October 28th, 2009
11:22 AM ET

Dear President Obama #282: Surprise! No vaccine!

Reporter's Note: The Administration is trying pretty hard to explain why there is not even vaguely enough vaccine for all who want to be inoculated against H1N1. Meanwhile, I’m trying to explain to my wife where all the PopTarts went, as I write today’s letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I learned a hard lesson in my early days of TV. I was racing to get a story finished in time for the 6 o’clock news, (about a dog that liked wearing hats, or something like that) and time was running out fast. I slapped down edits like a whirling dervish, answered frantic calls from the control room, and at the last possible second I pressed the play button to meet my deadline.

Afterward, however, the program director stopped by and said something simple but profound. “I was afraid you were going to surprise me by not being done on time. And you know most folks don’t like surprises.”

I think that is what’s bothering people about the government’s H1N1/Swine flu response. We all know that medical science can be inexact. We all know unexpected delays can hold up in any program. We all know that diseases do what they wish with little respect for our plans; kind of like teenagers. But after months of being told by our government that we should be ready for a return of the flu this fall, a lot of people are clearly shocked to find that the government itself seems so utterly unprepared.

The public, heeding all those calls to wash hands, strap on masks, and “get thee to a dispensary” have been shocked to find that there is not only not enough vaccine, but not nearly enough.

I fear, this does more damage than you might think to public trust in government overall. Most of us don’t have a lot to do with the paper pushing in DC most days. Truth be told, although government affects our lives in countless ways, we’re usually only aware of it when it is time to pay taxes, or when the blue lights come on in our rearview mirror, or when we show up to stand in line at a clinic for two hours only to be told “no soup for you!”

Like I was told so long ago, most folks don’t like surprises. Especially unpleasant ones. And when they get hit that way, they are likely to hit back…whether or not there is a good explanation for what went wrong. Speaking of things going wrong, did you see the Redskins on MNF? Ouch. Call me.



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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Lori

    You are right.

    October 28, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  2. Tishila, NJ

    Why are the Dems so quiet about the shortage when they blasted Bush just 2 years ago for "clearly not caring abput the health of Americans" and for "not having his eye on what's important"? Heard the tapes replayed on the radio. Can you spell 'double standard'?

    October 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm |
  3. Ratna, New York, NY

    No Unity No Vaccine, even if Duane Read and Rite-Aid nation-wide are able to carry the vaccine.

    And why are the ancient old political traditional lobbyists pharmaceutical companies not helping the government now? THis is an opportunity to make money! Is it not?

    Now! wait the minute, the production of over-the-counter heroine to the Long Island teenagers is more important. God knows, it may kill more people faster before the H1N1 virus gets to them.

    October 28, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  4. Joanne P

    We suspect that our 19 year old may be infected with either the seasonal flu or H1N1. We called two physician's office and no one would see her. The "advice" was to wait until she needs an emergency room visit.

    October 28, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  5. meenas17

    Government is fumbling with vaccine. Incompetency is not desirable.If you have to rise to an occassion, take efforts to cope with it and accomplish the task.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  6. Amy Parrent

    It gets better. My county health department ran out of the seasonal flu vaccine in early October. Their excuse: The Federal government short shrifted them on the seasonal vaccine because it's been concentrating on producing H1N1 – which of course we don't have nearly enough of either.

    Although I'm routinely exposed to one of H1N1's target populations, young people, I'm not optimistic I'll be able to get that vaccine. Meanwhile, for the seasonal vaccine I'll have to go to a local retail pharmacy which still has a supply.

    Yes, the private entitities which charge more for the shot still have it but not the government.

    October 28, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  7. Kendra

    Try Canada. They have vaccine for everyone up there.

    October 28, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  8. kim p oakview, ca

    Can't help but think the government is missing the boat on healthcare. If anyone cares to check out their recent invoice from their hospital or doctor they will find the incredibly inflated cost for every service you receive. I recently went to the emergency care with a eye problem. The doc gave me eye drops and the hospital left the price tag on the bottle which was $17.95. The hospital charged me $278.00 for the drops! Ask your viewers what they were charged for a tylenol when in a hospital. You'll fall off your stool. And the tests after needless test especially for the elderly. I suggest someone take a good look see at the healthcare institutions as well as the insurance companies who never ask questions and you'll see who is actually fleecing America. BTW~ I called the hospital on my eye drop issue and they quickly adjusted the price. I have great insurance as well but felt it my duty to call this selfish, greedy hospital on their ethics. Perhaps we all need to do more than just accept these extreme costs. And you wonder why America has the highest healthcare costs in the world?????? Get real. If your going to reform healthcare you need to take a complete look at the trickledown effect. Cause and effect.

    October 28, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  9. Conserve' for USA

    Do the rest of you think our government can handle health care for the whole United States? Look at cash for clunkers, now the H1N1 vaccine. The government is in capable of running a program that would be for everyone. We will end up with another program like Medicare or Medicaid that are ready to go under. How about like VA Hospitals, the Post Office, or Amtrak? Just more examples how the government runs things.

    October 28, 2009 at 9:32 am |
  10. Kula May Ellison

    Morning Does the government have any intention to make any more vaccine. People in charge issuing vaccine do not do their home work. Kula Ellison

    October 28, 2009 at 8:54 am |
  11. SLM

    The government can't provide enough vaccine for everyone and yet people actually want them taking over health care!! Simply amazing that people are that naive.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:47 am |