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Friday, November 6, 2009

Vaccines For Wall Streeters

Money, power, and privilege -- are these states always sharing the same bed? It seems that way to the many of us who are not members of the upper class rich class.

A nationwide survey of more than 1,000 adults, half men and half women (conducted by The Research Spectrum, a San Francisco polling firm) found "whether you're a man or a woman, old or young, rich or not so rich, you probably consider yourself a whole lot more ethical than other folks when it comes to money." (Jeanne Fleming, PH.D. and Leonard Schwarz, Money Magazine, May 15 2007)

When they asked survey participants to rank themselves on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "very unethical" and 10 is "very ethical," three out of four gave themselves top grades. But only 15 percent gave marks as high to other people. It makes sense that you'd give better grades to someone you know (respondents gave almost equally good marks to their spouses as to themselves, for example) than to strangers. But as it turns out, you actually have good reason to be wary of "the other guy's" ethics. That's because there are plenty of people who, when given the chance, take the low road. (Jeanne Fleming, PH.D. and Leonard Schwarz, Money Magazine, May 15 2007)

 Wall Street Scores H1N1 Vaccine

While thousands of at-risk Americans wait, some big Wall Street banks have already secured the hard-to-find H1N1 vaccine for their employees.The nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, is urging U.S. Department of Health Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to begin an immediate investigation into the matter.

In a letter this Thursday to Sebelius, the group questioned why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control approved distribution of scarce vaccines to firms such as Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and JPMorganChase
Co. (,  November 5 2009)

Vaccines against the new flu strain are in short supply and should be reserved for those who are most in need of them, CREW said. It said "it is safe to assume" that the vast majority of employees at the banks aren't among the five groups identified by the CDC as being at high risk from the new flu strain--including health-care employees, infants and children, child-care providers, pregnant women, and adults with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.

 Decisions About Who Gets the Vaccine

Asked whether Wall Street firms should have gotten vaccines, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the decision was made by local officials and that "if there's somebody that is not in a priority group that is getting the vaccine, that is obviously a problem." (Judith Burns, Dow Jones Newswires, November 6 2009)

"How states choose to use their available vaccine is up to them," Glen Nowak, a CDC spokesman in Atlanta, told Dow Jones Newswires. He defended the use of work-based clinics, saying they can be an effective way to vaccinate people, and noted that states and cities require vaccine providers to sign agreements that they will distribute them to high-priority groups. (Judith Burns, Dow Jones Newswires, November 6 2009)

Dana Chivvis (, November 5 2009) reported that city health officials say the companies are not being given special consideration, but applied for the vaccine months ago as part of their preparation for the pandemic. In all, 29 companies requested the vaccine and 13 have been supplied with it. 

From an ABC News Medical Unit report comes this word: "The Health Department does not distinguish between workplace and non-workplace vaccination settings," said Jennifer Scaperotti, spokesperson for the New York City Health Department. "As a result, it is not always possible to determine where a particular provider will vaccinate patients in a workplace, an internist's office or another setting. As long as the provider is adhering to the priority groups listed in the vaccine application, either is legitimate." (November 5, 2009)

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman released this statement to CNBC: "We received 1000 doses of the swine flu shots-- 500 for NYC locations and 500 for our Westchester location. We went through the normal protocol and applied early to receive the inoculations. We never thought we would receive them ahead of area hospitals and once we saw your (TV) report, we promptly donated the doses we received to a few area hospitals."

 Outrage Remains

Still many people like Brent Budowsky (, November 5 2009) are outraged. Budowsky said, "This is a ridiculous distribution strategy; at worst, these firms gave some vaccines not to high-risk people but to high-profit traders and senior managers."

CNBC and Reuters (November 5 2009) claim close to 160 million people are in the priority groups to get vaccine first -- healthcare workers, pregnant women, children and adults under 65 with medical conditions, caregivers for infants too young to be vaccinated and people 24 and younger.

Public health departments across the country say they will not be able to meet the bulk of the demand until December or January.

"It's bad enough that Wall Street crashed our economy and is back to paying out platinum bonuses after taking trillions in taxpayer-funded bailouts and backstops," Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said in a statement. "But purposely endangering the health of millions of Americans during a public health crisis crosses all lines of decency."

The fact that some businesses appear to be getting the vaccine before some other groups has caused outrage among many doctors also -- especially in light of reports that hospitals and health departments report that they are experiecing shortages of vaccine.

"Greed goes beyond just money," said Dr. Michael Coates, professor of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., of the news, which first appeared in a BusinessWeek article on Monday. "We have neither the seasonal nor the H1N1 vaccines for our patients. I had several high-risk individuals in my clinic this morning who should get vaccinated." (ABC News Medical Unit, November 5 2009)
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