Swine Flu Politics: Health Reform Takes Hits Over Flu Vaccine

Criticism of the Obama administration's handling of swine flu vaccines has bled into another area of politics: the Democratic push for health care reform.

The administration has come under attack recently for reports that swine flu vaccines would be delivered to two of the most maligned classes of people in American politics--Guantanamo Bay detainees and Wall Street executives--before the rest of the country could get them.
A spokesman for the Guantanamo prison said earlier this week that vaccines should start arriving this month, and that the facility's medical staff had requested them. That statement was later contradicted by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who denied that any vaccines are on their way to Guantanamo at a his daily briefing with the White House press corps yesterday.

The Associated Press reported today that Wall Street firms Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have started receiving doses of the H1N1 vaccine.

Now, the conservative, free-market group American Future Fund will begin airing a TV ad questioning whether the government can be trusted with an expanded role in health care--as is being proposed with government-run insurance plans under consideration in the House and Senate--if it can't run a vaccine program without controversy:

The ad points to shortcomings in the government's estimates of how many vaccines would be delivered to Americans, plus the Guantanamo reports.

"If the government can't run a flu program, can we trust it to run America's entire health care system?" it asks. The ad will run nationwide on cable; the group says it has spent $450,000 to air it and hopes to add to that figure.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), meanwhile, the former House GOP whip who is running for Missouri's open Senate seat in 2010, blasted the Obama administration for Wall Street employees getting the shots ahead of other Americans.

"While many Missourians are still at risk, Wall Street bankers are at the head of the line for H1N1 vaccine," Blunt said in a statement released today. "The federal government continues to demonstrate that it cannot manage distribution of this vaccine; yet the Obama Administration wants to manage a complete government-takeover of health care."

And the Service Employees International Union, a political ally of the White House that dedicated tens of millions of dollars to his 2008 campaign, took aim at Wall Street for the vaccine doses Citigroup and Goldman have reportedly gotten, calling on those firms to donate the doses to community hospitals.

"It's obscene that Wall Street bankers think they are entitled to private shipments of H1N1 vaccinations while healthcare workers, pregnant women, and other at-risk Americans are either waiting in line for hours or getting turned away because of shortages," SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said in an official statement.

"Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and any other bank or corporation receiving private shipments of H1N1 vaccinations should immediately donate them to community hospitals in need."