Is Beating Bird Flu A Backward Plan?

When this story on responding to a global flu pandemic came out in the Post last Friday, I happened to be curled up in bed, thinking about how I used to love taking sick days back in high school. (I also happened to be pondering the unfortunate reality that they're not nearly as enjoyable when I'm actually sick.)

Even though I got socked with some sort of ailment that, among other distasteful effects, made it highly uncomfortable to look at a computer screen -- particularly distressing for a blogger -- I managed to stay coherent enough to read the copy of the Post delivered to my door each morning. Coherent enough, in fact, to read the aforementioned story and conclude that perhaps the U.S. response plan isn't as well-thought-out as it could be.

The first phase wisely calls for vaccinating healthcare workers. Brand new blog Wrapper's Rap argues taking it even further: "people in certain industries should be given priority .... Farmers, water department officials, safety officers, communications workers, teachers and of course bloggers must be saved," she writes.

But which safety officers, exactly? Court bailiffs, FBI agents and county police officers alike? Should terrible teachers receive the same preferential treatment as fantastic teachers? And do news reporters, editors and producers -- those who provide the public with vital information about safety precautions, the disease's progress and so forth -- get spots at the head of the line, too?

Given that pandemic flus have a history of killing rather indiscriminately -- as opposed to targeting mostly the very young, the very old and the immuno-suppressed -- should vaccination efforts among the general population begin with the able-bodied twenty- / thirty- / forty-somethings who could, in a worst case scenario, rebuild and repopulate a decimated society? What about pregnant women? Children? Darwin's Moustache aptly compares these vital planning decisions to the "lifeboat exercise."

Debaters, what sort of prioritization scheme -- if any -- would make the most sense?

We'll get back to the money in politics debate soon enough -- with discussion of lobbying, tax policy, campaign finance, etc. Just wanted to take a bit of time to hit the hot topics I missed while I was out of commission.

By Emily Messner |  May 15, 2006; 7:56 AM ET  | Category:  National Politics
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The Federal Government's inability to offer much in the way of proactive planning is the result of a disonnected, for-profit national health system that cannot be easily integrated or augmented.

The SOLUTION to the PROBLEM calls for a more integrated and, most likely, PUBLIC system that can easily share information, be augmented with federal supplies and/or money and can be coordinated centrally in times of emergency. This goes against the NEO-TARD, free market is the ONLY solution mentality.

No, a totally socialized healthcare system is no the answer either, but market-based medicine is an oxymoron and obscene.

Healthcare is a national security issue and should be treated has such. We were "lucky" to have a natural "test run" that exposed the weaknesses of our market-based systems and the true test will be to see if we learn from our mistakes. So far...not so much.

Posted by: AfghanVet | May 15, 2006 09:27 AM

Emily asks:
"Debaters, what sort of prioritization scheme -- if any -- would make the most sense?"

A prioritization scheme that is decided by health professionals and not politicians. The scary aspect of this, for me, is the politicians, who rushed to "save" Tery Schaivo, will be making these decisions. Let a panel of doctors outside government form a comittee and give the government recommendtaions and make these recommendations public for further debate. If we leave it to Bill Frist & company, who make "diagnoses" via television, well, its just the wrong way to do it.

Posted by: Sully | May 15, 2006 09:57 AM

Ah yes, how does one decide who is more equal than the next???

Animal farm

Posted by: Hal | May 15, 2006 10:06 AM

It's not nice to fool (with) Mother Nature's adjustment policies!

Posted by: olerb | May 15, 2006 11:02 AM

We don't need debate, we need dialogue.

Last year, the CDC - working with several other organizations - held public-input sessions to talk about how vaccine might be distributed in the next flu pandemic. The same sorty of process would work well for bird flu vaccine decisions. To learn more, read my piece at the Study Circles Resource Center website:

Bring as many diverse voices to the table as possible, encourage their respectful discussion, and the best public policy will emerge.

Posted by: Julie in Boise | May 15, 2006 11:13 AM

I asked a scientist the best approach to take should the bird flu begin passing human-to-human. His response was that isolating and then vaccinating the entire population immediately surrounding the outbreak is the method with the highest probability of avoiding a pandemic. This is not a popular choice politically. Too bad the politicians rather than the scientists will be in charge. Can you imagine the US shipping our available vaccine to, say China? We may actually experience the ironic scenario where politically "protecting" ourselves condemns us instead.

Posted by: Janie | May 15, 2006 11:15 AM

Emily, the problem we have on the Bird Flu question is the same problem we had on the Katrina question. Bush's failed economic policies--policies that have robbed our public treasuries of the necessary resources that are required for any effective policymaking in these areas--infect every single question.

This is a question that does not require any Presidential or Contressionally mandated study. All it requires is a President and a Congress that recognize that the problems that beset us today--whether it be a health crisis in the form of a plague, whether it be a natural catastrophe, whether it be the necessity to reform our immigration policies or protect our borders, or whether it be the awful prospect of responding to another terrorist attack--reqires a committment of resources that are planned in adavance.

What we have in Washington at the moment is a plan of government that relies on what Sebastian Mallaby is calling in his column this morning as "voodoo" policies, reviving what Bush's own father called the faith based supply side economic claptrap that tax cuts generate government revenues.

None of these problems or crises that we are debating on this forum are going to be resolved unless and until our government and our people recognize the link between effective policies and effective means for raising revenues to pay for those effective policies. The Bill of Goods we have been sold since conservatives took control of our government--that limited government and low taxes on the investment classes will solve all of our problems--has not worked. Otherwise, Bush and the Conress would not be urgently scrambling for quick fix policies that rely on revenue gimmicks to pay for them. And, we would not have to go begging, hat-in-hand to China, Japan and other growing ecomnomies to bail us out of our debts.

Posted by: Jaxas | May 15, 2006 11:24 AM

Poll: 2004 Election Was Stolen; according to viewers of all news networks except Fox

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by Rob Kall

Who are these Fox viewers. OpEdNews gives you the details.

In the first poll of its kind, (using First choice of TV news network as a demographic variable), in the second OpEdNews/Zogby People's poll has learned that except for viewers of right wing news show, Fox News, poll respondents believe that the 2004 presidential election was stolen.

Overall, the poll of Pennsylvania residents found that 39% said that the 2004 election was stolen. 54% said it was legitimate. Shortly after the election, the NY Times suggested that a few fringe extremists and bloggers were concerned about the theft of the election.

But let's look at the demographics on this question. Of the people who watch Fox news as their primary sourc of TV news, one half of one percent believe it was stolen and 99% believe it was legitimate. Among people who watched ANY other news source but FOX, more felt the election was stolen than legitimate. The numbers varied dramatically:

Here are the stats by network listed as first choice by respondent and whether the respondent thought the election was stolen or legitimate.
Network Stolen Legitimate
ABC 56% 32%
CBS 64% 31%
CNN 70% 24%
FOX .5% 99%
MSNBC 65% 24%
NBC 49% 43%
Other 56% 28%

The poll asked people which was their favorite source of TV newst. Among the 689 people in the poll who answered this question, 37% watched Fox news, more than any other single network. CNN came in second with 21% with MSNBC third, with 13%. It makes sense for these three 24/7 news networks to be the top in this category, since the others air news for limited parts of the day.

A lot more information on Fox News viewers :

After Fox news, the second choice for news network among Fox viewers is ABC 38% and MSNBC 37%, followed by CNN with 27%, NBC with 19% and CBS with 6%.

74% of it's viewers are married. 15% are single and 10% are divorced, widowed or separated. Whether they are fair and balanced, is up for debate. But they appear to be THE family channel, at least for Republicans. 64% have children. 85% of them come from non-union families. Among churchgoers, half go to church, temple or mosque rarely, never or just holidays. But for Fox News Viewers half go frequently. Among NBC viewers, 67% go most frequently. NBC has the most religious viewers. More born-agains watch NBC; 54% to 46%, and Born Agains are least likely to watch ABC: 95%/5%, MSNBC 78%/22%, CBS 76% to 24% and CNN 65%/35%. More Catholics, Protestants and Born-agains watch Fox news than any other news network.

82% of people who identify themselves as conservative and 80 of those who consider themselves very conservative watch Fox News. Zero liberal or progressives watch Fox News as their first choice, and 42% of moderates chose FOx news as their first choice. The first choice of progressives (very liberal) is Other, assumingly C-Span and the like. The first choice of Liberals is CNN.

Fox news is the favorite of suburban, small city and rural dwellers. CNN is the first choice of large city dwellers.

Among immigrants Fox news is the top favorite.

46% of men and 30% of women watch Fox news.

Less than 2% of Democrats favor Fox news, while it's the favorite for 75% of Republicans and 34% of independents. For Republicans and independents, Fox is the network that is first choice. CNN is viewed as first choice by Democrats, with 38% choosing it.

The People's Poll, with 42 questions, also found that the PA US Senate Race, with Rick Santorum, is not at all like other polls have reported. While Casey Has a 47-37% lead. He has spent millions of dollars to get it. His opponents Chuck Pennacchio and Alan Sandals are both within similar range, with 45% and 43% with Pennacchio having spent under $100,000 and Sandals having spent under $500,000. Both the current and a previous OpEdNews/Zogby people's poll found, that after respondents were given position information on the candidates, that Casey's lead disappears and he pulls a smaller percentage than either Pennacchio or Sandals.

We are waiting on further crosstab analysis of the data. We believe that we will find that if you pull out Fox viewers, the rest of America has a far different view of America and the Bush Administration

This poll was run May 9th through 10th, in Pennsylvania, by the Zogby organization.

Methodology statement from Zogby:
Zogby International conducted interviews of 707 likely voters online. Panelists who have agreed to participate in Zogby polls online were invited to participate in the survey. The online poll ran from 5/9/06 through 5/10/06. The margin of error is +/- 3.8 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Slight weights were added to party, age, race, religion, and gender to more accurately reflect the population.

More detailed Statistics from the poll will be posted later today.

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Report that Besides Fox Viewers, Poll Shows People Believe Bush Stole the 2004 Election

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Rob Kall is executive editor and publisher of, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and organizer of several conferences, including StoryCon, the Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story and The Winter Brain Meeting on neurofeedback, biofeedback, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology. He is a frequent Speaker on a wide range of subjects. See more of his articles here and, older ones, here.

Posted by: che | May 15, 2006 12:16 PM

With regard to the chances of a Bird Flue pandemic. I believe this is just another fear tactic by the Administration to 1) take our mind off the Administration's abysmal record and 2) give big drugs another handsome handout.

Posted by: Howard McFann | May 17, 2006 07:20 PM

The debate on immigration has the old irony contained in the aphorism 'bites the hand that feeds it'. At issue is the many illegal immigrants from all over the world that reside in this country, especially the less visible immigrants who overstay their visitor's visa, as well as those who come in through the borders without documentation. I imagine our already crippled economy and monetary system, deteriorated from spending and debt, not to mention sectors once called manufacturing, will be further debilitated without the help of cheap labor that falls into the category of the informal market. If we need these laborers, then poignancy is critical and public policy makers should find a way for mutual benefit. This is a loaded issue and requires some unemotional reasoning and clarity of thought. Our country is founded on our forebearers who were mostly all from another part of the world. Now we need philosophers, economists, policy experts, historians and wise men and women who can create sound policy and coalesce the much larger informal market into the (more diminutive) taxable and knowable formal market. We are, after all, an innovative society and I believe we have great minds to put forward-looking policies into action.

Posted by: Donna Lopez | May 17, 2006 10:24 PM

The allocation of health care in a H5N1 pandemic will be a horror for a year and a discussion for a generation. Right now, the US Tamiflu stockpile will just about cover the Armed forces --- and they are set to get the lions share. The plan given at shows that a certain percentage of the allocation is pushed down t the states but then two points become murky (1) what really is the state by state allocation and (2) what do the individual states plan to do with their allocation. Someone with real journalistic access should persue these questions --- the shot-from-the-hip blogging can be handled by millions of us.

Posted by: Mike Steele | July 8, 2006 10:30 PM

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