Video: Wall Street gets swine flu vaccine

  1. Closed captioning of: Wall Street gets swine flu vaccine

    >> much.

    >>> if the brutal recession and taxpayer bailouts pitted main street against wall street , this could be round two. while people across the country wait in long lines for swine flu vaccines, the shots have arrived at some wall street firms. nbc 's trish regan is at the new york stock exchange with more on this story. trish, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt. you know, for most americans, it is very difficult, even for those in the high-risk group right now, to secure a swine flu vaccine, but that's not entirely the case here on wall street . a number of influential firms, even the traders who work right behind me here at the new york stock exchange , have access to the h1n1 vaccine, which has some critics asking, why is the government providing corporations and traders and bankers with these vaccines before those in high-risk groups? they're a familiar sight in towns and cities across the country, long lines of people, from indiana to texas and california, from pregnant mothers to the very young, the country's most vulnerable hope and wait for their chance at an h1n1 vaccine.

    >> the line has not moved and it's hot and we have pregnant women in the heat.

    >> reporter: but away from main street , on wall street , a different story. some of the country's most influential businesses have managed to secure the swine flu vaccine for their employees. according to the new york city department of health , employees and traders at the new york stock exchange , bankers at the financial firms goldman sachs and citigroup, along with employees at the new york federal reserve all have access to the hard-to-find h1n1 vaccine. this while some new york hospitals, along with hundreds of pediatricians and obstetricians in the city and across the country scramble to secure vaccines for their high-risk patients.

    >> we know that it's frustrating, inconvenient and disruptive for people to try to get the vaccine and not be able to. as physicians, it's frustrating to us not to be able to give vaccine to our patients.

    >> reporter: the new york city department of health tells nbc news, "this is in line with what we normally do for vaccinations. corporations are always a partner in distributing vaccines." the problem, critics say, is that this is no ordinary flu, nor an ordinary vaccine.

    >> it's kind of a sad commentary on the way the government has come to view our medical care system, which is they've forgotten at the center of it are patients and doctors.

    >> reporter: with the president declaring the swine flu a national emergency , goldman sachs has received 200 doses of the vaccine, the same amount as lenox hill hospital in new york .

    >> i have no idea how many high-risk people there are at goldman sachs , but i'm sure it's not nearly as many as lenox hill .

    >> now, i have a statement from citi that i want to share with you. they tell us, "the new york city department of health has provided us with a limited supply of the h1n1 vaccine. they have asked us to utilize our medical clinics in new york city to vaccinate employees who are at greater risk of becoming ill." matt, i should also point out, this is a story that's obviously close to me. i'm six weeks away from delivering twins. i was able to secure a swine flu shot, but it was not easy. i was not able to get it through my normal doctor or the hospital that i plan to deliver at. so you know, a lot of critics out there are really questioning just exactly why some people are getting this ahead of those that are in the high-risk groups. back to you.

    >> all right, trish, thank you very much. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc 's chief medical editor. nancy, good morning to you.

    >> hi, matt.

    >> it's tempting to jump on the outrage bandwagon here. before any of us do that, can i ask you to put this in perspective?

    >> sure. look, i think this probably played by the rules. there are corporations all over the country that put in their dibs, and this vaccine is coming in 100 or 200-dose units. now, if they want to do the ethical thing, they will inject only their pregnant women and perhaps those with kids or their workers with high-risk medical problems, but this is where you have to put the semi colon . what a sore eye for wall street . wouldn't it be nice if they said we put in our dibs, we got it, we're going to play by the rules, but we're going to donate our 200 doses to a local hospital or clinic. it doesn't look good, even if they do play by the rules. and the real concern is, will the healthy 40-year-old worker sneak in line and get his or her shot? that's egregious to jumping in front of the line.

    >> and what you have to do is trust the people who are administering their program.

    >> that's right.

    >> and this comes at a time where americans are loath to trust the people on wall street .

    >> that's exactly right. look, it doesn't look good no matter what, but the reality is, ge, our parent company , has also applied for the same amount of doses. we haven't received ours yet, interestingly. the guys on wall street did. there are corporations all over the country who have put in the same paperwork. but it does raise the question, if we know that the distribution is the weak part of this entire thing, why not put doctors offices and hospitals at the top of the line and say to corporate america , no matter who you are, sorry, you're going to have to go through clinics and hospitals like everyone else?

    >> yeah, right --

    >> i think the system's totally upside down.

    >> i think the part that bothers me about this story is that, for example, a company like citi would get the same number of doses of the vaccine as a place like lenox hill hospital , where you think people would really need to go to get the shot.

    >> or i'll take it one step further. why not say lenox hill gets 400 doses and citi just has to wait and corporate america has to say, look, we're going to put the high-risk groups, the people we've talked about forever, at the top of the list and then distribute that through clinics, schools and hospitals. there are pregnant women , there are schoolkids right now who don't know how to get this because their average doc can't get his or her hands on it. it really looks bad, i think for our federal government , certainly for wall street .

    >> all right, nancy snyderman . doc, thanks so much.

    >> you bet.

    >> it's 13 after the hour.

updated 11/5/2009 3:39:47 PM ET 2009-11-05T20:39:47

Some of New York City's largest employers — including Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and big universities — have started receiving doses of the much-in-demand swine flu vaccine for their at-risk employees.

The government-funded vaccine is being distributed to states, where health departments decide where to send the limited doses. In New York, health officials are allowing businesses with onsite medical staff to apply for the vaccine.

Doctors for large companies can ask for the vaccine along with other doctors but must agree to vaccinate only high-risk employees like pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses, said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Last month, the city began offering vaccine to schoolchildren, as well as pediatricians and obstetricians who asked for it. Scaperotti said only half of the pediatricians in New York City have requested vaccine

"As the vaccine became more available we expanded it to adult providers," Scaperotti said. She called the large employers "a great avenue for vaccinating people at risk."

But a critic said Wall Street firms shouldn't have access to the vaccine before less wealthy Americans.

"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 Service Employees International Union Web site. "But they should not be allowed to take away our health and well-being."

The union has about 2 million members, including health care workers.

Vaccine in short supply
The 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not review and sign off on the decisions of state and city health departments as to which doctor's offices and businesses will be sent vaccine doses, said spokesman Tom Skinner.

The CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, however, did send 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. Frieden said any decisions that appear to direct vaccine outside priority groups "have the potential to undermine the credibility of the program."

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The agency has set guidelines on which patients should be at the front of the line: children and young people through age 24, people caring for infants under 6 months, pregnant women, health care workers and adults with health conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

Swine flu — which scientists call the 2009 H1N1 strain — is widespread throughout the country now, much earlier than seasonal flu usually hits.

Other big New York City employers that have received doses of the vaccine include Columbia University, Time Inc., the Federal Reserve Bank and several hospitals. The distribution was first reported by Business Week.

Goldman Sachs has received 200 doses and Citigroup has received 1,200, health officials said. So far, 800,000 doses have been delivered to 1,400 health care providers in New York City, including public schools, pediatricians and hospitals.

In statements, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs said the vaccine would only go to those in high-risk groups.

"Goldman Sachs, like other responsible employers, has requested vaccine and will supply it only to employees who qualify," said spokesman Ed Canaday.

Morgan Stanley received 1,000 doses of the vaccine for its New York and suburban offices, but turned over its entire supply to local hospitals when it learned it received shipments before some area hospitals, spokeswoman Jeanmarie McFadden said.

Some New York pediatricians' offices that have gotten vaccine say the supply is not meeting the demand.

Manager Linda O'Hanlon at Uptown Pediatrics in Manhattan, said her office has received 500 doses so far — not enough for a practice with almost 7,000 patients.

"We have about 800 appointments" set up for patients who want to get vaccinated, she said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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