The Post explains how flu vaccine shortages are inevitable if we depend on the private sector for this particular health care need ["How U.S. Got Down to Two Makers of Flu Vaccine," front page, Oct. 17]. Where there is no profit, the market will provide no product.

This predicament arises from the widely held belief that market forces and business models optimize all human activities. What is the rationale for applying business models to activities -- particularly those related to public health -- that not only aren't businesses but are the opposite of businesses, such as government and other nonprofit pursuits?

Most businesses fail, indicating that a particular business model failed. In many contexts, this is great for the consumer. But which business model should we choose for, say, biomedical research or vaccine production? These are not business activities.

Health care and vaccine production are the business of government, not of the marketplace. The profit motive is not intended to produce healthful results, only profit.

TIM CLAIR

Columbia

It is unimaginable that the health care of high-risk patients is in the hands of grocery stores. Many of us in the high-risk category have gone from shopping center to shopping center trying to obtain a flu vaccine, only to find that all tickets have been given away.

The government agencies that monitor health should have stepped in and placed all of the available supplies where they belong -- in the hands of physicians who treat high-risk patients.

ESTHER HERMAN

Takoma Park

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With resigned amusement, I note that while Canadian pharmaceuticals are not safe enough for President Bush, it seems the flu vaccine is ["From the Debate," news story, Oct. 14].

MARK COLLINS

Niagara Falls, Ontario