Santas Want H1N1 Vaccine Priority for Christmas Season
Department-Store Santas want priority access to the H1N1 vaccine. The men who portray Santa Claus at shopping centers, parades and special events argue that they should be fast-tracked for the Swine Flu vaccine not because they're actually old men who live at the North Pole, but because they have an unusually high level of contact with the public-- especially children-- during flu season.
Meanwhile, the Santa Union (which actually exists) is telling its members to wash their hands more frequently, and to encourage the children with whom they come in contact to use hand sanitizer. Also, the Santas who visit sick kids in hospitals will be washing their suits daily instead of weekly (I'm surprised that this wasn't standard operating procedure when spending time in hospitals).
The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, a fraternal organization that provides training and resources for people who work or volunteer as Santa Clauses, said the health of its roughly 700 members is a real concern.
Some medical professionals are suggesting a change in tradition to accomodate the H1N1 scare, and not just ditching tohe white gloves to facilitate the quick application of hand sanitizer:
Dr. Jack Turco, director of health services at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., said Santa might consider greeting children from a few metres away rather than holding them on his lap, or asking children with coughs to stand in a separate line.
John Scheuch, executive director of Santa America, said he might suggest to parents that they come back another time if a child is visibly ill.
"The kids are in the strollers, sniffling and coughing and hacking ... In the meantime, they're interacting with other kids in line."