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GAO: Flu-vaccine shortage offers lessons

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- The Government Accountability Office said Thursday last year's flu-vaccine shortage offers lessons for responding to future problems.

The GAO was particularly hard on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticizing it for a sluggish response to the debacle.

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The United States lost about half of its anticipated flu-vaccine supply last year after it was found to be contaminated, and there were reports that some high-risk individuals and others in priority groups were unable to get their shots due to the limited supply.

The GAO said the CDC's "lack of a contingency plan contributed to delays and uncertainty about how to ensure that high-risk individuals had access to vaccine."

Federal officials began distributing additional vaccine in mid-December, but the GAO report noted, "When actions occur late in the influenza season, they are likely to have little effect."

The CDC has already made changes to prepare for possible future shortages, but the GAO said it is too early to determine whether they will be effective. The report also noted the Department of Health and Human Services "concurred with GAO's finding that contingency planning would improve response efforts, and the agency indicated that additional preparations were under way."

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