Obama Not to Blame for Flu Vaccine Shortages, but Bush Was Tagged in 2004

The ongoing shortage of swine flu vaccine is not laid at the feet of the Obama White House: His name doesn't even appear in a story quoting "federal health officials" about the shortages. But with Bush and John Kerry locked in a close election in 2004, a Times headline spelled it out: "Flu Vaccine Policy Becomes Issue for Bush."

One word was conspicuous by its absence from Donald McNeil Jr.'s Wednesday report, "Officials Defend Handling of Flu Vaccine." The word was "Obama." Instead anonymous "federal health officials" took the blame for the ongoing shortage of swine flu vaccine.

As a nationwide shortage of swine flu vaccine stretched into its sixth week, federal health officials defended how they handled the program, arguing that the roots of the shortage were beyond their control and that they had made the right decisions on matters they could affect.

At a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security argued that they were right not to put immune-boosting adjuvants in the vaccine even though that could have quadrupled the number of doses available now, and that they were also right to leave decisions about allocating vaccine up to local health departments instead of trying to micromanage them from Atlanta or Washington....Only about 42 million doses are available now, even though one federal official predicted in midsummer that 120 million doses would be ready by October.

Would President Bush have gotten off this easy if there had been a similar vaccine shortage during the Bush years? Actually, there was - or at least Democrats claimed there was in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election.

The Times wasn't shy about using the issue against Bush and identifying his administration with the problem. Here's David Sanger and Gardiner Harris on October 20, 2004, two weeks before the 2004 election: "Flu Vaccine Policy Becomes Issue for Bush."

With polls showing that Florida is once again too close to call, President Bush on Tuesday assured the state's flu-wary retirees that "we have millions of vaccines doses on hand for the most vulnerable Americans" as his administration said that 2.6 million more doses would be available by January....Democrats have seized on the vaccine shortage to accuse the administration of being unable to protect Americans - from either illness or terrorism.