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HARKIN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE FREE FLU SHOTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced the Seasonal Influenza and
Pandemic Preparation Act that would provide free flu shots to those
that need one and help strengthen the nation’s vaccine infrastructure.
The legislation would also help strengthen preparedness efforts for
seasonal and pandemic flues. Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the panel
the funds health care initiatives, has been calling on the Bush
Administration to implement a plan to prepare for a potential avian flu
“I have always said that
an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Harkin. “This
plan will not only help provide free and accessible vaccinations, it
will help spur demand and build the strong vaccine infrastructure this
country needs. I believe this type of forward, out-of-the-box thinking
can go a long way to preparing us for seasonal flu today and pandemic
Through the legislation,
Iowans and others throughout the nation would be able to go to
physician’s offices, hospitals, schools, participating retail outlets,
pharmacies and faith based institutions to receive a free flu vaccine
on a voluntary basis. The bill would create partnerships between local
health providers and the private sector, faith based groups, and
schools to increase the availability of the vaccine. This approach will
stimulate demand and help to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity in
the United States.
It would also create a
network of trained volunteers, the Volunteer Vaccine Corps, to help
health care professionals deliver the vaccines to those who want one.
The Corps will help vaccinate people against seasonal flu and can help
staff a national effort to vaccinate people if avian flu strikes.
Importantly, the legislation will help develop the systems necessary to
vaccinate a large number of people, improving our ability to manage a
pandemic flu outbreak.
Influenza viruses cause
20,000 to 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Many of these deaths
could be prevented with increased influenza vaccination rates. Experts
estimate that 90,000 to 300,000 Americans and up to 50 million people
worldwide could die if left unprotected during an influenza pandemic.
As a leader in Congress
on public health issues, Harkin has pushed aggressively to strengthen
the federal government’s focus on wellness and disease prevention. He
has aggressively pushed for funding for avian flu preparedness in the
Senate. Harkin significantly increased funding for the Centers for
Disease Control, bolstered its prevention programs, and authored
legislation changing the agency’s name to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Along with Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), he
doubled funding for the National Institutes of Health over a five year