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Anxious Crowds Meet Ad Hoc Swine Flu Police

신종 플루 백신접종 수요폭증에 美 보건당국 골머리

  • 존 터커 │ 영국문화원 강사 john.tucker@britishcouncil.co.kr

Anxious Crowds Meet Ad Hoc Swine Flu Police

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October 28, 2009 New York Times

Anxious Crowds Meet Ad Hoc Swine Flu Police

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER

The top public health official in Los Angeles County(1) stood at a swine flu vaccination site in Compton, Calif., on Tuesday and gently told elderly residents that they really ought to go home.

“I explained to people 65 or older, ‘The reason we are doing this is for children,’” said the official, Jonathan E. Fielding(2), the director of the county?s Department of Public Health. “I told them: ‘They are at very high risk for this flu, and you?re at low risk. I am sure you wouldn?t want to get a shot that left a kid who is at risk in harm?s way.’”



People have lined up in Southern California and across the country in recent days in the hope of getting a prick in the arm, but a dearth of the H1N1 vaccine has created an unexpected dynamic: local government officials, hospital workers and doctors in private practice(3) are being conscripted as ad hoc swine flu police.

The goal is to make sure that those Americans with the highest risk for contracting the virus and experiencing the more dangerous complications that can ensue get injected first. But the somewhat willy-nilly nature of the vaccine?s distribution in some areas, publicity surrounding President Obama?s declaration of a national emergency(4) and the rather large population legitimately considered high risk have brought hundreds of thousands of people to vaccine distribution points.

Some people beg. Some reduce themselves to lying about a pregnancy, or an underlying medical condition, that would move them ahead of the pack.(5) In any case, officials say it is virtually impossible to verify most of the claims.

“We have made it very clear as to who we believe should go to the front of the line,” said Thomas W. Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who added, “There very much is an honor system here in place with us relying on the general public to do the right thing and step aside.”

On the one hand, each vaccinated person is one less carrier of the flu, regardless of individual risk. On the other, government officials have set unambiguous priorities based on who is most vulnerable: pregnant women, people who live with or take care of infants under 6 months old, health care workers, anyone 6 months to 24 years of age and people who are older than that but have underlying health problems that make them susceptible to influenza-related complications.

In Chicago, hundreds of people snaked through the hallways of a city college on the southwest side even before the swine flu vaccine clinic there opened on Tuesday. Just 10 minutes after its opening, 760 of 1,200 available appointments for an injection had been reserved.

Ilissa Shefferman arrived at the vaccination site more than an hour before the doors opened with her 8-month-old daughter. Ms. Shefferman, 36, a stay-at-home mother(6), brought documentation that she was asthmatic just in case she had to prove it. As she surveyed the line, she said she was annoyed to see people who appeared not to be in the risk groups. “If they?re not high-risk, they should have respect for those who are,” Ms. Shefferman said.

Another person in line, Bill Wenthen, who is 50, brought his young daughter to get vaccinated and said he would try to get the vaccine himself if the medical staff would allow it, even though he was not part of the high-risk population. “I?ll go for it if they let me,” Mr. Wenthen said.

Dr. Julie Morita, the medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health?s immunization program, said the department expected to vaccinate about 7,000 people on Tuesday. Women who were visibly pregnant and people in wheelchairs would be allowed to move to the front of the line. “One thing we learned is that we don?t want late-term pregnant women sitting around waiting for hours,” Dr. Morita said.

(1) Los Angeles County in the US a city (like Los Angeles) may also have a ‘county’ a larger unit of local government, one tier below a state, which includes areas outside the city limits.

(2) Jonathan E. Fielding US citizens are commonly referred to in this way: full first name, initial letter of middle name, last (family) name.

(3) President Obama is currently trying to reform health care in the US. Ownership of the health care system is mainly in private hands, though federal, state, county, and city governments also own certain facilities.

(4) By declaring a ‘state of emergency’, President Obama authorised the setting up of vaccine distribution centres outside hospitals

(5) In other words, because they are so desperate for the vaccination and want to get it ahead of others, people have been forced to falsely claim that they have medical problems.

(6) Otherwise known as a housewife.

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존 터커 │ 영국문화원 강사 john.tucker@britishcouncil.co.kr
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Anxious Crowds Meet Ad Hoc Swine Flu Police

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