Counterpoint: Why aren’t people over 65 with underlying health conditions being given priority for the H1N1 vaccine?

Judith Davidson-Palmer is a concerned CARP member and a consultant who provides advice to both public and private sector organizations on matters related to compensation, pay equity, evaluation, and organizational development and change.

I’ve been wondering why people over 65 with chronic health conditions are not being given priority for the H1N1 vaccine? So, I asked a number of questions and sought out the answers.

Are older people getting the disease?

I looked at the Centres for Disease Control information and Health Canada and there were a couple of interesting things.

– The average age of hospital admission is 24 years, of admission to ICU 37.5 years and of death 50 years.
– “those 45 years and older had the highest mortality rate (0.40 per 100,000)”
Public Health Agency of Canada

So, does that mean older people aren’t getting the illness? or, they’re not getting to hospital until it’s too late? How can you not be getting the illness and perhaps dying of it at the same time?!!! (Of course you could get it in lower numbers but be more severely impacted. Or, there could be a lot of 50 somethings who have been impacted.) It was the average age at death statistic that struck me as dissonant. If the average is 50 (One may be a Zoomer, but that isn’t a youth!), and children have died, then there has to be a lot of older people who have died in order to arrive at that median figure of 50. Interestingly, the Canadian public data is not broken out the same way as the U.S. data so it’s hard to tell at this point exactly what the age distribution looks like except in general or average terms.
As far as the vaccine priority goes, all of the Canadian statistics show that people with underlying chronic conditions are at increased risk.

-Those with underlying conditions have been 61.9% of those hospitalized, 72.7% of those admitted to ICU’s and 79.7% of those dying.
Public Health Agency of Canada

Are the antibodies to H1N1 that may be present in older people sufficient to ward off the disease in those whose systems are compromised?

– “Healthy people over 65 years of age don’t seem to be at high risk of catching the H1N1 flu or of developing serious complications. However, seniors with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems may be at increased risk of catching H1N1 and of developing serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia or respiratory distress.” Public Health Agency of Canada
-“People 65 and older are the least likely to be infected with 2009 H1N1 flu, but, if they become infected, they are more likely than people in some other groups to develop serious complications from their illness.” Centre for Disease Control

In addition, is it a potential violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code to discriminate by withholding or deferring health services to people with chronic disease on the basis of age?