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August 15, 2005

Again, let us prepare

The Journal News, a paper in New York City's northern suburbs, has a thoughtful editorial on pandemic planning: Again, let us prepare. It's encouraging to see such comments in local media; in many communities, "pandemic" is an unmentionable word, and attempts at discussion end with the unanswerable "Too depressing."

The editorial is pretty specific in its suggestions, and the paragraph in the quote has a sting in its tail:

•We urge the immediate formation of a special Asian Bird Flu Process Committee, under the direction of Rockland Health Commissioner Dr. Joan Facelle, to accomplish the immediate securing of enough vaccine for all Rockland residents. And there must be back-up sources.

• An orderly system must in place to arrange speedy vaccination without panic. That system should be known to all in advance. We cannot have supermarkets giving out vaccine as "loss leaders" while the county has none, as initially happened last fall in the annual flu preparation.

• Prioritizing of vaccinations for the elderly and those with health concerns; first responders, teachers, and health care workers; and children.

• A game plan to oversee health care should enough people get ill, with the powers of quarantine used; with infected children and others immediately sent home or to health care; with hospitals and health care centers told to take in everyone regardless of the ability to pay.

While it is Washington that will really have to lead the country in securing bird flu vaccine, if local health departments across the nation move now while the bureaucracy initially does not, it may shame it and highlight the urgency of the situation.

Shaming the bureaucrats? Treating the ill regardless of ability to pay? Setting priorities for vaccination? Remarkable ideas.

Posted by dymaxion at August 15, 2005 09:00 PM

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