Opinion: Should Santa move to head of line for H1N1 shot?


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Should the U.S. government move Santa Claus to the front of the line for H1N1 shots?

As the Christmas season approaches, malls are already setting up thrones for Santa, welcoming kids to jump in Santa’s lap and whisper all their secret hopes in his ear.

As for Santas, they’re pressing Washington to let them join pregnant women and toddlers at the front of the line.


The kids are ‘little Petri dishes that are sitting on our laps and you have to protect them as well as yourself,’ said Robert Flemming, a Santa’s helper at a mall in Fresno.

Some health officials think swine flu is so threatening that the mall visits to see Santa should be canceled altogether. ‘If we take this really seriously, and I think we should because people are dying, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to say this is a year maybe we shouldn’t do these mass gatherings,’ said Dr. Jack Turco, director of Dartmouth University’s health services.

As they tend to be overweight, Santas are at increased risk for the disease, but one county health official in Ohio doubts the government will revisit the priority list. ‘I don’t think the priority list is going to change,’ said Dr. Vicki Whitacre, of the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department. Once the government has reached all of the high-risk groups, she added, it will make the vaccine available for everyone.

In the meantime, several Santa organizations already have held seminars on hand washing. And some Santas are even eschewing white gloves this year so they can continually wash their hands. Many malls are now putting hand-sanitizing dispensers at the gates of the North Pole.

And you thought it was as easy as donning a beard and a red velvet costume.

-- Johanna Neuman

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