HOUSTON, Nov. 2 (AP) — The city has stopped offering free flu shots at early voting sites after Republicans alleged it was a ploy by the mayor to lure more Democrats to the polls.
The vaccinations, for people 50 and older, had been offered at early voting sites in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Health officials said they had singled out medically underserved areas, not Democratic neighborhoods.
“There was no political motive whatsoever to do it,” said Mayor Bill White, the former head of the Texas Democratic Party.
Mr. White said he had ended the program Wednesday, after it had provided 1,300 flu shots over three days, because he did not want “to spend more money in defending a baseless lawsuit than we’re giving away in vaccine or allow anybody to question the integrity of the political process.”
Republicans accused Mr. White of using the program to increase Democrats’ election prospects. The Harris County Republican chairman, Jared Woodfill, said the offer violated a state law barring people from accepting anything in exchange for a vote.
“I think the program was completely motivated by a plan to turn out Democratic voters,” Mr. Woodfill said.
A $320,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation financed the “Vote and Vax” flu shot drives in Houston and 24 other American cities, according to the foundation, a health advocacy organization. The 10-year-old program singles out areas where relatively few people get flu shots.
Foundation officials say the program is a convenient way for older people, who are especially vulnerable to the flu, to get vaccinated for a disease that kills 32,000 people over 65 every year. Polls provide access to many people who need the vaccine.
Stop and think about this for a second. The government provided a public health service to people who are vulnerable and under served, and it had to stop because the Republican party charged that it was being done solely for political purposes.
I'm going to write that last bit again and italicize it: The government had to stop because the Republican party charged that it was being done solely for political purposes.
Remember Hurricane Katrina? Remember New Orleans? That was not a failure of government by the measurements of the modern Republican party. Government worked exactly in the way it was supposed to work -- it provided nothing to anyone who actually needed something.
Tax cuts? No bid contracts? Tort "reform"? No problem! Vaccinations for poor people? That's just playing politics!
The government exists to serve the people. Period. The Republican party, apparently, does not. That is truly reprehensible.