October 26, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge CDC To Increase Communication With State And Local Officials About Distributing H1N1 Vaccine, As Local Governments Express Concern About Availability

Senators Have Received Many Inquiries From Local Officials and Health Care Providers Concerned About the Availability Of H1N1 Vaccine

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase communication to local municipalities regarding the distribution of the H1N1 influenza vaccine. The Senators said that increased communication would improve the necessary, coordinated efforts of federal, state, and local governments in influenza preparedness. The call comes after Schumer and Gillibrand have received many inquiries expressing concern about the availability of the H1N1 vaccine. Local health departments throughout New York have received similar questions from residents and health care providers about accessibility and procedures surrounding distribution.

"While I applaud the Department of Health and Human Services, including the CDC, in their increased efforts to address concerns about the H1N1 flu, simply not enough is being done to inform local governments and health departments about the vaccine," Schumer said. "As we've seen, H1N1 is a serious threat to public health, especially to children and the elderly, and we must do everything we can to ensure the public and the local governments that represent them are well informed of influenza preparedness."

"Concern about H1N1 is very high, and as a mother and a lawmaker, I feel it is the federal government's responsibility to provide every local community with the vaccines that they need to protect the public from H1N1," said Senator Gillibrand.  "While public health departments and federal agencies have been working hard to respond effectively, many communities in New York have not received adequate information about the availability of H1N1 vaccines.  I urge the CDC to immediately increase their communication with local governments and public health departments to help keep all New Yorkers safe."

In many cases, local health departments and emergency preparedness officials are unable to provide H1N1 information because they have not received it from the CDC, or have received conflicting information from state and federal officials.  As a result, it appears that local distribution of the vaccine is impaired.  For example, in Long Island, over half of the population of 3 million residents falls within a demographic susceptible to H1N1 influenza.  However, only a small number of Long Island's residents have been able to access the vaccine.  Schumer and Gillibrand believe increased public awareness will mitigate existing concerns surrounding the availability of the vaccine, as well as further the ability of governments and health care providers to dispense the vaccine to those Americans who want it.