Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Canadian Olympians and Social Values

"Athletes Should Get the First Jab", 14 Oct 2009, Calgary Herald, Page A8.

In today's Calgary Herald there is a report that the medical officer for the Canadian Olympic Committee is calling for Canada's Olympic Athletes to be at the front of the line for H1N1 vaccination.

"Dr. Bob McCormack, chief medical officer for Canadian Olympic Committee, said Tuesday that, although the policy may seem unfair to other at-risk groups for the flu, including pregnant women, the elderly and aboriginals, the country’s elite athletes should be safeguarded from sickness during their time on the international stage. ..
The example that will make most sense to Canadians is, what if the men’s hockey team got swine flu and were unable to achieve their goal of a gold medal? Canadians would be very disappointed,” said McCormack. "

I am not a fan of having public monies spent to host the Olympic Games at the best of times but to me, this story highlights how out of whack social values seem to be when it comes to the Olympics. This goes beyond the displacement of vulnerable low income groups during the construction period, the diversion of public money away from other less sexy spending categories like education, and the legacy of public debt that all Canadians will inevitably be saddled with after Vancouver. It goes beyond the affront to social justice encountered by female ski jumpers who are legally appealing their exclusion from the Vancouver games.

I guess what I am left wondering is exactly what value do Canadians put on Olympic medals. Is a gold medal in Men's hockey at the Olympics really a higher priority than preventing deaths amongst vulnerable members of our society?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It turns out that exercising very vigorously does tend to reduce immunity. So athletes may be a legitimate high risk group. Assuming that they at the same high risk as other priority groups, I think that they have a legitimate claim to be vaccinated early, since sickness during this period would be particularly costly to them, relative to the average person. If you get sick during a particular 2-week period, it may be no big deal. But many of these athletes have been training for this two-week period...

J. Fugle said...

Its good to see that the university of calgarys econ department doesnt support are Canadian atheletes!!!!

Who should get the shots then people that arent representing our nation on the world stage??? youve gotta be kidding me... There are tons of these shots to go around why do econ people even try to butt in on things they dont know about.

David said...

"sickness during this period would be particularly costly to them"

Really? In what way? Monetarily? Emotionally? So what. They point is that the doctor is placing a higher value on elite athletes than someone who might lose their job if they, or their child, get sick. What about pregnant women; they have spent months preparing for the big day too. I agree with Herb, the priorities here are out of alignment. How about this, when I can have access to their facilities, they can have early access to the H1N1 shot. Otherwise, get in line.

As for being prone to sickness, how do you know this? And not all winter sports require training to physical exhaustion. Like curling. Or sliding. And if you are getting every bug under the sun, perhaps you are overtraining, and not in peak form. You should be showing up at your peak, and not in the breakdown phase when your immune system is weak.

Fugsey, good to see you trolling on other blogs as well. I like the lack of punctuation and the pseudo-redneck attitude. It's a nice step down from your usual bored, effete intellectual persona.

Anonymous said...

Obviously an official with the Canadian Olympic committee is going to pull for any advantage to Canadian Athletes. This is consistent with expected preferences. The question illuminated by Herb seems to be whether the claim to early treatment has any merit considering that the cost of the vaccination is born by taxpayers in general.
The Olympic Games were originally envisioned to pit AMATURE athletes against each other. Over the years professional athletes (like the Canadian hockey team, which is made up of the best Canadian NHL players) have been allowed to compete.
If the athletes were all amateurs, and were not being compensated for their efforts, then I could see the merit on both sides of this debate, since an athletes performance would be a purly public good (no private return to a sponsor or the athlete directly, except in the case of a medal win). Given that most of these athletes are in fact professionals with corporate sponsorship or (in the case of NHL players) full time careers in their chosen sport, I think it is a no brainer: If early vaccinations are being used as a means to offset some risk to the interests of the sponsor or the professional athlete, then let the sponsors or athletes pay for it, otherwise, they can appreciate the same public health care as everyone else, and get in line.

David said...

"The Olympic Games were originally envisioned to pit AMATURE athletes against each other."

History fail. The so-called amateurs of the early games were either sponsored pros, or independently wealthy WASPS. You really are too dense for this discussion Nonny.