Like the Nation, Congress Short on Flu Vaccines

Posted October 8, 2004 at 5:33pm

Echoing the response of clinics nationwide to a severe shortage of flu vaccination, the Attending Physician’s office announced last week that it would limit distribution of the vaccines to “high risk” individuals.

The office had planned to begin making flu vaccinations available to all Congressional lawmakers, staff and other Capitol Hill employees last Thursday, but a spokesman said the facility had received only a “small portion” of the vaccine it had ordered.

He said the office, which administers several thousand flu shots annually, had expected to obtain additional vaccinations, but learned late last week that it may not because of a recently announced shortage.

Chiron Corp., an American company that manufactures about half of the U.S. vaccine supply, issued a statement Oct. 5 that it would not release about 48 million doses that had been potentially contaminated with bacteria.

In response to its limited supply, the Attending Physician’s office will instead follow guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended vaccinations be reserved for those individuals at “high risk” of infection, including the elderly, children and persons with chronic disease.

“We’re using the CDC guidelines to hopefully get as many as we can,” the office’s spokesman said, and later added: “If people come in and meet those criteria, they get it.”

The spokesman added that the office does not require patients to provide medical records when seeking the vaccination. “It’s a trust thing,” he said.

In the meantime, the office will continue to seek out additional doses of the vaccine. “We’re going to keep trying to get more,” the spokesman said.

At the end of the last week, the Congressional community had reacted to the restrictions in a relatively calm fashion, the spokesman said.

“We’ve had some Members say save it for the people who are sick,” he said.