Reacting to GAO Report, CMA Urges Mandatory Guidelines for Flu Vaccine
The California Medical Association was "angered" yesterday that a draft congressional report discussing the nation's flu shot program does not call for mandatory measures to prevent the shortages of shots that occurred last fall, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Chronicle obtained a copy of the report -- prepared by the General Accounting Office at the request of 29 House and Senate members and scheduled to be released on May 15 -- which details the "fragility" of a system required "to produce new vaccines each year." The report adds that last fall and winter, instead of being distributed based on patients' vulnerability, "flu shots were allocated in a haphazard fashion, dictated by price paid, date of order or the luck each manufacturer encountered in producing vaccine." However, the report concludes that the government can do little to prevent a repeat occurrence, given that distribution and production of flu vaccine is conducted "almost entirely by private companies and medical organizations." It recommends that the CDC work with doctors, distributors and manufacturers to develop "voluntary guidelines for vaccine distribution." The Chronicle reports that Dr. Jack Lewin, executive director of the CMA, "harshly criticized" the report, saying that "federal health officials have an obligation to protect the frail and elderly from potentially lethal flu inflections." Adding that the association -- which was "besieged by complaints" from physicians last fall who couldn't obtain the vaccine -- has tried to cooperate with the federal government to ensure that shots are first distributed to vulnerable populations, Lewin said, "I think we're going to have to raise a little hell" (Russell/Holding, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/3).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.