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Bird flu rationing proposal favors youth

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) Teens and young adults should be the first vaccinated against bird flu, after health care workers who would deliver the vaccine and specialists involved in making it, two medical ethicists said.

They yesterday said current US policy for the seasonal influenza vaccine, which puts the elderly and young children first, would not be the best approach in case of an influenza pandemic.

''If we have the pandemic flu, we are not going to have enough vaccine and we are going to have to make tough allocation and rationing decisions,'' said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the National Institutes of Health.

''We definitely think this is a better approach. This is not just an armchair ivory tower philosophy. We think this is a justifiable approach,'' Emanuel added in a telephone interview.

Emanuel and Alan Wertheimer, both of the NIH Clinical Center, wrote a commentary in the journal Science suggesting a combination of two widely accepted approaches to allocating scare resources in case of a flu pandemic.

''Almost everyone agrees that people who are going to treat other people with influenza and people who are going to give the vaccine out should get first priority because they are going to save other peoples' lives,'' Emanuel said.

''Who is next? The recommendations to HHS (the US Health and Human Services Department) is that those people at highest risk of dying should be next and those people turn out to be those over 65,'' Emanuel added. ''That seems unjustifiable in my opinion.'' More Reuters SI GC0913

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