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Georgia flu scandal

Millions of Georgians will not get the flu shot. Some will get sick. Some will die. And this year's flu will have a rich vein of victims in which to grow strong.

Jean Sumner, chair of Georgia Board of Medical ExaminersThis morning I innocently stumbled upon a scandal where I am one of the victims.

I live in Georgia. For many years my wife's employer, the local Costco, and even my local pharmacist have been giving out the annual flu shot. So I called to make an appointment.

No can do, my pharmacist said. Apparently the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners decided this year, in its wisdom, that no one but a doctor can authorize the flu shot.

They actually called the flu shot "a dangerous drug." On 9-11 no less:

On Sept. 11, the Composite State Board of Medical Examiners issued a statement saying that only doctors can give permission for patients to have flu shots.

"Under both federal and Georgia law, influenza vaccine is considered to be a dangerous drug," the statement said. "Georgia law requires a valid patient-specific prescription."

The board is so proud of this order it's not posted on its Web site. I did manage to find a picture of its chair, Jean Rawlings Sumner (right).

Some Georgia pharmacies, acting under a statement of the Governor, are going ahead anyway. Others, like my pharmacist, are following the law. You need a prescription for the flu shot in Georgia.

"Just go to your doctor and have him fax me some permission," my pharmacist said helpfully. He then sought to defend the medical board, saying "the law is the law," implying that this is some sort of technicality, adding he hopes the legislature will change this rule when it returns in January.

My pharmacist is a nice fellow. But this is a serious scandal.

What about people who don't have a regular doctor they can call to authorize the flu shot? What about the uninsured?

Every national medical authority has been telling us for months that everyone should get the flu shot. Not just the very young and very old, but anyone who comes in contact with them.

When I took a survey on the flu shot, however, only half of you said you would follow the recommendation. There is little pent-up demand for the flu shot.

So here is what will happen. Millions of Georgians will not get the flu shot. Some will get sick. Some will die. And this year's flu will have a rich vein of victims in which to grow strong.

Last year's flu started here in December. Time is of the essence. If you are going to be protected you need to call your doctor now.

But you shouldn't have to.

My pharmacist added that he has heard Georgia pharmacies are being shipped much less flu vaccine than in year past, because of this rule.

The only winner here is the flu itself.