Cheap shots in the presidential campaign
I knew it might draw some ridicule from my Republican friends. I mean, George Bush is toughing it out, making hard decisions, facing up to the global threat of flu-like symptoms, saying, “Bring ’em on!” He ain’t afraid of no virus.
And I caved in. I guess I did it, as Bill Clinton said about Monica in his book, for the most indefensible of reasons – because “I could.”
Yes, I went and got a flu shot.
It was easy. The nice nurse was sitting at a clean little table in the pharmacy section at a bright new Safeway in a shopping center. She had a name tag and a clipboard and disposable syringes and alcohol wipes. I arrived at the appointed time, filled out her form, read her side-effects warnings and got her shot in my right shoulder.
No problem: I was in Canada.
I disclosed that I’m an American. No deception. I said I was just visiting here, in Edmonton, and that I therefore did not have the Alberta medical card (which gets you free medical services in this oil-rich province). No problem. This was a private shot clinic done by Safeway as a public service. I just had to pay. It cost $10 Canadian ($8 U.S.) with the Safeway shopper card.
“Enjoy your visit,” said the nice nurse.
I was supposed to wait 20 minutes to be sure there was no allergic reaction, so shopped in the acid reflux section in hopes of finding a little Prilosec.
Suddenly a cold paranoia spread through my system from my right shoulder down. I realized this shot had been too easy!
I mean, people were panicking down in “the States.” They were standing in long lines and collapsing at clinics. They were paying up to $800 for $60 flu shots on the black market. They were coming across the Canadian border being turned away. Had I been tricked? Was this retribution for the ban on Canadian beef? For the soft-wood tariff? For Iraq?
I remembered what our president said in the second debate with John Kerry: “When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn’t kill you.” This was how he explained why his administration has clamped down on Americans buying drugs on-line from Canada, where they’re generally cheaper. He said, “What my worry is is that, you know, it looks like it’s from Canada, and it might be from a third world.”
And here I was in a foreign country with a cheap and easy shot in my right shoulder and no president around to make sure it didn’t kill me. I was worried. I guess a good Texan would just say, “Bring on the stomach acid!” But me, I wanted Prilosec.
This is the acid inhibitor sold over the counter in the U.S. You can get a month’s supply at Sam’s club for about $28. I asked a Canadian pharmacist, who said the drug is available only by prescription in Canada, and it costs about $60 (U.S.) Same pill, same Swedish maker, different brand name. Suspicious. I wondered if Sweden is one of Bush’s third worlds.
OK, I said. How about Nexium, which is essentially the same stuff? It’s a prescription drug in both countries and the same supply is about $90 a month in the U.S. I was told that here it costs $56 (U.S.). Many Americans buy it on-line, or used to. You needed a prescription, but what you did was get one from your doctor and fax it. A Canadian doc would rewrite it.
Aw forget it. I was gonna die anyway due to injection with a substance from one of the third worlds. I looked for Alka-Selzer. Then I remembered the third presidential debate. That’s when the president voted for Canadian drugs after he voted against them.
In answer to Bob Shiefer’s question about the flu vaccine shortage, Bush said the government was “working with Canada” to “help us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens have got flu vaccinations during this upcoming season.”
Later, some journalistic explainers said government officials were shopping around the world for excess flu vaccine. That included contact with a Canadian company that was supposed to have up to 1.5 million excess doses. The emergency import would require suspension of the administration’s own rules. But this was an emergency not subject to pressure from pharmaceutical lobbyists.
Of course, the U.S. needed about 45 million more shots, but this would help, particularly if real men stood up and donated their flu shots to the needy. I felt guilty, like John Kerry calling for global tests of credibility. I had failed to come to the aid of my country, donating my flu shot to the needy.
Maybe I could compensate by donating my middle-class tax cut. I’ll look for it in the mail, after the election.
Maybe the president could donate his tax cut and Kerry could donate his wife’s tax cut, to help the poor, the uninsured, the uneducated, to protect against the threat of third worlds. Naww. . .