- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 20, 2004

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton asked Congress yesterday to give its leftover flu vaccines to the city health department, though she acknowledged that the remaining supply will hardly decrease the city’s shortage.

“They’ve already given out most of theirs,” she said. “They continued to give it out just because [the patients] were members of Congress or key staff members.”

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, also said she has discussed with Dr. John F. Eisold, the attending physician on the Capitol, his belief that all 535 lawmakers in Congress should get a flu shot because they come in contact with a lot of people.

The policy conflicts with federal guidelines stating the shots should go primarily to the elderly, the young, pregnant women, long-term-care patients and people with chronic illnesses. And new city regulations state that those who give shots to patients outside the high-risk categories could face stiff fines.

Mrs. Norton said Dr. Eisold responded that he would give the remaining supply to city hospitals but only for high-risk patients, a decision she described as “switch” from his policy on Capitol Hill.

She also pointed out to Dr. Eisold that President Bush said he would forgo a flu shot this year, despite his “wholesale contact with the public during this campaign season.”

Dr. Eisold could not be reached yesterday evening.

D.C. Department of Health acting Director Dr. Gregg A. Pane said yesterday he would welcome extra flu shots because of the shortage in the District.

“We would love to talk with [Dr. Eisold] about that,” he said.

The health department said last week that shots should go only to children 6 to 23 months old, adults older than 65, nursing home residents, health care workers, pregnant woman and persons with chronic medical conditions.

Dr. Pane said the District expects to receive more than half of the 29,000 children’s doses on order within three weeks. He also expects to get about half of the 24,000 doses ordered for adults.

The nationwide shortage occurred earlier this month when British officials halted production at the Chiron Corp. because bacterial contamination was found in some samples. The company had been scheduled to send about 48 million doses to the United States.

Other area jurisdictions also are struggling with the shortages, including Montgomery County, which yesterday announced a new phone line in which people in high-risk categories can register for shots.

Health officials said they will hold a lottery, then announce next week which residents will get the 800 doses the county has available.

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