Obama Administration Escapes Blame for H1N1 Flu Vaccine Shortage and Delay

Hard to imagine that if George W. Bush were still in office journalists would hesitate a moment to invoke his name in identifying a culprit for the current shortage and delay in delivery, well beyond the schedule promised by HHS's Centers for Disease Control, of the vaccine for the H1N1 "swine flu" virus. Remember Katrina? Coverage Monday night matches what I've seen over the past several days with no mention of Obama or his administration, beyond reporting his issuance of a "national emergency" decree, as journalists instead cited "federal officials" and "the government."

On the CBS Evening News, fill-in anchor Harry Smith reported: "Now to the H1N1 flu. Federal health officials admitted today their projected timetable for producing the vaccine was way off. They originally said there would be about 40 million doses by the end of the month. But as of today, there's less than half that number." Subsituting on the NBC Nightly News, Ann Curry blandly announced: "President Obama declared the swine flu pandemic a national emergency over the weekend, but still the amount of vaccine to protect against it is running way behind what the government had promised."

Over on ABC, Charles Gibson, the only regular anchor working Monday night, avoided placing any blame:

Our "Closer Look" tonight involves the confusion surrounding the swine flu vaccine. The government originally predicted 40 million doses of vaccine would be available by the end of October, now says there will only about 28 million. And people who want the vaccine are finding tremendous difficulty getting any information about when and where it will be available...

Reporter John McKenzie named a government agency and not the Obama administration: "Even members of Congress, hearing from so many frustrated Americans today called on the Centers for Disease Control, to do a better job communicating where and when people can find this elusive vaccine."

All accurate, but in the Bush years the media loved to hold Bush accountable for every federal agency decision. (Back in October of 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry beat the media to it in blaming Bush for a shortage in the midst of fears over the "bird flu.")

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center