News Blog: Who’s to blame over early H1N1 shots?

Every morning on my commute to the office I sit in a lengthy line on a local street with dozens of other cars waiting to make a right-hand turn. And, every morning, a handful of vehicles race by us on the left, forcing their way into our lane at the last moment, jumping the queue because, well, they can.

The code-followers may not think it’s right or fair, but it’s reality.

So, too, is the news that members of the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs received the H1N1 vaccine this week despite the fact the majority of their players do not fall into the high-risk groups as outlined by Canadian health care officials. Their butting-in is as surprising as sunrise. They got there because they could.

In fairness to the hockey clubs, we understand frequent airplane travelers are likely more susceptible to contracting illness because of poor air quality in plane cabins. We should also point out the teams claim, in defense of the indignation directed their way once the story broke, they didn’t instigate any wrong-doing; they simply took what was offered to them.

And there’s that darned reality jumping up to bite us. In our society, money and power and celebrity are so dearly valued and deified, we pray at their altars. Wannabes, myself included at times over the years, yearn to be close to it, to bask in its aura, to have some of it rub off on us. It may be unseemly, but it’s what we do and we only have ourselves to blame.

Former Philadelphia Flyer Mikael Renberg once marvelled at the phenomenon, saying – I’m paraphrasing and going off memory – when he was an unknown and earning next-to-nothing, he had to pay for everything himself. But once he became famous, everyone wanted to give him things for free.

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In the H1N1 vaccine example, our ice “heroes” aren’t the only VIPs who received preferential treatment. Scores of corporate executives who are enrolled in private insurance plans – so much for socialized, universal, equal health care in Canada, huh? – have also gotten the swine jab.

I’ve heard of many cases, including a handful from people in my direct circle, who’ve managed to get vaccinated despite not being under five years of age, pregnant, a senior or chronically ill. It’s all about who you know or who you are and taking advantage of the opportunity.

The vast majority of us look out for No. 1 the vast majority of the time. On my commute, the queue-jumpers do it to save two or three minutes. The code-followers do it to remain true to their conscience or to avoid guilt or because they care how they’re perceived. Nevertheless, they’re still putting their feelings first.

And the head-of-the-line H1N1 needle-receivers do it for self-preservation and to protect their loved ones. Hey, if my doctor called today and offered me and my family doses, I’m pretty sure I’d jump at the chance. Wouldn’t you?

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Fridays.

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