and clear that vaccine will not save us," says Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease specialist who heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "We will have very little of it, and it will get here too late."
And then there's the potential economic consequences:
Although the 2003 SARS outbreak is estimated to have cost the global economy at least $30 billion, most businesses have yet to consider the cost of a flu pandemic, both in terms of employee absenteeism and disruptions of the global economy. The CDC estimates the economic impact of a pandemic in the United States at between $71 billion and $167 billion, but those numbers don't include disruptions to commerce and society. "We've never suffered an event of such magnitude that it shuts down the global economy," says infectious-disease specialist Osterholm. "In 1918 we were much more self-sufficient."