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ACP Urges Government to Ensure Vaccine Supply Reaches Internists and Other Primary Care Physicians

(Washington, DC) In a letter today to Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson, the American College of Physicians (ACP) urged the federal government to ensure that supply of the flu vaccine directly reaches high-risk patients of internists and other primary-care physicians through their own doctor's offices.

ACP expressed support for the government's work on distributing the flu shots and keeping the public informed during the most recent vaccine shortage. However, the College expressed concern that recurring shortages could have a negative impact on the nation's health.

As part of the distribution plans during the current shortage, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) has identified priority groups and asked that people who are not in one of the priority groups forego their vaccination this season. Because they have higher rates of serious illness and death, people over age 65, people with chronic medical conditions, and children under 24 months have been identified as priority groups. The majority of internists' patients fit into the first two categories, so it is critical that doctors of internal medicine have access to an adequate supply of flu vaccine.

In addition to the steps already being taken by the DHHS and the CDC, ACP recommends that the limited supplies of the vaccine be made available to clinicians and other licensed health care providers who provide regular patient care to high-risk individuals. For many vulnerable patients, the physician's office is the best location to be immunized, especially for patients who are unable to stand in line at supermarkets and pharmacies and who require careful monitoring.

ACP also asked that the CDC continue to clearly communicate vaccine prioritization requirements, distribution plans, and other instructions to physicians and other providers. The College stated that physicians should not be penalized for failure to follow emergency orders that are not clear and timely and do not provide for due process to resolve situations outside the physician's control.

"For many years, unavailability of vaccine products has presented a challenge to physicians and patients," said Charles K. Francis, MD, FACP, FACC, president of ACP. "The federal government must have a vaccine production and distribution system in place to assure an adequate and safe supply of lifesaving vaccines for all individuals, but particularly our most vulnerable patients."

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 116,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illness in adults.

Jack Pope (202) 261-4556, jpope@acponline.org
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org

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