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Posts Tagged ‘CDC’

Well, here we are.  The Swine Flu is sweeping over the country like an invisible Tsunami, or maybe like an invisible Katrina.  Several months ago the government – CDC etc  – promised that they were on top of the situation and there would be plenty of flu vaccine available.   “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” Doesn’t this seem sort of like deja vu all over again? I mean, during Katrina it was – at first anyway – difficult to tell whether the government just didn’t care or if they were just sublimely incompetent.  Now we know.

OK.  Now we have a new government in place. We all knew last spring that the Swine flu was spreading around the world and that it would be coming around here again in the fall. Well, it’s the fall.  Several months ago our government told us that there would be plenty of flu vaccine around, and remember, at the time no one knew whether the H1N1 flu would be morphing into something very deadly, like its cousin the 1918 flu pandemic that killed millions of people worldwide. So, there was a lot of concern and we were assured that there would be a lot of vaccine available.  But there isn’t.

As of today, the H1N1 flu is widespread in just about all the states. Meanwhile there is precious little vaccine available. It appears that the flu might even have peaked in some areas. So, how are things going at the CDC?  It seems they are confused. They thought they were going to have plenty of vaccine – but they don’t. So what happened? Did someone drop the eggs? How can we go from expecting maybe 100 million doses to be available to hoping for 42 million by mid-November? How can we be at the peak of the flu and have only 16 million doses available right now? There are 300 million people in this country.  And if you get a flu shot today, how long does it take before you have built up immunity to the flu? It doesn’t happen overnight.

There are only two conclusions that can be drawn from the H1N1 vaccine debacle – either our government doesn’t care or it is incompetent. There is an amazing similarity between the Katrina catastrophe and this – at least in the way the government has reacted. The primary difference is that the flu is not nearly as deadly as it might have been had it morphed – scant comfort, I suppose, to those whose children have already died from the H1N1.

One would have thought we had learned a lesson from Katrina, but it seems we didn’t – at least the elephantine U.S. government didn’t.  How could they not know there wouldn’t be sufficient supplies of vaccine? Were the manufacturers lying to them? Did anybody actually bother to do a calculation to see how much vaccine would be available on any given day? Have the people who work for the government ever heard of a spreadsheet?  Do they have any idea how to use a computer to project future supply and demand? I don’t think so.

We are simply at the mercy of an incompetent, uncaring assortment of Civil Servants who couldn’t care less if they rescue people from Hurricanes or germs or anything else for that matter. And where is the Presidential anger?  Where is the Presidential outrage at this gross incompetence? Where is my CHANGE? Why isn’t there any foresight, why no vision, why no imagination? Who is responsible for asking, “What if?” What if this had turned out to be a very deadly flu variant, as in 1918? It happened once – it will certainly – CERTAINLY – happen again. Don’t these people get it?

We lucked out this time. There are plenty of embarrassed, red faces in DC, but there should instead be plenty of embarrassed red faces out on the streets of DC.  But that will never happen because when you are a Civil Servant you have a job for life come Hell, High Water, or the Flu.  Nobody takes responsibility or gets blamed for anything – ever.

The problem is this: we have an incompetent government that is unable to protect the people of this country. It was demonstrated in Katrina and it has been demonstrated again with H1N1. Change is needed like never before, but it hasn’t come where it is needed most – inside the halls of government where intelligent, crucial, lifesaving decisions are supposed to be made, but they aren’t.

That is the lesson of the H1N1 vaccine debacle.

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What would Voltaire say?  Here we are facing the prospect of trying to cope with a catastrophic pandemic flu in a few months and we don’t have enough vaccine for everyone.  Meanwhile, our government, through the department of Homeland Security and it’s countless subdivisions, has made plans for the distribution of what vaccine we might have.  Meanwhile, our government is debating the merits of providing medical care via the commercial insurance industry or through some sort of “public” insurance program – the latter funded by taxes, which will not be raised , except on those people on whom they will be raised.  Meanwhile, the government assures us that they have taken the “govern” out of government and they will not dictate what medical care we will receive via the public or private insurance programs.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control has published its “recommendations” for determining who will be allowed to receive flu shots before the pandemic sweeps over us. First of all, if you are over 64 years old you can forget it.  You aren’t getting a pandemic flu shot.  The good news is that you will get the shot for the “seasonal” flu – that’s the one that was expected to come around anyway. But the pandemic? You’ll have to take your chances because a cousin of this flu was around about fifty or sixty years ago and you probably, or could have been, or might have been exposed then. Therefore you might, perhaps, maybe still have some sort of antibodies to the half-century old cousin of the pandemic flu. So, bottom line: you’re out –  unless, by some miracle there is some vaccine left over, in which case feel free to help yourself.

So, here we are.  Sort of like being on the deck of the Titanic, knowing that our rudder is way too small, and we have nowhere to hide.  Our government, the one that has promised it won’t meddle in our health care choices has already determined the order in which the lifeboats will be filled, regardless of whether you have expensive private insurance or not.  So much for the Republican Party argument that private health insurance will keep us free of our government making our health decisions for us.

Speaking of health insurance, here is the way I look at it: Let’s suppose a bunch of people get together and decide to pool a bunch of money in a big pot – just in case one of them gets sick and they need a doctor.  The money in the pot will be used to pay the medical bills for this unlucky person. Of course someone needs to take care of the pot, so we ask Fred to do that, and Fred says he will – if he can have 25% of the money in the pot. We say OK.  That’s private health insurance.

On the other hand let’s suppose we all put some of our money in the pot and then we elect someone to watch the pot and handle the disbursements.  It turns out we elect Charlie and we tell him that he can’t have any of the money in the pot, but we’ll pay him a salary of $10 a month.  That’s a government insurance plan – where the money in the pot comes from taxes instead of insurance premiums.  So which one is a better way to go? The first way is good old American Capitalism (with a capital C, which rhymes with P which…).  The second is European Socialism. Which do you think is cheaper?  Which has more money in the pot available for your health care? Which one will get you better health care?  Actually, the record speaks for itself.  People live longer in socialist-health-care Europe because they simply have better health care. Same thing with Japan – you can’t beat their welfare state health care. It’s that simple.

We are not going to have that.

Because the Blue Dogs and the Republicans like Tom better than Charlie we’ll be putting our money in Tom’s pot and then getting 3/4 of our money back for our health care needs.  Even so, this private health care system will still be apparently be under the watchful eye and control of our government (as in the aforementioned “recommendation” for the CDC).  So,  even though we’ll have a completely private system (except, of course, for the VA system that is government run and is clearly the best health care system in the U.S.), people who don’t know you at all (like the people who work at Homeland Security or the CDC), or care about you personally will be making your health care decisions for you when it comes to things like pandemics, despite what you thought was going to happen when you bought that expensive private health insurance.

I guess it’s like Candide said: we need to  cultivate our gardens.  Frankly, I thought knee deep would have been enough.

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