Monday, October 11, 2004

You knew this was going to happen -- especially in Bush's America where 5.2 million more people are without health insurance, 4.3 million more are in poverty and the gap between rich and poor is pushing pre-New Deal levels. From today's WSJ:
With the nation's supply of influenza vaccine suddenly cut nearly in half by the shuttering of a British factory, signs of tension between those who have vaccine and those who don't are beginning to emerge.

Doctors, clinics and others who relied on Chiron Corp., whose U.S. shipment was derailed because of problems at its Liverpool plant, are urgently seeking help from those lucky enough to have ordered from the other big supplier, Aventis Pasteur Inc.

Meanwhile, some groups that aren't deemed by the government to be at "high risk" for serious complications from the flu -- including firefighters and the military -- are arguing for special consideration in getting vaccinated.

Executive Health Exams International, an upscale medical provider with a clinic in New York, is one of the haves -- and is giving shots even to young and healthy people, at $90 each. "We feel strongly about honoring our commitment to our patients who were already booked," said Nancy Boccuzzi, senior vice president of clinical affairs at Executive Health. The $90 price tag is the same as it has been for several years, said Ms. Boccuzzi. (A flu shot elsewhere generally is closer to $20.) . . .

"Every shot given to a nonpriority person is coming out of the arm of a person" in the high-risk groups, said Patrick Libbey, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

"Social-equity issues are increasingly going to take center stage," said Matthew Cartter, epidemiology-program coordinator for the Connecticut Department of Public Health. . . .

Many public-health departments that were expecting to get Chiron vaccine now are counting on the willingness of private-sector providers to use supplies judiciously. Gov. John E. Baldacci of Maine asked businesses in his state to halt vaccination programs in order to reserve remaining supplies for high-risk people. All the flu vaccine in Connecticut belongs to the private sector, and long-term-care facilities and hospitals are among those without shots.
Here's a wrinkle you probably hadn't considered. It appears that the Department of Defense has also been burned by Chiron. The Pentagon ordered 2.5 million flu vaccines from Chiron, two-thirds of all the shots ordered from America's Big Two providers. Now it looks like the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to go without as well.

Maybe they can beg some doses off the British units in Basra? Too bad the sick and old in America's nursing homes are not afforded even that luxury.

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