Obama Administration’s Handling of H1N1 Flu Drawing Criticism on Hill
Two Senate committee leaders are questioning why there is a shortage of H1N1 vaccine and whether HHS has the ability to manage the spread of the virus, the Washington Post reports.
In July, the administration said that 80 million to 120 million doses of the vaccine would be available by mid-October, but so far only 16.5 million doses have become available.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he intends to ask HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius whether the department was too slow to alter its vaccine distribution plans once the production delays became apparent
In a letter to Sebelius Monday, the committee's ranking Republican member, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), wrote, "It seems that HHS gave its assurance of sufficient supply in August without adequate information to make such a commitment."
Administration officials said production of the vaccine relies on unpredictable, unreliable science and the extent of the production delays did not become clear until about two weeks ago.
HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie said that when vaccine makers "hit some stumbling blocks, they sometimes thought the fix was around the corner and didn't always feel the need to tell us, and then sometimes it turned out the fix wasn't around the corner."
Vaccine makers said they had kept the government up-to-date about supply issues (Shear/Stein, Washington Post, 10/27).
Officials Still Urge Vaccination
Sebelius conceded that the original projections, in retrospect, "were overly rosy," but she insisted the vaccine "is coming out the door as fast as it comes off the production line." Eventually, there will be enough vaccine doses "for everyone," she said.Because it cannot be predicted how long the H1N1 wave will continue, and a third wave might come next year, it still will be useful to get vaccinated months from now, according to Anne Schuchat, head of CDC's Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Division (AP/Washington Times, 10/26). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.