The CDC’s expert committee has released its recommendations for who should receive the swine flu vaccination (TEH SWINEY FLOO!):
1. Pregnant women; household contacts and caretakers of children under 6 months old; health-care workers and emergency medical services workers; children and young adults ages 6 months through 24 years; adults ages 25 through 64 who have underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk.
2. Healthy adults ages 25 through 64.
3. Healthy adults ages 65 and older.
This is a good list, but I have several concerns, stemming from the apparent lack of recognition by the committee that people suck:
- Food service industry workers should be vaccinated. A food service worker can essentially contact hundreds of people per day. Since there is an asymptomatic spreading phase, as well as people is this sector typically can’t afford to take time off until they’re really sick, vaccination is needed. Add to this the stereotypes (and actual demographics) of who are food handlers are, and this becomes combustible. Just imagine the crap that will come out of Lou Dobbs’ mouth (beyond the usual crap, that is).
- Don’t delay too long in reaching healthy adults ages 25-64. To me, it’s more important to get more people vaccinated quickly than to vaccinate the ‘ideal distribution.’ Sure, a hermit who lives fifty miles from the very small town he visits once a month probably doesn’t need the vaccine. But many people work in relatively dense environments (cities and suburbs) with lots of close contact. They will be effective transmitters of the virus. Historically, when we have rationed flu vaccines, we have wound up with extra, unused doses. In light of that experience, we should err on the side of getting more people vaccinated, rather than making sure we hit the high priority group perfectly.
- Release emergency funding to vaccinate lower-income communities. Due to budget cuts at the state and local levels, many lower-income people will be unable to receive vaccinations (it’s not just the reimbursements, which for the poor are covered under Medicaid, it’s also the funding to organize and publicize the vaccination. Also, some who don’t qualify for Medicaid still need financial assistance).
Not only is it unethical to deny poor children vaccination, but the racial disparities in income distribution will mean that minorities could get hit disproportionately hard. If you thought the Gates’ hoopla was excessive, this would be a tinderbox: this will understandably be viewed as racism. And then, of course, in response, we will probably witness some idiot Southern congressman talking about ‘culling the herd.’