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Vaccine Supply and the Public Option

A Commentary By Susan Estrich

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My internist told me he is now using the technique he learned many decades ago in the military, when supplies of vaccine were short and they had to split doses. I wouldn't even think of asking. But I did ask my rheumatologist, since rheumatoid arthritis is one of those things that makes getting the flu worse. He would have been happy to give me a flu shot -- I'm talking regular flu here, not the swine kind -- but he was out.

First come, first served.

I was all set to get it at the one-day clinic in the lobby of the building where I work, but it turned out that I had to go to something ridiculous like a hearing that day and missed the morning hours. Imagine, work getting in the way. There were no afternoon hours.

Of course, I've tried all the drug stores. I know I should have started there, and if I had, I would have been flu-ready a long time ago. But, you see, that was my mistake. How stupid of me to think that if my local mega-branch of a national drugstore chain had flu vaccine, my internist and rheumatologist definitely would. Flu vaccine as a doorbuster. Pick up some mouthwash while you're there. Brilliant -- of them, not me.

How dumb can you be? I discussed it with my psychiatrist. She didn't have any flu vaccine, either. But she filed her application to be a national immunization center, right there on the couch, so hopefully next year she will be able to take care of her patients, most of whom are, like me, vaccination-challenged.

Every day, I listen on the radio as the country brags about how many people it has vaccinated that day. I think about how many it hasn't.

My secretary made it to the clinic at work, but they weren't vaccinating pregnant women. I understand there are many places that won't vaccinate women of that age unless they are pregnant, because pregnant women are at the top of the priority list. But no, not here. Whoever they were, their insurance didn't cover pregnant women.

So, since her obstetrician didn't have any vaccine and her son's pediatrician didn't have any vaccine, instead of coming to work the next morning, she drove 25 miles in the wrong direction to be one of the first in line at the county clinic, putting her among those numbers I hear at the end of the day.

At least she's doing better than I am.

The polls are all over the map about where the public stands on the so-called "public option," as well they should be. In my classes, I call it the "free hot-dog stand." But I certainly can't tell you how it will run or how long the lines will be, much less the price tag. So how can you know if you're for it, much less want it?

Yet, everyone you talk to has an opinion about the distribution of vaccine this flu season. And I've yet to hear too many good ones.

I'm sure there are plenty of people and entities to blame for what's gone wrong. But since the government is very obviously running the show when it comes to the distribution of vaccine, it's not exactly a reassuring introduction to some kind of "public option." Some big improvements, and explanations, are in order -- sooner than later -- before the public option gets tainted by this nasty virus.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM

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See Other Commentaries by Susan Estrich

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