Vaccine fever

The flu vaccine shortage of 2004 has indirectly caused its first death:

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (AP) -- A 79-year-old woman who stood in line more than five hours for a flu shot collapsed and died after striking her head.

Marie Franklin and her husband, Robert, had been standing with hundreds of other seniors outside a Safeway supermarket on Wednesday when she became pale and weak. She collapsed as she walked toward shade.

Franklin, an award-winning local artist, died from those injuries Thursday. The Contra Costa County coroner's office ruled the death an accident.

"We see it as a fluke accident and choose not to blame anyone," said the Franklins' daughter, Ginni Poulos of Portland, Ore., who flew to her parents' home in the San Francisco Bay area city of Orinda. "We do think it could have been better organized. People wouldn't have had to wait so long if they had more workers or created a better system."

The daughter is exhibiting a fair and expansive attitude in a difficult time.

I wonder if the next victims' families will be so reasonable. Remember, you can't spell "fluke accident" without some of the letters in "flu vaccine shortage" (and when you have vulnerable patients waiting in lines overnights in October, you're bound to have more morbidity).

Why are patients being forced into this bizarre distribution system, anyway? If you're healthy enough to camp in line outside all night, you should be rewarded with concert tickets, not potentially lifesaving meds. At our pediatrics clinic, docs are making sure the infants with a history of lung disease get the influenza vaccine -- the most vulnerable, first. We're not having the kids arm-wrestle each other for it. So why are the elderly subjected to endurance tests?