ACP-ASIM Supports Move to Ensure Flu Vaccines Reach High Risk Patients During Shortages
June 27, 2001
Bill seeks to Establish Delivery System That Prioritizes Health Care Providers
(Washington, DC) A predicted influenza vaccine shortage may leave the elderly and chronically ill facing serious preventable illnesses unless America's vaccine distribution system begins to prioritize those at highest-risk, according to testimony offered today by William J. Hall, MD, FACP, president of the American College of Physicians - American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM,) to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health.
ACP-ASIM supports enactment of the "Flu Vaccine Availability Act of 2001," H.R. 943, to help ensure that influenza vaccine shortages do not jeopardize the health of thousands of Americans in future influenza seasons.
"As a specialist in geriatrics, many of my patients are among those in the highest risk categories, yet I could not be assured of receiving adequate vaccine supplies last year," said Dr Hall.
The bill would authorize funding under the Public Health Service immunization program for the distribution of influenza vaccine to qualifying health care providers including physicians. This measure would avoid a recurrence of distribution problems during the 2000 flu season, when much of the limited vaccine supply was diverted from physicians and hospitals to non-professional distributors who distributed the vaccine on a first-come first-serve basis, regardless of risk, thereby depriving patients most in need from receiving the vaccine.
"If adequate supplies of the influenza vaccine are not available through physicians, the health of many high-risk Americans will be endangered," stated Dr Hall. "Therefore, we urge you to pass this important legislation needed to improve the supply and distribution of influenza vaccine in future years."
Epidemics of influenza, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), cause approximately 20,000 deaths per year in the United States. Rates of serious illness and death are highest among people over age 65 and persons of any age who have medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.
The ACIP has recommended that vaccinations be given to groups that are at increased risk for influenza-related complications including most persons over 50, those with certain chronic health conditions at any age and the caretakers of high-risk persons.
ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group. Membership encompasses more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students. Internists are the major providers of medical care to adults in America.
Jack E. Pope, ACP-ASIM Washington Office, 202-261-4556
Page updated: 11-04-03