Whatever happened to the flu pandemic?

It wasn’t that long ago — within the last two years, actually — that a flu pandemic was our biggest worry. Here at the world headquarters of News Cut, we even had a meeting or two about how we would function if we were all sick or half of us dead.

Those were the days.

A new report from Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, however, has reminded us — in the event we weren’t depressed enough already today — that a pandemic is still a real possibility.

Says the report’s outline:

This article provides ethics guidance for pandemic planning, response, and resource allocation–that is, what ethical considerations determine which public health responses are implemented, who will be restricted and who will be helped, what will be communicated to the public, and how will the public be included in decisions and responses?

In other words: Who’s going to get first crack at vaccine and other treatment? Their suggestions are surprising. First responders? Sure. The sickest? Not so fast.

While some have suggested that scarce medical countermeasures be allocated primarily to first responders and then to the sickest, we suggest that an ethical public health response should set priorities based on essential functions. An ethical response also will engage the public, will coordinate interdependent sectors as a core preparedness priority, and will address how plans affect and can be understood by the least well off.

Public health “experts” and “government officials to whom the public will turn for information and direction” are on the priority list. So are utility workers, truck drivers, and people who work in grocery stores.

“Alongside healthcare workers and first responders, priority should be given to the people who provide the public with basic essentials for good health and well-being, ranging from grocery store employees and communications personnel to truck drivers and utility workers,” said Nancy Kass, deputy director of public health at the Berman Institute.

Nothing about bloggers.

Minnesota, however, is way ahead of Johns Hopkins. In 2006, a task force outlined a strategy for who’s the most important and who should be “saved” first.

It recommends young, healthy people get the vaccine first. The report also says that giving priority to health care workers won’t work because there won’t even be enough vaccine to go around.

And you? How critical do you think you would be during a pandemic?