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10/29/2004

The lack of paid sick leave in the U.S. will compound the risk of getting the flu this winter

The lack of paid sick leave in the United States will compound the risk of getting the flu this winter, at a time when even at-risk individuals cannot obtain flu shots because of a massive shortage of the vaccine, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Nearly half the nation’s workers don’t have guaranteed paid time off from their jobs when they are sick, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These workers are more likely to go to work when they are sick, increasing the likelihood they will infect others, says the National Partnership.

“Many workers may put others at risk by going to work sick because they cannot afford to miss a paycheck,” says National Partnership President Debra Ness. Fully 86 million U.S. workers don’t have paid sick days to care for sick children, according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, No Time to Be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don’t Have Paid Sick Leave.

“Paid sick days would ease some of the tough choices facing American families today,” says Ness. “It would help workers provide for their families while being responsible employees.”

Flu Vaccine Shortage: Another Chapter in Bush’s ‘Not My Fault Presidency’
After half the U.S. supply of vaccine was halted following discovery of contaminated vaccines from one of two companies the Bush administration relied on to provide vaccines, President George W. Bush said the sole cause of the shortage is a “major manufacturing defect.”

Calling Bush’s refusal to take responsibility for the vaccine shortage “another chapter in the ‘not my fault presidency,’” Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says, “While in the end a manufacturing defect caused millions of contaminated vaccines, public health experts agree that the [Bush] administration ignored warnings to take action to avert this crisis. America should not be left in a position where our public health is left vulnerable to flaws from a single company.”

As president, Kerry says he will develop private and public strategies to prevent another vaccine crisis by putting America’s ingenuity to work to develop, produce and distribute safe flu vaccines.

Nearly 60 million of the 90 million people at high risk for getting complications as a result of the flu will be able to receive vaccines, according to an analysis by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health.

Meanwhile, state and local lawmakers are scrambling to provide flu vaccines to their residents. In Montgomery County, Md., more than 20,000 people applied for a lottery to determine who will receive the county’s remaining 800 doses of flu vaccine—with the odds of receiving one at about one in 25.

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