WASHINGTON — With the H1N1 flu vaccine in short supply and politics swirling around who gets a shot and who doesn't, the White House announced that President and Mrs. Obama wouldn't get the vaccine until "the needs of the priority groups identified by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) -- including young people under the age of 24, pregnant women, and people with underlying conditions have been met."
Across the Potomac they followed a different logic, however, with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates receiving the vaccine, even though at 66 he's not in any of the priority at-risk age groups.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Gates reasoned that as the country's top defense official it was important that he not fall ill.
"At a time when we have security challenges around the world, even beyond wars we are fighting, the secretary thinks it is the responsible thing to do," Morrell said.
The military has only enough of the vaccine to supply half of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Morrell said, and according to the priority list that Morrell outlined to reporters on Wednesday, Gates, as a Defense Department civilian, is in the third of five groups that should receive the vaccine when it becomes available. Those in uniform, of course, have the first priority, followed by health care workers who support them.
According to the government's Web site on the issue, Gates needs the vaccine less than most others do. "People age 65 and older are not at high risk of getting H1N1. They are not in the initial target groups for vaccination, but may get vaccinated when supplies become available," the Web site says.
While Obama and the First Lady haven't been vaccinated, their daughters, Malia and Sasha, have a higher priority and have been. A White House physician administered vaccines obtained through the District of Columbia Department of Health to the girls.