Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Care Rationing

I get the flu shot every year and have done so for about the last decade. This year was no different and I got the seasonal flu shot a couple of months ago. But, then came H1N1 - the dreaded swine flu.

The U.S. government promised plenty of vaccines for everyone who needs one and everyone who wants one. Apparently, everything hasn't gone according to plan and rationing needs to occur so we have prioritized wait lists to determine who should get a shot when.

Every day there are news stories about the availability of vaccine and tales of shock, sadness and woe from the administration trying to explain away the shortages. It's particularly troublesome that one part of the government predicts that 60% of Americans will have been exposed by October 31st (a couple of weeks ago) and another part of our government says that we're on schedule to have the doses necessary no later than February.

It's actually quite disheartening to listen to what our government "leaders" really have to say.

On October, 31st, David Axelrod said that we would have ample supply of vaccine "in short order." Now, ample basically means more than we need. I guess the interviewer made the mistake of not pinning down an actual date rather than the wishy-washy "in short order" time-line. But, not to worry, now that we've been told that it's the manufacturer's fault and not the government's we can go about our happy-go-lucky lives.

I'd pretty much given up on getting the vaccination until I drove by a pharmacy advertising H1N1 vaccines "as long as supplies last." So I stopped and went in.

Pharmacy assistant (PA):"Can I help you?"
Me:"Yes, I'd like to know about H1N1 vaccines."
PA:"How old are you?"
PA:"Are you a health care worker?"
PA:"Do you have an infant under 6 months living in your home?"

Now, I saw where this was going. If I didn't fit into one of the approved groups I wasn't going to get a vaccine. I wasn't in the appropriate age group, I'm not a health care worker and I don't have any infants in my house and it was clear from my gender that I'm not pregnant.

PA:"Last question, do you have any chronic health conditions such as Asthma?"
PA:"What is it?"
PA:"I'm sorry, what was that?"
PA:"How do you spell that?"
PA:"That's not a chronic health condition."

I panicked and didn't know what to do so I ripped a mighty one.

PA:"Excuse me?"
Me:"No, excuse me."
PA:"I'm sorry sir, but you don't fit into one of the at-risk categories."

So, I ripped another one. After his eyes stopped watering he gave me the form, I paid my $18, got my shot and merrily drove off. As I drove down the road with a sore arm I listened to the news on the radio and heard about how the government was recalling 170,000 H1N1 doses because they could cause a deadly allergic reaction.

Next time I'll wait my turn.

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