Axelrod On H1N1 Vaccines: ‘We Overpromised’

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.

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24 Responses to Axelrod On H1N1 Vaccines: ‘We Overpromised’

  1. Woodcliffe says:

    Christopher – You haven’t done an H1N1 swine flu post in a long time. As usual, great information.

    My doctor told us that he isn’t expecting the vaccine until November. His office gets about 200 calls each day from patients freaked out about availability.

    I think if we were to grade the Obama administration on how they handled this, they would get a “D.” Not failing but very close to it.

  2. bradfrmphnx says:

    I don’t think the Obama administration can be blamed for the vaccine not being available. They are not in the business of producing vaccines. At most you can give them the stink eye about some faulty reporting about availability. Its coming as soon as they can produce it, there are over 6.5 billion people wanting it in the world. We need to keep in mind that our regular seasonal flues have killed more people so far this year than H1N1. I think the most important thing Christopher has pointed out is that our country is not as prepared for disasters as we might think.

  3. DMason says:

    The middle of November is what I was told. 16.5 million doses and they were supposed to have 60 million by now. This is a big fuck up. Huge.

  4. Peace Nick says:

    The Obamas have received their H1N1 vaccine. As have members of the Obama administration. I read a piece that said the military has received their H1N1 vaccine, too.

    But for 97% of the American public, we wait and we get nothing but empty promises from HHS Sec’y Sebelius.

    Even high risk populations like pregnant women and the immuno compromised haven’t received their vaccine. It’s a public health catastrophe and it’s all on President Obama’s watch.

    Bush can’t be blamed this time.

  5. JollyRoger says:

    We didn’t get the vaccine; instead, the 5 year old got H1N1. We probly woulda gotten the vaccine, but that ain’t gonna happen.

    I’m just hoping now the rest of us don’t get hit. The 5 year old came back up out of it within a couple of days, and got to go trick-or-treating last night ( says if you go 24 hours with no fever, and you’ve had no fever reducers, you’re done. She made it.)

  6. libhomo says:

    It’s a good thing this isn’t an actual emergency. Hopefully, the Obama administration will do better in the event of a real emergency.

  7. Arizona Leatherneck says:

    Kathleen Sebelius is clueless.

    This is an epidemic and children and pregnant women are getting sick and dying 4 times more than other groups. If I see this dumb cluck instruct the people how to properly sneeze, I’ll slap her across her face.

  8. Matteo says:

    I have Type II Diabetes which puts me in a “high risk” group. But can my doctor find the H1N1 vaccine? Nope. However,

    H1N1 Vaccinations To Be Offered To Guantanamo Bay Detainees

    WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Pentagon will offer the H1N1 vaccination to detainees at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, officials there said Friday.

    The Pentagon made the decision based on U.S. government assessments that people held in detention facilities are at high risk for the pandemic, said Maj. Diana R. Haynie, a spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, which is in charge of holding the suspected terrorists.

    “Detainees at JTF Guantanamo are considered to be at higher risk and therefore they will be offered the H1N1 vaccination,” Haynie said.

    “JTF Guantanamo conducts safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees. As such, we must provide detainees the medical care necessary to maintain their health,” she said.

    Base officials had not received the vaccinations and did not know when they were expected to arrive, Haynie said.

    Once the vaccinations are received, doses will be administered to active-duty personnel before being offered to detainees and others on the base, Haynie said.

    The vaccination is mandatory for all uniformed personnel, she said.

    The vaccinations will be voluntary for the detainees, who will be briefed on the virus and the vaccine prior to deciding whether to receive the latter.

    Some of the detainees have already voluntarily taken the seasonal flu shot, Haynie said.

  9. Fran says:

    The vaccine culture grows slowly, and the virus is growing quickly. I have heard of women lying & saying they are pregnant just to get the shot.
    That takes shot away from those in true high risk groups.
    You can get a regular flu shot & a pneumonia shot, as this bug does hit the respiratory system…. a pneumonia shot lasts 5 years. Those can help in lieu of access to H1N1 shots.

    Just saying there are other options that may help.

  10. Tao says:

    Its time for everyone to just accept the fact that this country is ungovernable, unmanageable, and just basically, totally out of control…

    Its obvious that the financial meltdown of 2008 was kind of like a Katrina level reality check on our economic system and our political system and guess what…THEY ARE A MESS!

    They don’t work, can’t work and they have been faking it for years!

  11. JollyRoger says:

    Tao is right. We’re done. Like the USSR, however, it’ll take a little time to completely unravel us.

  12. Drew says:

    Its time for everyone to just accept the fact that this country is ungovernable, unmanageable, and just basically, totally out of control…

    Ka-Ching! I think we have a winner.

    I have this awful feeling we’re spiraling out of control and no one can stop the final crash.

  13. My sister-in-law knows someone who received a heart transplant and should, as a consequence, be on the list with those who are most at risk. He can’t get the vaccine. A heart transplant recipient. Amazing.

  14. Randy Arroyo says:

    The fact of the matter is, the Obama administration is lying and telling the public that “supply is catching up to demand.” This is simply not the case. At UCLA, with a student population of 50,000, the college got 500 doses of H1N1 vaccine. This is but one example of the piss poor job the Obama HHS has done with this epidemic.

  15. bradfrmphnx says:

    “The Obamas have received their H1N1 vaccine.”

    Peace Nick…the Obama’s daughters have received the vaccine, the president and first lady have not.

  16. Joe in Colorado says:

    Peace Nick…the Obama’s daughters have received the vaccine, the president and first lady have not.

    Roberts Gibbs was asked about this either last week and he said they had.

  17. Big Hank says:

    Of course Obama got a swine flu shot.

    He’s the Commander in Chief. To suggest otherwise is just stupid. In fact, my guess is, his entire cabinet got theirs at the same time the military got it.

  18. bradfrmphnx says:

    Well…I’m just going by the Washington Post Oct.28, 2009……

    As previously reported by The Post, all four members of the Obama family have received the seasonal flu vaccine, but the president and first lady have not yet received a shot to protect against the H1N1 flu virus, or swine flu. Only 16.5 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine have become available so far, a figure well short of public demand, leading to rationing.

    “They will wait until the needs of the priority groups identified by the CDC — including young people under the age of 24, pregnant women, and people with underlying conditions — have been met,” the first lady’s press secretary, Catherine Mccormick-Lelyveld, explained on the White House blog.

  19. Pechanga says:

    CNN is arguably the epitome of irresponsible journalism.

    They had a segment on featuring mother/daughter victims of the H1N1 swine flu — here’s the catch, both women were pregnant. They survived and the babies were born healthy.

    But the yellow journalism came when the reporter advised ALL PREGNANT WOMEN TO GET THE H1N1 VACCINE. The problem is, the vaccine isn’t available.

    Where is the Obama administration? Why didn’t he appoint a qualified person to head up HHS? This is a nightmare and it’s happening on his watch.

  20. I’m not particularly worried about this, but the fact that the regular flu vaccine is now facing shortages is pathetic.

  21. Estacada says:

    BradfromPhx – If you think the POTUS & the VPOTUS didn’t get an H1N1 vaccine shot then you’re either naive or an Obamabot or both.

    A president — will always be protected ahead of the people who elected them.

  22. bradfrmphnx says:

    Estacada…I am simply going by the article in the Post. I am neither naive nor an Obamabot. I’m curious as to what makes you an expert as to the goings on of a president, or are you just guessing? My opinion is that he didn’t. Yours is that he did. Fine, we each have an opinion. I was tasteful enough not to call names, you were not.

  23. Randy Arroyo says:

    The number of H1N1 doses keeps changing. One day it’s 12 million, then it’s 16 million, then 24 million, yet for a country of 305 million, that’s fewer than 10% coverage max. The CDC, NIH, HHS and the five pharmas who have the Federal contract are failing to provide vaccine and people are dying.

  24. Joe in Colorado says:

    Have you folks noticed that 20% of the comments here are from the same poster? Very odd, if you ask me. Oh well.

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