State Senator wants Oklahoma to get vaccine

Thursday, December 1st 2005, 5:24 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A Tulsa senator is preparing legislation to make sure Oklahoma can deal with an influenza pandemic in coming years, regardless of what the federal government does.

Democrat Tom Adelson said Thursday he will introduce a bill calling on the state Health Department to take the lead in stockpiling antiviral drugs and not rely solely on the federal government.

"It may be necessary for the Health Department to go on the world market and find antiviral medications to protect Oklahomans in the case of an influenza pandemic," he said.

He said the federal government's stockpile plan would take several years and there is no reason the state should not try to do it quicker.

The Centers for Disease Control says there is a strong likelihood of an avian flu outbreak in the next few years and has adopted a plan that requires states to buy a limited supply of vaccines and influenza drugs from the federal government, Adelson said.

However, he said the federal government currently has only enough Tamiflu supplies for 1 percent of the population, a tiny fraction of the amount needed, despite warnings over several years that a bird flu epidemic was coming.

He said the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America says the national stockpile should be expanded to treat at least 25 percent of the population and ideally 40 percent.

"Since Hurricane Katrina, the ability of the federal government to provide an effective level of preparedness in case of emergency has been questioned," Adelson said. "I don't understand why our federal government has only managed to stockpile antiviral medications for 1 percent of the population."

He said France, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and other countries have national stockpiles exceeding 20 percent of their populations.

"In the wake of the federal government's failure to accumulate adequate stockpiles of antiviral drugs, the state of Oklahoma has a duty to procure for its citizens additional supplies, which may be available in the global market."

He said the federal vaccine and influenza distribution plan arbitrarily limits supplies based upon population.

"Other countries will not tolerate similar shortages and we should take the lead in protecting the citizens of our state," Adelson said.

He said the cost obtaining a stockpile for 25 percent of the state's population is unclear and range from $5 million to $35 million, according to the state health agency.