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The Obama Administration Spends Billions on the Swine Flu

By Adam Ross

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the United States will set aside billions of dollars to pursue a vaccine for H1N1, commonly referred to as swine flu.

The Obama administration has officially overreacted.

Sure, the virus has killed -- 200 swine-flu deaths have been reported in the United States in 2009. But that's out of more than 32,000 reported cases, meaning that if you're unlucky enough to contract swine flu, you'll almost certainly survive.

Of course, it could mutate and spread into something worse. But so might a completely different flu strain. So, even if a vaccine were developed and you got the shot, there’s no guarantee you’re not dying from the flu this winter.

Maybe the money would be better spent sweetening Obama’s “down payment” on universal health care. That might do a lot more in the battle against the multitude of things that can kill you.

By Adam Ross  | July 9, 2009; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Ross  | Tags:  Adam Ross  
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Comments

Let me guess.

The WaPo editorial writers would rather US tax dollars be spent bombing Iran than defending America, right?

Seriously, are you all brain dead - or were you just dropped on your head as children?

Posted by: WillSeattle | July 9, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

The writer doesn't understand the value of vaccinations. They not only protect the individual from the disease, but also break the chain of infections, reducing dramatically the total number of people infected by the disease outbreak. The savings from recuding absenteeism alone more than pays for the cost of the vaccine.

Posted by: Chuck23 | July 9, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

A large outbreak of Swine Flu, which seems so far to hit the young disproportionately, would have a huge negative impact on the already reeling economy.

If a lot of kids have to stay out of school because they are sick, the parents, already stretched thin, either have to miss work, pay out child care they can't afford, or roll the dice by letting the kids stay home alone.

If there is no vaccine, workers will come to work SICK because they can't afford not to. Which will spread the disease more widely..etc. etc. etc.

The total monetary impact of not having an effective vaccine is enormously higher than a billion dollars.

Public Health is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Posted by: WarriorGrrl | July 9, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"The Obama administration has officially overreacted....
Sure, the virus has killed ------ Of course, it could mutate and spread into something worse. But so might a completely different flu strain."

Soooo .... spend the money elsewhere...HUH!

I believe the U.S. should prepare for the worst because it will probably mutate into something else in a couple of years.

Posted by: knjincvc | July 9, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

No doctors at Katherine Weymouth's parties?

Posted by: jonmeltzer | July 10, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse

WaPo's other columnists have demonstrated a similar lack of scientific understanding and economics.

Yuppers, it's OK to spend $12 billion a month in Iraq, but not OK to spend a fraction of that amount on protecting the health.

Maybe the virus won't mutate. Maybe thousands won't die. But, maybe the research will develop better anti-virus treatments.

I'd rather use my tax dollars on the vaccine rather than bullets.

Posted by: Continuum | July 10, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Hey what's the big deal? So far only asthmatics, diabetics, the obese, those with heart or kidney or lung disease and a few other small cohorts of humans are in any danger. Let's let this run it's natural course and if it becomes a problem for the rest of us we can hunker down in our 1962 built bomb shelters eating Civil Defense Department crackers and canned meats and the wait the bug out. We're Americans....we don't need no stinking virologists and their sissy-boy vaccinations.

The Age of the Unenlightened has come to the WaPo which makes me wonder if we have the Washington Times why do we need the WaPo anymore??

Posted by: singe1 | July 10, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

...and I should listen to Adam Ross regarding disease and sickness because?

I'm not saying Mr. Ross doesn't have credentials-he may have them, but my brief seach of WaPo and the internet didn't turn anything up.

Posted by: mystre | July 10, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

"We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features"

so says WaPo.

Really ? Really, really ? Ok. I will just say this.

This writer should go immediately visit a swine flu area and take his chances with those lucky 31,800 guys.

Posted by: amkeew | July 10, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

India hikes science budget despite (economic) slowdown

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090708/full/news.2009.652.html

Posted by: mystre | July 10, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

And WAPO fired Dan Froomkin? Must be because Froomkin is before Ross in the alphabet.

Posted by: drousma | July 10, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Mystre, it is hard finding a bio on Mr. Ross but I did find a person with that name who made contributions to Kay Hutchinson, Norm Coleman and Peter Sessions....makes you wonder...

Posted by: singe1 | July 10, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

This is the very same situation as Y2K. The Clinton Administration was criticized for "making such a big deal out of it" because the New Year entered without an electronic hitch. No one knows if we overspent to avoid a cyber nightmare, but certainly SOME VERY SIGNIFICANT amount of money needed to be dedicated to that task.

The stakes are much higher in this case. Any elementary school student knows that this particular "damned if you do, damned if you don't" is not a trivial coin flip. It's too bad that Beltway Opinion makers seem to be mentally challenged by comparison.

Posted by: Odquest | July 10, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, fer gawd's sake, it's just a little bug. Toughen up!

I remember not all that long ago when Dubya touted something called "compassionate conservatism". It's obviously been dropped like a hot rock.

Never mind that one of the primary purposes of government -- that "we the people" thing, of the people, by the people, for the people, excuse me for going through it but Mr. Ross seems to have forgotten or never known about it -- is to protect its citizens from threats foreign and domestic, and a disease that sickens thousands of people and kills hundreds might credibly be considered a "threat".

Are you actually suggesting, sir, that, since you might not die, but you might die, you should just hope for the best?

One of the biggest problems with our current health-care system is that preventative medicine has been largely ignored. We treat everything on an emergency basis, and therefore it costs more. Spending billions now likely means NOT spending tens of billions later.

This isn't that hard.

Posted by: filkertom | July 10, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Credentials? Phooey. Why should complex and subtle fields like human immunology and pandemic disease management require any more special knowledge and qualification than, say, the Middle East, or disaster-response in hurricane season?

A strong military and a hyper-aggressive, blunt-instrument approach are the true keys to our health care woes.

I've had a persistent cough that's giving me trouble for months now. I figure it's time for government to step up, and I ain't talking about some limp-wristed 'vaccine' or any of that secular scientific mumbo-jumbo.

No, these godless terrorist germs are obviously evil America-hating buggers, so I wanna really "take 'em out" with some serious "shock and awe" while also rewarding major shareholders at Raytheon, KBR, and Lockheed-Martin.

Dr. Ross, for my case would you recommend cluster-munition therapy, a Predator drone-based approach, or a straightforward ground invasion? Let's fix up a no-bid contract and git-r-done before the libs waste any more of our tax dollars on their eggheaded scientific theories!

Posted by: youarestillidiots | July 10, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I suggest this ridiculous thread be given teh Froomkin treatment so as to avoid more ridicule.

Posted by: amkeew | July 10, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, for the amount of money Obama wants to waste on silly stuff like vaccines to fight lethal viruses, we could be buying things that are much more useful, like one-half of one stealth bomber.

Posted by: obliterati | July 10, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the problem with Adam's post is that "quick takes" are best left to his opinion of the new Transformers movie, rather than a disease that has infected 1 million Americans and killed 170 of them. He seems not to have read the article to which he links, or at least not grasped what makes this flu different.

The article makes clear that this flu is very unusual in that it affects the young disproportionately. Not to worry, though, says Adam: your child will probably survive.

The article also talks about an additional $350 million for swine flu. The "billions" Adam talks about being "set aside" (as opposed to spent) go for pandemic measures generally, not just this flu.

Perhaps the Post and Mr. Ross feel the need to keep up with the frothy instant quips now brought to us courtesy of Twitter. I would prefer they take the time to give us more than a "quick take" on matters of life and death.

Posted by: amoroso1 | July 10, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

When did Rupert Murdoch by the Washington Post?

Posted by: nisleib | July 10, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Both Adam Ross and I prefer the Katrina-Brownie method of dealing with emergencies.

Stop spending money and just hope for the best.

Posted by: Dan25 | July 10, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Wait, is this Ross guy serious? I think Washington Post's Editorial staff has jumped the shark. Here is an idea; if you are going to have someone right an editorial for your "news" organization myabe you should choose a writer who has some idea what he/she is talking about. Otherwise you will just embarass yourselves.

Posted by: nisleib | July 10, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

The Bush-Cheney administration announced today that the United States will set aside trillions of dollars to pursue an "global war on terrorism" in response to attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Bush-Cheney administration has officially overreacted.

Sure, the attacks have killed -- nearly 3,000 deaths have been reported in the United States in 2001. But that's out of more than 40,000,000 inhabitants of the metropolitan NYC and DC areas, meaning that if you're unlucky enough to be attacked by terrorists, you'll almost certainly survive.

Of course, al Qaeda attacks could spread into something worse. But so might a completely different form of terrorism. So, even if a solution were developed, there’s no guarantee you’re not dying from terrorism this winter.

Maybe the money would be better spent sweetening Cheney and Bush's “down payment” on corporate takeovers of the U.S. economy. That might do a lot more in the battle against the multitude of things that can kill you.

Posted by: KimY1 | July 10, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Ross the Credentials Committee would like to see you in the Redrum.

Posted by: singe1 | July 10, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

My chances of contracting, and dying of, Swine Flu are greater than my chances of dying due to a Middle Eastern terrorist attack... and that was as true on Sept. 11th as it is today.

So you'd support trillion dollar measures to "protect" us from terrorism, but not a few billion dollars to protect us from swine flu?

Posted by: jonnymac27 | July 10, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

So which special interest group paid the Washington Post to peddle this idiotic swill? After all, it's now their policy to accept cash in exchange for "shaping the narrative."

What a sad joke this once great paper has become.

Posted by: stewiegriffen | July 10, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

What is the deal with so many people saying idiotic and irresponsible things at the Washington Post nowadays? It's one staggeringly stupid commentary after another, and your credibility slips day after day after day. This latest moronic missive is far from the worst, but just another indication of the bias and intellectual weakness that has permeated the Post.

One other note: After everything that's gone down in the past week, you guys have ZERO credibility expressing any kind of opinions in the health care debate. None at all. It's disgraceful and embarrassing for you, and you would be best served to stick to 'just the facts' reporting.

Posted by: AdHack | July 10, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

There ought to be a rule that no one is allowed to comment on scientific matters who has not at least made an effort to learn something about the science. Here we have a columnist who clearly has not done that. As mentioned in comments above, the benefits of a vaccine go far beyond the number of deaths it prevents and, while it is true that mutations in a pathogen can render vaccinations less effective or ineffective, it is also equally true that a vaccination can protect against pathogens it was not designed for, but that have some similar characteristics to the targeted pathogen. In any event, I'm not sure how many "billions" we're talking about here (that's a fact that Adam Ross decided not to report), but I would rather leave the decision of how to spend these dollars to the professionals at HHS than to a Washington Post columnist.

Posted by: tomsawyer2 | July 10, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"The Obama administration has officially overreacted."

The stupidity and crass ignorance that this comment reveals are truly astounding.

When it comes to preventing epidemics, erring on the side of buying too much vaccine is immensely preferable to erring on the side of buying to little vacine.

Posted by: Gatsby1 | July 10, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

did you get your 25 grand presstitute fee from kathy weymouth before you wrote this tripe ???

cus a good presstitute always gets the money first

Posted by: laughinatu4ever1 | July 10, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Columnist Adam Ross, should have called in "SICK", this morning. He must have been running a "fever of at least 108.4, when he wrote this article.

It would be better if you take some "SICK LEAVE", at least till your fever breaks.

Right now, you are talking out of your Head.

Posted by: austininc4 | July 10, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Lets take a more reasoned approach. First there will be no "Pandemic" of anything. Why? Because the kind of Flu Pandemic that happend in the 1918 was more due to lack of any of the sophisticated antibiotics and hospital care we now have. Second did you know that 99,000 people die EVERY year in our hospitals due to mistakes in meds? Gee that pales the couple of hundred "bird flu" deaths doesn't it? Wouldn't you rather spend a billion dollars figuring out how to make hospitals safer? OBTW, please google "Swine Flu, Donald Rumsfeld" for a real eye opener....

Posted by: Watcher1 | July 10, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Watcher1, I did as you said and was transported to Paulville! It is an amazing zone not unlike the Twilight one ( and I am not talking vampires here but that land that lies somewhere between Ithaca and Alpha Centauri ). No fan of Rumballs myself but still I doubt that his microbiology skills are sufficient for what is suggested.

Posted by: singe1 | July 10, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Singe1, sorry my bad, I meant "google Bird flu, Rumsfeld"...here you will find that Rumsfeld made a killing on his investments in Gideon, forcing Roche (a Scandinavian company) to allow Gideon to profit from the vaccine formula it sold to them.....Swind flu and Rumsfeld doesn't tell that story though I'm sure there is a back story to Swine Flu much like the "back story" to Bird Flu....

Posted by: Watcher1 | July 11, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

singe1, aside from his "investment" in Gideon Rumsfeld was on it's board of directors for some time, maybe not long enough to obtain a degree in microbiology but certainly long enough to know how to make money off of "Pandemics". Seems to be good business to be either in Arms manufacturing, Security, or pharmaceuticals for our "leaders" as well as being in High Government Positions, positions that can help your other interests in a really big way like no-bid contracts and fanning the flames of fear (as in "It's going to be a Pandemic!") Sound familiar?

Posted by: Watcher1 | July 11, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Adam - You already answered your own editorial. H1N1 could mutate into something far more deadly. That's the reason for the preparation. They don't write stories about all the planes that didn't crash. I'd bet you'd be writing a lot if the government were caught flat-footed by a mutated virus.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 12, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

"Does Sotomayor Matter Politically?"
More than you do, Mr. Kristol.

Posted by: wardropper | July 13, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

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