The following letter is Congressman Frank's reply to constituents who contact him regarding the flu vaccine shortage.
Thank you for contacting me about the current flu vaccine shortage. I share the anger that many people have expressed over this unnecessary shortage, and I agree with you that we need to address this issue so that the shortage is alleviated and to make sure it does not happen again.
The flu vaccine shortage is a clear indication that the Department of Health and Human Services is not doing its job adequately, and the federal government needs to play a stronger role to ensure that citizens are able to get the vaccine when needed, regardless of their risk status. This is an example of why we cannot leave important health decisions to private sector. There needs to be a government role with regard to health matters of this magnitude to ensure that the public has an affordable and adequate supply of vaccines.
As a start, I am strongly supporting a bill, H.R. 3758, introduced by my colleague Rep. Rahm Emanuel, which would offer a tax incentive for companies to produce the vaccine. In addition to providing tax incentives, Rep. Emanuel's bill would require states to have a contingency plan for high-risk populations in the event of another vaccine delay or shortage. In addition, we should begin to consider a plan to have the federal government guarantee the purchase of an adequate supply of vaccine since part of the problem comes when private companies guess that demand will drop in a given year. I'm attaching a letter I signed, which was sent to Democratic leader Rep. Pelosi and House Speaker Hastert asking that Congress take this issue up immediately after the election. It is unclear whether the Republican Majority will act on this request, but I will continue to do everything I can to push for action.
Finally, a number of people have asked me if I will receive a flu shot. On the advice of my doctor, I had planned on getting the flu shot, like I do every year. However, after the shortage was announced I cancelled my appointment because I do not believe it is appropriate for members of Congress to receive special consideration.