Legislative panel finalizes flu report

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:31

    HARRISBURG - State Rep. John Siptroth, D-Monroe/Pike, this week revealed a report developed by the House Select Committee on Influenza Vaccine detailing recommendations to improve the state’s readiness for the upcoming flu season. Siptroth, a member of the committee, said the information provided within the report is a result of numerous hearings held by the committee to determine the effectiveness of Pennsylvania’s utilization and distribution of the flu vaccine. In recent years, Pennsylvania has faced influenza vaccine shortages, which Siptroth said can have a deadly effect on the state’s most vulnerable citizens. “Senior citizens and others who are in danger if subjected to the flu virus should never be denied the vaccine because we don’t have enough to distribute,” Siptroth said. “Through the committee process, we were able to determine the improvements needed as to how the vaccine is produced and distributed, and make viable and reasonable recommendations on how to do so.” Currently, Pennsylvania’s vaccination rate for senior citizens is 65 percent, well below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s recommended rate of 90 percent, Siptroth added. Since January, the committee has heard testimony from health-care representatives, vaccine manufacturers and distributors, community organizations and patient advocates, the state attorney general’s office, and the state Department of Health. Some of the committee’s recommendations include: • establishing a statewide summit to review and implement recommendations of the National Influenza Vaccine Summit; • encouraging prioritization of vaccine shipments to health-care providers that administer the vaccine to patients individually throughout the vaccine season; • creating a stronger and more enforced drug wholesale distribution licensing and inspection process to reduce the risk of counterfeit vaccines; • mandating that vaccine manufacturers provide the state Department of Health with status reports showing projected release dates for flu vaccines on a monthly basis; • allowing the Department of Health to mandate that vaccine providers comply with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention priority regulations on vaccine distribution in the event of federally declared vaccine shortages; • banning price gouging on vaccines that are in limited supply, especially in relation to the limited shelf life of a specific year’s influenza vaccine; • evaluating the efficiency of state funding for planning and response to a flu pandemic; • requiring the state to have a vaccine reserve supply for use by county or state health clinics located in areas facing vaccine shortages, or to improve the immunization rate if no shortage exists; and • establishing benchmarks to evaluate and review the effectiveness of the state’s pandemic flue preparedness plan. Also included in the final report was a recommendation proposed by Siptroth that would allow the House speaker to reconvene the Select Committee in the event of a pandemic Siptroth said the Centers for Disease Control has reported it will have more vaccines available for the upcoming flu season than ever before, with manufacturers producing more than 100 million doses, an increase of 17 million from any past season.