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Inside Politics
Inside Politics

The politics of health

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

Flu Season
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
George W. Bush

(CNN) -- This week, one issue hit home with voters and forced the candidates to re-think their scripts. The issue even walked off with the Political Play of the Week.

They're standing in line in Florida! And Michigan! In New Jersey, the line goes around the block.

Eager swing-state residents lining up to vote? Not exactly. They're lining up for flu shots.

"It's incredibly serious," said Gonzalez. "We have half as much vaccine as we should have."

How did that happen?

"We relied on a company out of England to provide about half of the flu vaccines for the United States citizens," President Bush said during the October 13 debate.

Oh oh. Sounds like ... outsourcing.

The president had a solution.

"We're working with Canada to hopefully ... produce a ... vaccine necessary," Bush said.

But hasn't Bush expressed problems with drug import from Canada?

"My worry is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada," Bush said during the October 8 debate. "It might be from the third world. We've just got to make sure before somebody thinks they're buying a product that works."

Bush made a plea to the public during the October 13 debate, saying, "If you're healthy, if you're younger, don't get a flu shot this year."

Sounds like rationing. Something the president says would result from Kerry's health care plan.

"Government-sponsored health care would lead to rationing," Bush said during the October 8 debate.

The government has the situation under control, the president said. "The CDC, responsible for health in the United States, is setting those priorities and is allocating the flu vaccine accordingly."

Isn't that government control?

At a rally in New Hampshire on October 1, the president said, "My opponent wants the government to run health care ...." The audience replied with boos.

Maybe the answer is legal reform.

"Vaccine manufacturers are worried about getting sued, and therefore they have backed from providing this kind of vaccine," Bush said.

Kerry said the issue is the whole health care system.

"And if there aren't enough flu vaccinations, what's the president's solution? He says, 'Don't get one if you're healthy.' Sounds just like his health care plan -- hope you don't get sick," Kerry said Thursday.

The flu bug has infected the campaign. And the side effect was the political Play of the Week.

What President Bush warns could happen under the Kerry health care plan -- shortages, rationing -- is exactly what's happening now.

The issue is whether the Kerry health care plan would solve the problem. Or make it worse.

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