Ripped from the headlines

“Health Worker Flu Vaccine  Edict Rescinded”

Health Commissioner Richard Daines is a terrific doctor who believes in science. He ordered thousands of health care workers to be vaccinated against the H1N1 (swine flu). The theory is that workers who will be coming into contact with anyone having or likely to get the virus should be inoculated. That way, both the health care workers and their patients would be protected. It makes sense. I get a regular flu shot every year. I come into contact with thousands of people as a result of my jobs and I’m 68 years old. I have interviewed Dr. Daines on several occasions and I have great respect for the man. Trust me (or not) — this is a man whose decisions are ruled by science and not by emotions but he got into trouble for doing the right thing. That’s the thing about good doctors. They do what’s right until the available evidence changes and then they change.

Some of the health care workers took extreme umbrage at the commissioner’s edict, particularly the part about their getting fired if they didn’t take the vaccine. They hired the socially conscious champion of the underdog, Terence Kindlon, to argue their case in court, contending that the commissioner had no right to issue the vaccination order and that this order should have come from the Legislature.

Some of those objecting to mandatory vaccination said that we really didn’t know enough about the potential long term effects of the vaccine. Some suggested preliminary data demonstrated the most vulnerable were those who might not have been exposed to the swine flu in its previous outbreaks.

In other words, they didn’t need it. Some argued that it was just not right to insist on mandatory vaccinations and that it should be up to the individual to make that decision. Several health care workers called me, aghast at the idea of being forced to take the vaccine. To put it mildly, they were passionate about the subject.

Finally, as the case worked its way up the judicial chain, the Paterson administration bailed. When the word comes down from the “second floor” (the Governor’s office) to the Commissioners office, asking him to do something he doesn’t believe is good health policy, the Commissioner has two choices: quit or do what the Governor wants. And so, the Health Department took the bullet. Fighting for their political lives, the governor’s people must have said something like, “Who needs this? Make it go away.” There were plenty of good excuses for the Health Department. There wasn’t enough vaccine and it should go to those who were more vulnerable when it did get here. The Health Department said that patients in need were to be vaccinated before health care workers and yadda, yadda yadda.

I say Dr. Daines deserves our respect for doing what he saw as medically appropriate but I’m also a big fan of giving us a choice unless, as in the case of school vaccinations, that choice can lead to chaos. As for me, the moment I can, I’m getting the vaccine.

“Bernie Kerik’s Trial Put On Indefinite Hold”

Bernie, Bernie Bernie! What a bad boy you are. You are so dirty you leave a virtual slime trail everywhere you go. Not only that, you’ve left some of it on the man the Republicans are putting their money on in the gubernatorial election. After all, you worked for Rudy Giuliani at his the enigmatic consulting company. You were his choice as New York City’s Department of Correction commissioner and police commissioner and he almost (God forbid) got you the job as the Homeland Security Czar. My bet is that the Democrats are praying this trial drags on for at least a year.

On the other hand, there will be those who suspect that the criminal justice system is capable of protecting Rudy and his candidacy and putting things on hold until after the election which is more than a year away.

So as you sit in jail, Bernie, you’ve got to be thinking that you should do whatever you can to help Rudy. Above all, keep your trap shut. If and when he is governor, maybe he can pardon you. Could be, depending on how much you know and that could be a lot.

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 10-26-09

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