The Pentagon's announcement Friday that it would provide H1N1 vaccinations to Guantanamo Bay detainees who ask for it is a "terrible decision," one House Republican stressed Friday.
The White House should immediately cancel the program to ensure Americans are able to receive those vaccinations first, added Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.).
"I don't know if detainees at Gitmo should never be given the H1N1 vaccine," Pence told CNN during an interview. "But, certainly, at a time of such acute shortages, again, involving American citizens... I think the administration should immediately suspend the plan to deploy H1N1 vaccines to terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay, until such a time that sufficient vaccinations are made available to the American public."
The Pentagon explained on Friday that it was offering the vaccine to detainees only because prison populations are at high risk for spreading the pandemic, which has so far sickened hundreds of thousands at home and abroad. But that rationale hardly satisfied lawmakers from both political parties, who almost immediately questioned why the United States would ship those supplies to Gitmo while U.S. care providers struggled at home to cope with temporary vaccine shortages.
"As long as Americans must wait to receive the vaccine, the detainees in Guantanamo Bay should not be given preferential treatment to receive the H1N1 vaccination," Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) wrote in a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh on Friday.
Pence, too, shared Stupak's concerns, but he also used his interview Friday to take a shot at Democrats -- and their handling of other healthcare crises -- in particular.
"I think this is exactly the kind of misadministration of healthcare, this and other aspects of the way this government is responding to the H1N1 virus, that ought to give the American people great pause about this massive government-run insurance plan that's been unveiled this week by House Democrats," Pence said.