No price gouging for flu shots reported in state

Saturday, October 16th 2004, 11:51 am
By: News On 6

The Associated Press

While officials in some states were investigating reports of price gouging for flu shots, authorities in Oklahoma have not received any complaints.

The reports of price gouging came after a shortage of flu vaccine that began last week when British regulators shut down shipments from Chiron Corp., that were destined for the United States.

Oklahoma is short by more than 300,000 doses and the federal Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health have asked that the vaccine be provided only to those patients ``highest at risk.''

High-risk groups are children ages 6-23 months, people 65 or older, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease.

Emily Lang, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, and Leslea Bennett-Webb, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, both said there have been no complaints of price gouging in Oklahoma.

The state statute on price gouging requires the governor to declare an emergency before a practice can be considered price gouging, Lang said.

``We hope there is not price gouging in our state and that health-care practitioners are applying a fair market value on the vaccine,'' said Bennett-Webb. ``But if people feel like they are being treated unfairly, they can call our office.''

Phil Wood, executive director of the Oklahoma Pharmaceutical Association, said a fair price for a flu shot is generally between $18 and $22.

Physicians may set higher rates based on their office policies, he said, and many clinics are charging $20 to $25.

Meanwhile, long lines formed where flu shots were available.

In Oklahoma City on Friday, two women fainted and a third was injured in a pre-dawn fall as some waited for more than four hours at clinics where senior citizens, mothers with babies and others stood in line, determined to receive flu shots.

The slow-moving lines featured wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen bottles, strollers and lawn chairs as people from as far away as Ada, Kingfisher, Lawton and Stillwater lined up early and stayed late for the 1,800 inoculations offered at four First Med Urgent Care clinics.

And in Muskogee, the shortage of vaccine has forced Muskogee Regional Medical Center has canceled its annual drive-through clinic in which people could get a flu shot while sitting in their car at a drive-through window.