MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Secretary, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's been doing a lot of reporting on this and they wrote this article, "Are we prepared?" "If the flu were to strike before vaccines were available for everyone, who would get them? The Health and Human Services Department"--that's your department--"has come up with a list. Health-care workers and people who make the vaccine come first. These two groups would require about 10 million doses. Then come the groups considered high-risk, people older than 65 with one or more conditions that make them susceptible to influenza, as well as those of any age whose immune systems are compromised. These groups account for approximately 25 million doses. Curiously, school-age children are at the bottom of the government's list--outranked by politicians, funeral directors and telecommunication workers."
Why is that?
Not suprisingly Sec'y Leavitt tied himself in a knot and avoided the question with a series of non-answers.
I first want to make certain that we're clear that we will not have the capacity to produce 300 million doses of a vaccine for three to five years. And as Dr. Gerberding indicates, when we have developed that capacity we hope to be able to do that within a six-month period once we've isolated the actual virus that we're battling. In the meantime, we will not have enough for everyone. And consequently, very difficult, agonizingly tough decisions will need to be made, and so the plan actually develops a series, using outside panels of those who are involved in medical ethics and so forth, to say, "Here's how we would recommend it."
So, basically he's saying that there wouldn't be enough vaccine available to even choose whether or not to vaccinate the children. Slick.
Finally, Dr. Fauci gets a to the heart of the matter.
Now, getting back to your question about the children, that's a complicated issue because, obviously, you hear--saying, "Well, if you put children at the bottom of the list"--the model upon which the idea of vaccinating children in order--because they're the conduits of infecting elderly individuals--is based on a model in which you have much, much broader numbers of vaccine available for a lot more people. When you're dealing with how you respond to an epidemic and what do you want to keep in place to allow the responsiveness to ultimately get to all of the citizens, including the children, you have to have people to make the vaccine. You have to have the health-care workers that come into the emergency room or the hospital. So I think it's a little bit misleading to pit children, and which you obviously want to keep well and healthy, with someone who's gonna be making a vaccine or a health-care worker. But in the best of all worlds, all of those people would be vaccinated, but the critical issue when you're faced with the challenge of having to move fast and respond for everyone, you need the essential people to get up in the morning and go to work; otherwise, nobody's gonna get a vaccine.
Stunning isn't it? What these people are saying is essentially that children, not being among the members of our society that contribute, i.e., "get up in the morning and go to work," are therefore expendable. Now of course, his general point that health care workers and first responders must get the vaccine first is rational, but it does not justify placing children last on the list. The coldness of this plan is stunning, and reveals a commodification of our humanity that is often more slickly packaged and sold to us in shiny wrapping. We are only as good as our market value, and we will be sorted accordingly when the time comes. So, my question to the DKos community is this. Who will stand with the children when the time comes?