Flu Vaccine Distributors Launch New Initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) today announced the formation of the Flu Vaccine Business Practices Initiative -- a group of flu vaccine distributors. Distributors joining the Initiative agree to adhere to a voluntary Code of Responsible Business Practices. They also agree to actively investigate and resolve reported problems. Consistent failure to resolve verified problems by any company will result in the loss of membership in the Initiative.

"With a record 100-115 million doses of flu vaccine expected this year, broad distribution will be the key to achieving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)s vaccination goals," said Matthew J. Rowan, president and CEO of HIDA. "With the knowledge and up-to-date information provided by this Initiative, healthcare providers can be a better resource for their patients, recommending flu shots into November and even December as recommended by the CDC."

Manufacturers of seasonal flu vaccine use distributors to efficiently supply a wide variety of end-users that include physicians, hospitals, senior centers, clinics and other bulk purchasers. In 2005, approximately 35 percent of all flu vaccine was handled by distributors. In 2006, estimates are that approximately one-half of flu vaccine, approaching 50 million doses, will reach providers via distribution.

Membership in the Flu Vaccine Business Practices Initiative is open to all distributors willing to agree to the voluntary Code of Responsible Business Practices. HIDA has established this voluntary Code for its members and other distributors of flu vaccine to ensure that there is a clear and transparent process for securing, pricing and distributing the vaccine to the people that need it most. The Executive Committee of the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, a joint effort between the American Medical Association (AMA) and the CDC, formally supports the Initiative, including the voluntary code.

"This voluntary code, along with our new Web site, http://www.flusupplynews.com, allows those who order flu vaccine to better understand the industry's complexities and to get real-time information on the status of supply," said Rowan. "Any reported problems within the distribution system will be corrected and/or resolved. A report of any legitimate distribution problems and their resolution will be made available at the end of the season."

The flu vaccine production and distribution processes are highly complex and dependent on production methods developed in the early 20th century. The process begins every spring with flu strain selection and vaccine formulation. Selected strains are then grown in nearly 300 million individual live chicken eggs. Next, the virus is harvested, inactivated, purified, mixed, certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and quality tested before being distributed. Finally, the vaccine's sensitive handling and storage requirements need to be met as it is distributed to healthcare providers.

A recent nationwide survey of 1,000 Americans found that 76 percent of respondents didn't get a flu shot last year or thought they didn't need one. Of those that did, 62 percent believe the best time to get a flu shot is in September/October (the CDC recommends that people get immunized a little later -- in November or even December). The survey also found that 52 percent of respondents prefer to get their flu shots at a doctor's office. Most respondents didn't equate getting a flu shot with a healthy lifestyle, citing things such as "sufficient rest and sleep" as more important.

The World Health Organization, citing various studies in 2002, estimates that the annual economic impact from influenza in the United States in terms of healthcare costs, lost days of work or education and general social disruption is $11 billion to $18 billion.

Source: Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA)

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