It is rare that I ever disagree with what one (or another) of the Reveres from EffectMeasure say when it comes to issues of avian influenza or a human pandemic of same. Today, however, I found myself not only disagreeing but also asking myself "are they serious?"
The post [here] calls into question why the US military gets a top slot for scarce pandemic influenza vaccine allocation.
Putting frontline health care workers at the top makes sense (NB: I am a health care worker but as a researcher-physician would not be considered "front line," so this isn't special pleading). But why is the military at the top along with them, ahead of many other "mission critical" workers like police, fire and communications? Reading the document provides no obvious answers. The document is replete with claims that the guidance was developed by an open and transparent process with ample opportunity for the public and other stakeholders to comment to the Working Group that drafted the document:
"This guidance is the result of a deliberative democratic process," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement. "This document represents the best of shared responsibility and decision-making." (Reuters)
The guidance document [PDF] identifies approximately 700,000 "deployed and mission critical" as a Tier 1 priority group. What is not readily apparent in the Revere post is that there are segments of the military included in Tiers 2 and 3 as well, so the 700,000 are a specific sub-set of the military in its entirety. The operative phrase in the guidance document is "deployed and mission critical".
Since this Revere (there is more than one) included a thoughtful, as well as sincere, N.B., I will be include my own: my one and only child is a patrol officer for a small-ish city PD, and under the age of thirty (by several years). I could easily choose to be indignant right alongside Revere, adding my small cyber voice to the public challenge, and the "mother" in me wants to – make no mistake on that. However, from a purely logical, (to say nothing of dispassionate), standpoint, the "deployed and mission critical" military personnel should come before nearly everyone else.
Here's the No BS, No Personal Agenda, No Political Axe, No Heart Strings, No Philosophically Enlightened Pacifist – reality: The men and women in the military do not have a choice about whether or not they are going to report to hazardous duty. That contrasts with our doctors, nurses, police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel, all of whom do have that choice.
Ethically we are obligated to give military personnel in harm's way (of the pandemic) whatever level of protection (meager or otherwise) we are capable of giving. We have, by way of our government, denied them "choice", and in so doing we assume that moral and ethical obligation. To stint on that obligation would be tantamount to spitting in their faces and then pissing on their graves.
No one said the choices that had to be made would be easy. No one said that those choices would be pleasant. The plain and simple fact is that in pandemics people die, many well before their naturally allotted time. Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, young adults, adults in their prime, middle aged, older, and the elderly are going to die in a severe pandemic (should we experience one). Each one will be tragic and almost assuredly needless.
Many things could be done to mitigate the deaths that are likely. They could be done by the individuals themselves, their parents, their communities, their local and state governments. Many things could be done by our federal government as well. Few are doing all they could to mitigate the misery and death that may happen.
The federal government does not have the responsibility to protect my son; that rests on other shoulders. That responsibility starts as his own, then mine, then his department, then his city, then his state, then, and only then, in the most general fashion, equal with every other citizen and resident of this country, the federal government.
Those in the military, especially those deployed, have no rights of self-determination (their "shoulders" carry our "burdens" so there is no room for their own), they often have no family to render them care and protection, they have no local or state government, what they do have however is the federal government – First, Last, and In Between.
Morality can vary person-to-person and/or culture-to-culture; ethics, however, are more rigorously defined. Someone could be morally indignant over something that might only produce a bored yawn from me. So, acknowledging Revere's moral indignation over the decision to place the deployed and mission critical military at the top of the allocation recommendation (along with front line medical personnel), I wholeheartedly disagree with it, publicly stated with my own bit of moral indignation tossed in for good measure.
Our ethical obligations, on the other hand, are clear – of the Crystal Kind.
And, I haven't even touched on the functions those military personnel will be tasked to perform. I'll save that for yet another evening….
SZ <Mother of a cop who comes after FL Medical and D&MC Military personnel>