WASHINGTON – The nationwide delay of influenza vaccine appears to have missed Capitol Hill.
Beginning Monday, members of Congress and their staffs will be able to get the vaccine that health officials in Maryland said Friday will not be available to even some high-risk children until October.
But the attending physician to Congress is urging everyone on the Hill to get vaccinated, regardless of age.
“Our mission is public health,” said Robert Burg, of the Office of the Attending Physician for Congress.
He said there wasn’t any particular reason why Congress is apparently among the first to receive the vaccine.
“We just ordered early,” said Burg, adding that the office’s goal is to get the vaccine to as many people as possible. He said the vaccine was ordered in early January, a time when most physicians and health agencies are still thinking about getting through the flu season.
The vaccine will be available Monday, for $5 per person, to anyone with congressional identification, including lawmakers, their staffs and journalists covering the Capitol.
Some high-risk children in Maryland, meanwhile, are not likely to get vaccinations until October, officials at Maryland’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene said Friday.
Greg Reed of Maryland’s Center for Immunization said high-risk children who qualify “should receive the vaccine in two separate shipments in October.”
Reed said he had heard some physician’s offices in the area had already received the vaccine, but he could not speak for the whole state.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified public health officials earlier this year there would be a delay in the vaccine because of manufacturing difficulty at all four vaccine manufacturers.
News reports last week confirmed that one manufacturer had not even started producing the vaccine, while another had started shipments that were expected to continue through November.
While Congress has its vaccine, other federal agencies have not been so lucky. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall said the agency had not received its shipment and he could not say when it might arrive.
Burg seemed surprised by reports of delays, even though he noted that the Hill has not received all the vaccine it wants. Burg said he has received only 3,500 of the 5,000 doses he hoped for.
“I feel guilty. Like we should give it back,” Burg said after hearing of Maryland’s plight.
He offered to send doses to Maryland’s health department, if needed. But the vaccinations are expected to go on as scheduled.
“We want to capture as many people as possible now,” said Burg, noting that it is important to get Hill workers as early as possible. Congress is scheduled to adjourn by the middle of October.