Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 21, 2004

Vaccine fumble shows disregard for public health

As I stood in a very long line waiting for flu shots for my elderly parents, I could not help but wonder whether this monumental public health fumble is the Bush administration's "October surprise" on us ("Caught off guard," editorial, Oct. 19). Several senior citizens I spoke with in that line commented that the chaotic crush of people hearkened back to the days of the Depression, World War II rationing and the gasoline crisis of the 1970s.

Many people will not get the vaccine they need this year, and as a result, many will suffer and some will even die unnecessarily.

This raises credibility questions about the Bush administration's ability to coordinate a prompt and effective medical response to a bioterrorist attack on our state and nation.

And why were the guardians of our health so unprepared? We know that the problem is deeper than today's shortage of flu shots - vaccine manufacturing is expensive and not very profitable, and the number of companies producing vaccines has declined.

Why, then, did the Bush administration ignore a 2003 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) proposing changes in the outmoded system by which the government buys and distributes vaccines?

The administration should heed the IOM's recommendations.

It may be too late to help this year, but we should never tolerate this kind of disregard for the nation's health again.

William A. Bronrott

Bethesda

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 16 in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Authorities needed backup plan for flu

Why isn't the Bush administration being held accountable for the flu vaccine shortage ("Caught off guard," editorial, Oct. 19)?

All over this country, senior and disabled citizens are standing in lines for hour after hour for a flu shot.

Many of them are on respirators, using canes, in wheelchairs, or in pain. Many have gone to two, three or four clinics, showing up hours early, only to be told there won't be enough vaccine for everyone.

Why didn't the government have a backup plan when, for years, public health officials have cited the real risk of a flu pandemic?

Timothy Smith

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Vaccine makers face very limited liability

The Sun's editorial "Caught off guard" states that "President Bush argues flu vaccine suppliers are dwindling because drug manufacturers fear lawsuits from adverse reactions. He proposes to free them from legal liability."

The president should be advised that since 1988, most immunizations, including flu immunizations, have been covered by a federal "no-fault" system. Manufacturers are largely immune from liability, except in rare circumstances. Compensation awards are funded by a surcharge of 75 cents per vaccination.

One can't expect the president to know everything. But it would be nice if he refrained from speaking on topics about which he is ill-informed.

Irwin E. Weiss

Baltimore

Single-payer plans are bad for patients

The flu shot shortage has once again stirred grumbling about the way health services are provided in the United States and the possibility of a universal or single-payer health system.

After experiencing health care in two nations with single-payer plans, I have to ask: How many of those advocating universal health care have actually been its patients?

Tim Marshallsay

Baltimore

Substantive debates are key to democracy

Rob Hiaasen's rant against the third presidential debate, and his claim that "it's time for the main event," completely miss the essence of participatory democracy ("Viewers achieve debate fatigue," Oct. 15). These discussions are the main event, not just to help voters decide but to force candidates to explain themselves.

The fact that the debate format has been eviscerated doesn't mean we've had too much debating. On the contrary, we've had none at all.

I want to see a series of nose-to-nose shouting matches like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, without polite moderators and the exclusionary debate commission and prima donna demands by the candidates.

As long as the media and the people don't clamor for substantive debates, there won't be any. And that is not a trivial matter.

Abigail Breiseth

Baltimore

Neither candidate has plan to end war

G. Jefferson Price III lays out an interesting argument, but I must remind him that Sen. John Kerry has agreed with President Bush on the doctrine of pre-emptive war, and surprised the heck out of me when he said so ("What about the next pre-emptive war?" Opinion * Commentary, Oct. 17).

So no matter who is elected, we may get into another pre-emptive war. Unfortunately, in this area, and many others, there is very little difference between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush. It makes me wonder how we could not do better than these two, so that now I am forced to choose the evil of two lessers.

Also, it has been my experience that the wars and police actions I have had to participate in were all under Democratic presidents.

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