While standing in line for a flu shot yesterday I had plenty of time to work up a major case of Irritation at Bush, the CDC, vaccine manufacturers, and anyone else who was responsible for the hour I spent shuffling along a lengthy line of tape stuck to the floor at south Salem’s Oak Tree Pharmacy.
I had plenty of company. About forty people had beaten me to the clinic when I got there at 11:30 am, half an hour after the starting time. I figured that I’d beat the noon rush. I hadn’t taken into consideration the fact that most of my flu shot compadres were quite a bit older than my 57 years and weren’t constrained by working hours.
White hair, Medicare cards, walkers, canes, and wheelchairs were evident in abundance. I felt sorry for the infirm elderly who had to stand outside on the sidewalk on a cold rainy day for fifteen minutes before being able to enter the warmth of the store and spend another forty-five minutes inching to the head of the line.
I’m not blaming Oak Tree Pharmacy or Maxim Health Systems (a.k.a. FindAFluShot.com). The clinic was well organized and staffed. I’m appreciative that I was able to get vaccinated, especially since Maxim announced today that it is canceling all of its flu shot clinics after November 6 at retail locations. The press release said:
“We know the demand for vaccination is higher this year and currently there is simply not enough vaccine available to continue our retail programs,” said Steve Wright, National Director Wellness Services for Maxim Health Systems. “We understand the frustration that some have experienced in trying to get vaccinated against the flu this year. Here at Maxim we certainly share that frustration and would prefer to keep all clinics open and help people get vaccinated, but this is not possible at this time.”Do you remember how Kerry bashed Bush prior to the 2004 election for last year’s flu shot shortage, saying that it was typical of his policy blunders? Well, nothing has changed. Bush was re-elected and is still blundering along. The GAO (Government Accountability Office) says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reacted sluggishly to flu vaccine shortages, and the same thing is happening again.
While the CDC offers assurances that there is no shortage of vaccine this year, flu shots are hard to find. Doctors in New York can’t get vaccine. The American Academy of Family Physicians is asking its members to document problems with getting vaccine that had been ordered. Shipment delays have caused clinic cancellations nationwide.
My own family doctor told me that she hasn’t been able to get the 400 doses that she ordered. She said that she’s talked with other private practice doctors who are in the same boat. They can’t figure out why Fred Meyer stores and other large retail outlets like Safeway can get vaccine while primary care providers can’t.
The Bush administration believes in free markets. But there’s a good reason why it’s called public health. The private sector can’t be counted on to provide necessities for the public good. That’s why we have public police and fire departments, public schools, and public health departments.
Bush recently announced what has been called a feeble flu plan. If you like how the federal government copes with hurricane disasters, then you should love Bush’s half-assed plan for coping with an avian flu pandemic, which candidly states ''It is unlikely that there will be sufficient personnel, equipment, and supplies to respond adequately to multiple areas of the country for a sustained period of time."
Disturbing news. But highly believable. The Bush administration hasn’t yet been able to figure out how to get normal flu vaccine to Americans who need it. If an avian flu epidemic hits the United States, a lot of people who voted for Bush in 2004 are going to pay for that mistake with their lives. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.
“Where’s the outrage?” asks a blogging physician in private practice who doesn’t like having to tell his patients that no flu vaccine has arrived this year. Good question.
I tried my progressive best to raise the consciousness of my fellow line-standers yesterday, but my efforts to relate Bush administration blunders to the current flu vaccine shortage fell on mostly deaf ears. Eventually, though, I’m confident that dots will get connected and this equation figured out: Bush administration + bird flu = disaster.