TODAY   |  November 04, 2009

Wall Street gets swine flu vaccine

Nov. 5: While people across the U.S. wait in long lines for swine flu vaccine, the shots arrive on Wall Street. CNBC’s Trish Regan reports and NBC’s chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, weighs in.

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>> much.

>>> if the brutal recession and taxpayer bailouts pitted main street against wall street , this could be round two. while people across the country wait in long lines for swine flu vaccines, the shots have arrived at some wall street firms. nbc 's trish regan is at the new york stock exchange with more on this story. trish, good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt. you know, for most americans, it is very difficult, even for those in the high-risk group right now, to secure a swine flu vaccine, but that's not entirely the case here on wall street . a number of influential firms, even the traders who work right behind me here at the new york stock exchange , have access to the h1n1 vaccine, which has some critics asking, why is the government providing corporations and traders and bankers with these vaccines before those in high-risk groups? they're a familiar sight in towns and cities across the country, long lines of people, from indiana to texas and california, from pregnant mothers to the very young, the country's most vulnerable hope and wait for their chance at an h1n1 vaccine.

>> the line has not moved and it's hot and we have pregnant women in the heat.

>> reporter: but away from main street , on wall street , a different story. some of the country's most influential businesses have managed to secure the swine flu vaccine for their employees. according to the new york city department of health , employees and traders at the new york stock exchange , bankers at the financial firms goldman sachs and citigroup, along with employees at the new york federal reserve all have access to the hard-to-find h1n1 vaccine. this while some new york hospitals, along with hundreds of pediatricians and obstetricians in the city and across the country scramble to secure vaccines for their high-risk patients.

>> we know that it's frustrating, inconvenient and disruptive for people to try to get the vaccine and not be able to. as physicians, it's frustrating to us not to be able to give vaccine to our patients.

>> reporter: the new york city department of health tells nbc news, "this is in line with what we normally do for vaccinations. corporations are always a partner in distributing vaccines." the problem, critics say, is that this is no ordinary flu, nor an ordinary vaccine.

>> it's kind of a sad commentary on the way the government has come to view our medical care system, which is they've forgotten at the center of it are patients and doctors.

>> reporter: with the president declaring the swine flu a national emergency , goldman sachs has received 200 doses of the vaccine, the same amount as lenox hill hospital in new york .

>> i have no idea how many high-risk people there are at goldman sachs , but i'm sure it's not nearly as many as lenox hill .

>> now, i have a statement from citi that i want to share with you. they tell us, "the new york city department of health has provided us with a limited supply of the h1n1 vaccine. they have asked us to utilize our medical clinics in new york city to vaccinate employees who are at greater risk of becoming ill." matt, i should also point out, this is a story that's obviously close to me. i'm six weeks away from delivering twins. i was able to secure a swine flu shot, but it was not easy. i was not able to get it through my normal doctor or the hospital that i plan to deliver at. so you know, a lot of critics out there are really questioning just exactly why some people are getting this ahead of those that are in the high-risk groups. back to you.

>> all right, trish, thank you very much. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc 's chief medical editor. nancy, good morning to you.

>> hi, matt.

>> it's tempting to jump on the outrage bandwagon here. before any of us do that, can i ask you to put this in perspective?

>> sure. look, i think this probably played by the rules. there are corporations all over the country that put in their dibs, and this vaccine is coming in 100 or 200-dose units. now, if they want to do the ethical thing, they will inject only their pregnant women and perhaps those with kids or their workers with high-risk medical problems, but this is where you have to put the semi colon . what a sore eye for wall street . wouldn't it be nice if they said we put in our dibs, we got it, we're going to play by the rules, but we're going to donate our 200 doses to a local hospital or clinic. it doesn't look good, even if they do play by the rules. and the real concern is, will the healthy 40-year-old worker sneak in line and get his or her shot? that's egregious to jumping in front of the line.

>> and what you have to do is trust the people who are administering their program.

>> that's right.

>> and this comes at a time where americans are loath to trust the people on wall street .

>> that's exactly right. look, it doesn't look good no matter what, but the reality is, ge, our parent company , has also applied for the same amount of doses. we haven't received ours yet, interestingly. the guys on wall street did. there are corporations all over the country who have put in the same paperwork. but it does raise the question, if we know that the distribution is the weak part of this entire thing, why not put doctors offices and hospitals at the top of the line and say to corporate america , no matter who you are, sorry, you're going to have to go through clinics and hospitals like everyone else?

>> yeah, right --

>> i think the system's totally upside down.

>> i think the part that bothers me about this story is that, for example, a company like citi would get the same number of doses of the vaccine as a place like lenox hill hospital , where you think people would really need to go to get the shot.

>> or i'll take it one step further. why not say lenox hill gets 400 doses and citi just has to wait and corporate america has to say, look, we're going to put the high-risk groups, the people we've talked about forever, at the top of the list and then distribute that through clinics, schools and hospitals. there are pregnant women , there are schoolkids right now who don't know how to get this because their average doc can't get his or her hands on it. it really looks bad, i think for our federal government , certainly for wall street .

>> all right, nancy snyderman . doc, thanks so much.

>> you bet.

>> it's 13 after the hour.