October 28, 2009


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor
For the past two years, Americans have been preparing for what was predicted to be “the worst of the worst” flu seasons in this country’s recent history as the H1N1 virus began to spread from country to country. And at that time, we were assured by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) that America would be ready for this flu and that there would be plenty of vaccine to help Americans ward off the flu.
Well, it is now two years later. And guess what?
The CDC is still telling us that the H1N1 virus is rapidly spreading across this country and that we should be taking every precaution not to get this particular form of flu. If we come down with flu-like symptoms, we should stay at home and avoid coming in contact with others. And, so as not to tax the hospitals and clinics, people should not go to the doctor unless they have extreme temperatures, trouble breathing or their lips and fingers start to turn blue.
As of late last week, H1N1 has infected millions of Americans and already killed nearly 100 children in the United States. Nationwide, according to the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a thousand people have died as a result, with 46 states reporting widespread H1N1 activity. And as of this past weekend, North Dakota reported its first fatality as the result of H1N1.
Which raises the obvious question of just how prepared was the United States for the H1N1 virus? And more importantly, where is the vaccine to protect us?
The U.S. government was promising that as many as 120 million doses for the H1N1 virus would be available to the general public by mid-October. But as of Oct. 21, only 11 million doses had been shipped to health departments, doctor’s offices and other providers.
And so now American parents with young children, pregnant women, the elderly with chronic health conditions, and millions of other Americans are left standing in long lines hoping and praying that they will be one of the lucky recipients of a flu shot when the next limited shipment of vaccine arrives.
So why the shortage of vaccine? It appears that the manufacturers of the vaccine didn’t do a very good job of calculating how much vaccine they could produce. And to make matters worse, our federal government officials and the CDC didn’t do a very good job of staying on top of the manufacturers.
The end result is, in all likelihood, the vast majority of Americans will not be vaccinated in time to prevent the continued spread of the H1N1 virus. As a result, our nation’s healthcare system is going to be swamped with people needing to be hospitalized for something that a simple shot could have prevented.
In light of the mismanagement of H1N1 by the U.S. government, it makes a person wonder how our government could ever run an entire healthcare system.
The good news, if there is any, is that the CDC now hopes to have about 50 million doses of vaccine for the so-called Swine Flu out by mid-November and 150 million in December.
Let’s hope that it’s not a case of too little help coming too late.