Providers request national flu vaccine strategy from Congress

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should adopt a national strategy to help state health departments distribute flu vaccine to long-term care patients during shortages like this season's, long-term care representatives told Congress on Thursday.

National guidelines would ensure that priority elderly populations, including skilled nursing facility and assisted living residents, receive the vaccine with as little confusion as possible, said Alan Rosenbloom, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association and the Center for Assisted Living Management. He testified Wednesday specifically about his state's problems during the 2004 vaccine shortage before the House Energy and Commerce Health and Oversight and Investigation Subcommittees.

"Recognizing that an epidemic in any of our settings would be devastating, CDC rightly defined the long term care facility priority groups to include both skilled nursing and assisted living settings.  However, formal guidance was not transmitted to state health departments, and many states have had difficulty prioritizing assisted living settings," Rosenbloom said.

Guidelines are needed to smooth communication between providers and authorities at the federal and state levels, which sometimes duplicate each other's efforts, Rosenbloom said. Guidance also is need on whom providers should vaccinate first, should they receive only partially filled orders for vaccine, he added.