Friday, September 25, 2009

Senator says maternity care shouldn't be a required health plan benefit—because as a man he doesn't need it

Alas, more politicking about pregnancy. The following news item caught my eye. I'm pasting the text below, but the original and a video clip is available at (September 25, 2009)

Kyl: 'I Don't Need Maternity Care.' Stabenow: 'Your Mom Probably Did."

Just before the Senate Finance Committee wrapped up for the long weekend, members debated one of Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) amendments, which would strike language defining which benefits employers are required to cover.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) argued that insurers must be required to cover basic maternity care. (In several states there are no such requirements.)

"I don't need maternity care," Kyl said. "So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."

Stabenow interrupted: "I think your mom probably did."

The amendment was defeated, nine to 14.

Kyl's stance is appalling in and of itself, but added to the hypocrisy is that this guy is a hardline pro-life politician. (Maybe he thinks storks deliver babies?)

Well, since Sen. Kyl doesn't want female-only health care to be covered by insurance policies, I trust he'll lobby to remove male-specific coverages, such as for prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. (Anything else, ladies?)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Timing your (and your child's) flu and H1N1 vaccines

When getting your seasonal flu and H1NI flu vaccines this fall, you may need to do a bit of research and planning. While the Centers for Disease Control is saying that vaccines for the seasonal flu and the H1N1 strain can be provided simultaneously or within close timing of one another, a "live" H1N1 vaccine cannot be given at the same time, or within four weeks of, receiving a "live" seasonal flu preventive, such as the popular FluMist vaccine.

Of the four H1N1 vaccines approved by the CDC, three are deactivated (or "killed" vaccines). These will be administered by injection. One of the H1N1 vaccines is a "live" (also referred to as attenuated, which means weakened, or LAIV) vaccine that will be given via a nasal spray. This form will likely be the first H1N1 vaccine released for distribution. (Immunizations for the seasonal flu are available now, and people are being advised to get their flu shots as soon as possible. Live H1N1 (spray) vaccines are expected to be available by October 5.)

The official CDC language about all this is pasted at the bottom of this post, but to translate the talk into a real life application:

I know that with my grade schoolers, the FluMist nasal spray is much preferred over getting an injection. Where I live, the county is administering FluMist to elementary school students for free starting in October. Any person receiving the FluMist will need to wait four weeks before receiving a live H1N1 vaccine. It's now believed that all children age 9 or younger will need a second H1N1 vaccine, which would be administered three or four weeks after the first.

So, for instance, a child receiving a FluMist vaccine at school on October 15 will need to wait until about November 15 before receiving a live H1N1 vaccine, which would be followed in mid-December by the H1N1 booster.

An alternative scenario, and the more likely one since most of the available H1N1 doses won't be live, would be to get the FluMist, or any other "live" flu vaccine, and then receive an inactivated (i.e. "not live") H1N1 vaccine at the same time or later. A concern raised about the all-at-once option, especially by parents, is whether or not two vaccines at the same time might be too much for a child's body to handle. After all, the H1N1 vaccine is brand new and its full impact is still an unknown.

So this flu season, it's important to pay attention to what type of vaccine you and your children are being given—live attenuated vs. inactivated—and then plan accordingly. Low-cost and even free vaccines will be widely available (at schools, clinics, drug stores, supermarkets) in order to prevent an epidemic or pandemic. Unless you and your children receive the flu vaccinations from your family doctor, you'll be the only one keeping track of who in your household got what shot when.

For more information, visit:,,

And check out this AP story: "Flu shot better than nasal spray in adults"

Answers from the CDC Website (posted September 21-22, 2009, purple type is my emphasis)

Can seasonal influenza vaccine and 2009 H1N1 vaccine be given at the same visit?

Both seasonal and 2009 H1N1 vaccines are available as inactivated and live attenuated (LAIV) formulations.... existing recommendations are that two inactivated vaccines can be administered at any time before, after, or at the same visit as each other .... Existing recommendations also state that an inactivated and live vaccine may be administered at any time before, after or at the same visit as each other. Consequently, providers can administer seasonal and 2009 H1N1 inactivated vaccines, seasonal inactivated vaccine and 2009 H1N1 LAIV, or seasonal LAIV and inactivated 2009 H1N1 at the same visit, or at any time before or after each other. Live attenuated seasonal and live 2009 H1N1 vaccines should NOT be administered at the same visit until further studies are done. If a person is eligible and prefers the LAIV formulation of seasonal and 2009 H1N1 vaccine, these vaccines should be separated by a minimum of four weeks.

Can 2009 H1N1 vaccine be administered at the same visit as other vaccines?

Inactivated 2009 H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other vaccine, including pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Live 2009 H1N1 vaccine can be administered at the same visit as any other live or inactivated vaccine EXCEPT seasonal live attenuated influenza vaccine.

Will two doses of vaccine be required?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of one dose of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine for persons 10 years of age and older.... At this time, FDA has approved two doses for children 9 years of age and younger. Immunogenicity data for the 2009 flu H1N1 vaccine among adults is similar to that for seasonal influenza vaccines. If this is also the case among children, then it is likely that younger children will require two doses and older children will require one dose, as licensed. As with seasonal vaccine, children ages 6 months through 35 months get two doses of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine that contains one-half the dose used for older children and adults.

What will be the recommended interval between the first and second dose for children 9 years of age and under?

This will not be known until clinical trials are complete. For planning purposes, planners should assume 21-28 days between the first and second vaccination.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Al Franken's Anniversary Gift to His Wife

We live in a time when so many marriages don't last or are troubled. And we live in a time when the news seems to feature at least one story a week involving a philandering politician. (Former presidential candidate John Edwards, former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, Nevada Sen. John Ensign, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter ...)

Perhaps because of that I was especially moved by an email sent on Saturday by U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. The missive wasn't a call for money or political support. Instead, it was a sentimental (and funny) message from the comic-turned-legislator announcing that September 19 was the 40th anniversary of the day he first laid eyes on his wife,
Franni. The note was a gift to Franni, and a suggestion to readers that they take the time to think about and appreciate someone they love.

Here's the text of his message:

When our daughter Thomasin was in the second grade, her teacher asked each student to write a story about how their parents met. So, she came home and asked me how I met her Mom.

I explained that I was at what was known as a freshman 'mixer,' what she knew as a 'dance,' during my first year of college. I saw Franni from across the room. She was organizing some girls to leave and I really liked how she was taking charge, which, in hindsight, is not her best quality... Also, she was just beautiful. So I asked her to dance, and we danced. And then I bought her a ginger ale.

After the dance I escorted her back to her dorm and asked her for a date.

Thomasin wrote the story up with stunning accuracy. She told her class, " Dad asked my Mom to dance, bought her a drink, and took her home." Even at a young age, she had a keen grasp of the facts and a real knack for editing.

That night - the first night of the best thing that has ever happened to me - was exactly 40 years ago today. When I was running for the Senate, I used to tell people, "Franni and I are running for the Senate. If we win, I get to be the Senator." Well, we won. And what I said proved true - I get to be the Senator.

Another thing that's true is that I wouldn't be where I am today without the love and support of the most amazing woman in the world.

And, as we start the next chapter of our journey together, I wanted to send supporters like you a note. A funny story from long ago in hopes that you might take a moment today, remember a funny story about someone you love, smile, and be thankful.

All the best, Al

P.S. Happy Anniversary Franni, I love you!


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