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Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Distribution – Plan?

November 14, 2007

LineYesterday’s post on countermeasure distribution reminded me that I still hadn’t posted on the recently released plan for distributing the mythical pandemic influenza vaccine. Yep, a plan to distribute a vaccine that doesn’t exist yet for a disease that while it exists in some form, we don’t know what it will look like should it become a pandemic strain, is making waves.  If you’ve been underground, the USA Today article can be found here.

So, what’s the problem with playing these intellectual exercise, you ask? Well, the problem is that there are 122MM people that are a bit worried that they’ve been placed at the end of the line. And frankly, I can see their point. What with all of the reports of millions of people who could die if H5N1 highly-pathogenic avian influenza goes pandemic, or some other strain that we’re not even aware of, being recounted breathlessly on the 5:00 news; these folks have a significant quibble.

And for folks who aren’t fans of the current Administration (read: most everyone anymore, it seems) and the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, hearing that the military gets first dibs on any potential vaccine, well, you can see where this is going.

That isn’t to say that I disagree. Listen, we all know that this Administration relies heavily on the military and some would say looks to military solutions first. To wit, we all know that the military will be called in to help quell unrest in a pandemic situation. We all know that this Administration is worried about pandemic refugees flooding over our borders seeking medical care (although God only knows why they’d come here). In fact, when this Administration continues to spend nearly 50c of each federal dollar on defense issues, they’ve got a significant investment. The military is Option #1, so they’re the first to get the meds, it’s that simple. Now, don’t get me wrong, I disagree with the spending, at least one of the wars, the xenophobia, and the distribution priority given. But, please don’t act surprised. This is the way the US acts these days, and until something changes there, this is the way it goes. So, I disagree, but I see where they’re coming from.

As for the question of why not distribute it to the general population, well, that’s easy. How how you? I’ve heard a lottery system should be used. Man, you want a recipe for murder? Give somebody a ticket for “the cure” and tell them to show up at the clinic at 10am on Wednesday. There is simply no way to distribute meds to the population in any equitable, safe kind of way. When we’ve got limited resources of “the cure,” priority simply must be established, and well, somebody has to come first.  My problem isn’t with the first group, the second group, the third group, or the fourth group.  Nope, I have a problem with the fifth group.  Promise you won’t tell my grandparents?  I’m sorry, but the 1918 Spanish Flu hit the non-elderly population much harder than the elderly, and if that’s what we’re basing our assumptions on (which it looks like we are, as you can see that pregnant women are much higher on the list, and they were hit even harder than middle-aged folks), then the 19- to 64-year-olds should be fifth.

Aside from that one quibble, I think the feds are in a tough spot.  It’s irresponsible to give out a priority list before we know anything about the situation, but the pan-flu heads and consequently the media, are agitating for one.  You lose either way.

Photo credit: kalebdf

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