Wall Street swine are among the first to get H1N1 Flu vaccine
"REALLY!?!" SNL rips Goldman
By KAREN MATTHEWS
NEW YORK — Some of New York's biggest companies, including Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, received doses of swine flu vaccine for at-risk employees, drawing criticism that the hard-to-find vaccine is going first to the privileged.
Hospitals, universities and the Federal Reserve Bank also got doses of the vaccine for employees who need it the most, such as pregnant women or chronically ill workers, according to the city's health department.
In order to receive the vaccine, companies had to have their own medical staff. Distributing large doses of the vaccine to such businesses is "a great avenue for vaccinating people at risk," said Jessica Scaperotti, spokeswoman for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
But critics said Wall Street firms should not have access to the vaccine before less wealthy Americans.
"Vaccines should go to people who need them most, not people who happen to work on Wall Street," Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut said Thursday.
"Wall Street banks have already taken so much from us. They've taken trillions of our tax dollars. They've taken away people's homes who are struggling to pay the bills," union official John VanDeventer wrote on the Web site of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union. "But they should not be allowed to take away our health and well-being."
Meanwhile, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter Thursday to state and local health departments asking them to review their distribution plans and make sure the vaccine is getting to high-risk groups.
Dr. Thomas Frieden said any decisions that appear to send vaccine beyond high-priority groups "have the potential to undermine the credibility of the program."
Swine flu vaccine has been in short supply nationwide because of manufacturing delays, resulting in long lines at clinics and patients being turned away at doctor's offices. The vaccine started trickling out in early October, and there are now nearly 36 million doses available.
© 2009 The Associated Press: www.ap.org
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