Archive for Friday, October 22, 2004

Politicians get scarce flu shot

Moore, Ryun opt for vaccine

October 22, 2004


Don't expect Lawrence's congressional representatives to be calling in sick because of the flu.

Both U.S. Reps. Dennis Moore, a Democrat, and Jim Ryun, a Republican, received flu vaccines that were made available to members of Congress but are in short supply elsewhere.

Ryun said he took the shot because his asthma put him in the high-risk category.

Moore's office said the congressman was following doctor's orders.

Dr. John Eisold, attending physician to Congress, told lawmakers that because of their daily contact with numerous people, they should get the shot to protect themselves and those around them.

Moore's office issued a statement that said: "Congressman Moore meets and shakes hands with hundreds of people, including seniors, children and others who are at risk. If he's not protected against illness, he could be a carrier to those at-risk populations."

Health officials say priority groups to get the vaccine are generally the young, elderly and people with underlying chronic ailments.

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., opted not to get a flu shot. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., however, did get one because he is 68 years old and is in a priority group.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and her Cabinet members haven't received the vaccine, her office reported.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department flu clinic will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive. The cost will be $12 for children 3 and under and $17 for all others. People should have insurance cards ready for billing purposes.The clinic is for people in high-priority groups. That includes:¢ All children aged 6-23 months.¢ Adults 65 and older.¢ People 2-64 with underlying chronic medical conditions.¢ All women who will be pregnant during influenza season.¢ Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.¢ Children 6 months to 18 years of age on chronic aspirin therapy.¢ Health care workers with direct patient care.¢ Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children 6 months and younger.

"She wants it to be reserved for those who are in the high-risk groups," Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said.

Other high-profile politicians, including President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, have declined to get the vaccine, saying at-risk people should have priority.

The shots have been in short supply because of vaccine contamination by one of the United States' two main suppliers. The problem has sparked anxiety and long lines for vaccines across the country.

People began lining up at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka for a flu clinic that started at 11 a.m.

Barbara Heston, spokeswoman for the Shawnee County Health Agency, said after the initial rush the dispensing of the vaccine was orderly. The agency had 3,700 doses.

Darlene Montgomery, of Topeka, received her shot. She said she found it ironic that President Bush didn't want Americans to import drugs from Canada but now the United States was trying to get more vaccines from Canada.

When told that many in Congress had received flu shots, she said, "I suppose that they would. They give themselves priority in everything."

Roger Barnes, a volunteer who was driving the elderly and people with disabilities in a golf cart back to their cars in the parking lot, agreed.

"It doesn't seem quite kosher when other people are trying to get the vaccine," he said.

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