Anger as Goldman Sachs staff get swine flu vaccine

Nov 6, 2009
Seth Jacobson

Goldman Sachs has been criticised for vaccinating its employees against swine flu despite a national shortage

Hot on the heels of outrage at their bonus packages and the aftermath of the banking bail-out, Wall Street titans Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have provoked widespread public anger yet again -  for issuing swine flu vaccine to their employees despite a shortage of the antiviral treatment in the United States.

To date, the government-funded H1N1 vaccine has been issued to organisations such as hospitals and universities, which contain large concentrations of the most at-risk Americans - namely pregnant women, the obese, children, those suffering from certain chronic health conditions and people who work with them. Institutions with sensitive national roles, such as the Federal Reserve Bank, have also received doses.

But public health officials in New York have also made the vaccine available to any body that possesses its own medical staff - such as certain Wall St institutions.

Unfortunately the decision to issue the vaccine to financial institutions who are currently public enemy number one in most Americans' minds - and the slightly unwise decision on the part of the companies to accept them - has stoked the ire of many.

Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut told the Associated Press that "vaccines should go to people who need them most, not people who happen to work on Wall Street". Center for Disease Control director Dr Thomas Frieden spoke of his concern that the sight of Wall St bankers receiving the vaccine ahead of other Americans could "undermine the credibility of the program". 

Union leader John VanDeventer voiced the ire of millions when he wrote on the Service Employees International Union website: "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. But they should not be allowed to take away our health and well-being."

The US has been slow to issue the vaccine due to manufacturing delays, but since the beginning of October more than 36m doses have been distributed. And while Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have played into the hands of their critics, some banks have spotted an opportunity to improve public relations. Morgan Stanley received vaccines too, but on learning of a shortage in New York City, they turned their doses over to local hospitals.

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