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legislators act decisively
no hesitation when it comes to taking care of their own
by ellen marsh

While many Americans search in vain for flu shots, members and employees of Congress are able to obtain them quickly and at no charge from the Capitol's attending physician, who has urged all 535 lawmakers to get the vaccines even if they are young and healthy.

Apparently, the Capitol physician has justified his decision to make flu shots available to lawmakers by saying they are "high risk" by virtue of having to shake hands a lot.

I'd like that same physician to explain the decision to my 76-year-old aunt while her whole body shakes from Parkinson's disease. In addition to Parkinson's Disease, she also has diabetes and heart problems. She can't get a flu shot. Even if there were a clinic in her area, she couldn't stand in line for a lengthy period of time to get a shot! My aunt's plan is to go out as little as possible during the flu season and to wear a surgical mask when she does go out.

My 81-year-old mother is in a nursing home. Nursing homes are incubators for any communicable disease, especially nursing homes that care for dementia patients, who cannot maintain their own hygiene. My mother can't get a flu shot. There is no plan for my mother; I can only hope, probably in vain, that the flu does not make it's way into the nursing home.

I will forgo my annual flu shot and hope that my co-workers will be smart enough to stay home if they are infected. I am just below the cut-off age and my health problems are minor. I dread flu and the ensuing bronchitis that appears to be inevitable for me, but I'll survive the flu. My aunt, mother, and many other fragile elderly people may not survive.

Note that the legislators who are receiving flu shots are the same people who just increased the cost of Medicare by $11 per month. That doesn't sound like much, does it. But, it is a significant amount for people on fixed (Social Security or pension) retirement incomes. With the cost of gasoline, heating oil, and food increasing, an extra $11 is a worry. In addition, the administration's much-touted drug discount cards are a joke! They are of almost no help to anyone who has a chronic illness that requires expensive medications. Imagine the implications of needing medication for diabetes, Parkinson's, and heart disease!

Too bad there is no way to let some of these young, healthy people walk for a day in the shoes of the frail and the elderly. Perhaps my mother is better off than my aunt because her mental state has removed her from the world of worries! My aunt's cognitive functions, on the other hand, are intact, so she worries and frets and makes phone calls to try to locate a hospital, clinic, or doctor in her area that will assure her of a flu shot.


Ellen's recreational writing relieves the stress of working at an insane biotech company. She has too to do (and re-do) every week, because of the knee-jerk, fire-fighting mentality of the management team.

more about ellen marsh


return to india
another frustrating adventure by telephone
by ellen marsh
topic: general
published: 12.30.99

pharmacists play doctor
aided and abetted by state legislatures
by ellen marsh
topic: general
published: 12.30.99


tracey kelley
10.22.04 @ 1:25a

Yep. Saw this and shook my head. Quote I saw was "We encounter so many of the young and elderly, we don't want to put them in harm's way."

Um, YEAH. If they have a SHOT, it doesn't matter if they encounter YOU. It's just awful.

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