Wall Street gets swine flu vaccine before others

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It appears there's no end to the greed of Wall Street financial institutions. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley were among the first employers in New York to receive shipments of the badly sought after H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

Wall Street appeared to outrank children, critics charge. Among the outraged is Julie, a concerned mother who wrote in a blog on www.momlogic.com.

"This is outrageous," she said. "How are bankers, brokers, and traders put before high-risk children who actually need the vaccine most?"

Julie said her pediatrician is out of the vaccine and won't have it for weeks, leaving her children unvaccinated.

"During 2009, at least 114 children have been killed by the swine flu. How many stockbrokers have died of swine flu this year?" asked Julie. "Not 114, I can assure you."

"It makes me sick that the very people who got us into this financial mess we're in now, the people we have bailed out time and time again, are again getting preferential treatment," she said.

The financial firms were among the first 50 private employers in the city to get them because they were among the first to apply, health officials said.

BusinessWeek reported last week that 13 corporations including the bailed out investment banks had received over 1,400 doses of the vaccine.

Citigroup, which asked for 7,200 doses, received 1,200 while Goldman Sachs, which applied for 5,400, was given 200. Yet many hospitals and clinics have reported shortages driving thousands to wait in long lines at health centers nationwide.

The vaccine is supposed to be administered on a priority basis to people who are in high-risk categories including pregnant women, diabetics and employees suffering from cancer or liver disease.

Anna Burger, secretary treasurer of the country's biggest health care workers union, the Service Employees International Union, said the distribution of the vaccines to Wall Street sends the wrong message.

"It's obscene that Wall Street bankers think they are entitled to private shipments of H1N1 vaccinations while health-care workers, pregnant women, and other at-risk Americans are either waiting in line for hours or getting turned away because of shortages," Burger told the UK Guardian.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said he was stunned to learn that top banks had received vaccines when people are experiencing a shortage of doses.

"It is shocking to think that private firms would be prioritized ahead of hospitals when the vaccine supply cannot meet the demand," said Dodd. "It's hard to believe that at a time when even the most vulnerable in our society are unable to obtain H1N1 vaccinations, the government is sending doses to private firms on Wall Street," he said.

"People are frustrated by the government's response to this crisis, and with news like this, who can blame them." The vaccines should go to people who need them the most, not people who happen to work on Wall Street, Dodd said.

In the U.S. 600 deaths have been blamed on swine flu. The H1N1 vaccine was rushed into production over the summer. However factories are struggling to meet demand. Reports indicate that so far, 31.8 million doses have been made available in the U.S. Health authorities say that as many as 159 million people are in high-priority groups including children, young adults, the elderly and pregnant women.

Photo: People wait in line to receive the swine flu vaccine from the Montgomery County Health Department in Maple Glen, Pa., Oct. 29. (AP/Matt Rourke)

 

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