Sunday, November 1, 2009
Have you tried to get an H1N1 swine flu vaccine for yourself or your children, only to be told by your healthcare provider that none is available and even worse, no estimated time of vaccine arrival is offered?
While candidate Sen. Obama was critical of the previous administration’s handling of disasters and emergencies, now President Obama’s administration is admitting for the first time that responding to the complexities of public health emergency is much more challenging than they imagined.
In an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, said the administration based its predictions about how many doses of the H1N1 vaccine would be available by mid-October on bad information.
Scott Simon: On Friday, the president talked about his frustration that H1N1 vaccine hasn’t gotten out to more Americans. In August, the Centers for Disease Control said that 120 million doses would be available. They later scaled that back to 45 million. We’re speaking today, on the last day of October, 25 million doses reportedly are ready. Did the government overpromise?
David Axelrod: Well, I think the manufacturers overpromised, and what was reported was the representations that were made to us. The fact is that this is a problem that’s abating every day. And yes, we thought we would have 40,000 now, we have 26 —
Simon: — Forty million —
Axelrod: — I’m sorry, 40 million. Now we have 26 million. We believe that that is improving on a daily basis, and we’re going to have an ample supply in very short order. So yes, we probably did overpromise, and we overpromised on the basis of what was represented to us.
Simon: Does it give you any sensation about — is it harder to get things accomplished from this place than maybe you thought it was during the campaign?
Axelrod: Well, I don’t know that I had an expectation about how hard or easy it would be to get things done. The fact is that in terms of the H1N1 virus, we’ve mobilized pretty rapidly, and I think effectively starting the spring. I was in [with] the president after the first briefing, and there was a time, frankly, when people were suggesting that maybe we were overreacting. But he set the wheels in motion, and I think that that will have averted an even larger public health crisis. On the vaccine, by the way, Scott, I should mention that the other important element to this is Tamiflu to deal with the flu once it occurs. And there [are] ample supplies of those. So those who are affected ought to be able to get those treatments, and we’re particularly interested in the children.
Simon: Of course, during the campaign, then-Sen. Obama was critical of the previous administration’s handling of disasters and emergencies. Does the difficulty you’ve had in getting the vaccine out to millions of Americans make you think, “You know, it really is harder?”
Axelrod: Look, I don’t think anybody ever held the last administration up to a standard of perfection. I mean there was a wholesale of problems relative to Katrina that were appalling. This problem was exactly what I described to you, which was related to the manufacturers’ representation versus what they were able to produce. But I think in every other way, including our constant consultation with public health authorities around the country, from the time the first evidence of a potential epidemic arose, I’d be happy to match our performance with previous administrations on this. We’ve learned a lot from them.
Meanwhile, Health and Human Services now says H1N1 swine flu vaccine started shipping last Thursday and Friday and Americans should begin to see clinics offering the much-sought after vaccine throughout November. Stay tuned.