Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked Health and Human Service (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to investigate why the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approved the distribution of the H1NI vaccine to Wall Street firms at a time when the vaccine is unavailable to most Americans.
Recent news reports indicate 13 companies, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Time Warner, have been cleared to receive the vaccine.
The CDC is distributing the much sought-after vaccine to Wall Street firms despite reports of vast shortages. In fact, just yesterday CDC Director Thomas Frieden informed Congress that only 32.3 million doses are available, far less than the 159 million needed to cover those at the highest risk. Given the scarce supply, the CDC has recommended the vaccine be directed only to those at highest risk: pregnant women, infants and children and those up to 24 years, those who care for infants, health and emergency services personnel, and adults with compromised immune systems or other chronic health problems.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today, “Although CREW has been unable to uncover the demographic makeup of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase, it seems safe to assume the vast majority of their employees are not pregnant women, infants and children, young adults up to 24 years old, and healthcare workers.”
State officials are concerned about the shortages. The head of Alabama’s Department of Public Health testified that 62% of the vaccines ordered by the state will not be available until after December 1, 2009 and the director of Minnesota’s St. Paul Ramsey County Department of Public Health said he is expecting only 7,800 doses for more than 20,000 children. Los Angeles County’s three public hospitals ordered 110,000 vaccines, but have received only about 18,000 doses, and UCLA’s two hospitals received 1,000 doses for 10,000 staff and 35,000 patients.
This situation is echoed around the country, leaving most of those seeking the vaccine unable to receive it with no remedy in sight. Frieden admitted, “It is quite likely the current wave of influenza will peak, crest and begin to decline before there are ample supplies of the vaccine.”
Sloan said, “In what world do Wall Street employees deserve to be vaccinated ahead of high-risk children, pregnant women and health care workers? Unfortunately, for the thousands being turned away in clinics across America, the CDC has decided to prioritize the millionaires over the masses. The public has a right to know how and why this has happened and when it will stop.” Sloan continued, “First, the bailout, then the bonuses, now the vaccine. When will Washington start putting the needs of Main Street above those of Wall Street?”