October 26, 2004
Regula, 79, Ney, 50, get flu shots before shortage
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — Around the country, people at high risk are waiting in long lines to get flu shots. And even then, they are not guaranteed an immunization because of the shortage of vaccine.
But on Capitol Hill, hundreds of lawmakers, including Reps. Ralph Regula and Bob Ney, have taken advantage of free flu shots provided by Congress’ attending physician, John Eisold.
Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Ney, R-St. Clairsville, both said they received shots before finding out there was a shortage.
Because Regula is 79 years old, he is among the 65-and-older population that federal authorities are urging to get vaccinated. Ney, 50, does not fall into a high-risk category.
In early October, U.S. officials were notified that British regulators impounded flu vaccine at a Chiron Corp. plant near Liverpool, England, depriving the United States of almost half the anticipated vaccine supply. Regulators shut down the operation after discovering bacterial contamination in some samples.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued voluntary guidelines Oct. 5 aimed at preserving the limited vaccine for those most likely to suffer complications from the flu or to spread the contagious disease to others.
Ohio Republican Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine received flu shots because they fall into high-risk groups, aides said.
Reps. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, and Tim Ryan, D-Niles, are not in high-risk groups and chose not to get vaccinated.
If he had known about the shortage of vaccine, Regula said he might not have sought a vaccination.
“Oh, I don’t know. Of course I’m over 65,” he said. “I might not have because I have good health. Probably not if there had been any indication of depriving someone else.” Regula said he received a shot “probably four or five weeks ago.”
Ney said he would not have been vaccinated if he had known about a shortage. He said he received a shot about a week before the shortage was announced Oct. 5.
“I would have yielded to somebody else,” he said.
Voinovich, 68, was vaccinated because he is over 65 and has a pacemaker.
“He’s in an at-risk group, so he got the shot,” his spokesman, Scott Milburn, said.
DeWine, 57, does not fall within the age guidelines for the vaccination, but he received a shot because he has asthma for which he takes medication daily, spokeswoman Amanda Flaig said.
Area lawmakers who turned down the flu shot hesitated to criticize the hundreds of lawmakers or their staff who received one.
“I don’t want to sit in judgment of others, but I happened to be in the physician’s office the other day... and they said why don’t you get a flu shot,” Strickland said. “I refused because obviously we’ve got a problem with flu vaccine. I think I could get the flu and the country would survive.”
Strickland added: “It is important for those of us who are in positions of leadership to lead by example, and it appears we are in a position where we need to encourage a system whereby those who are at greater risk have access to this vaccine.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., announced Friday that the latest batch of 3,000 flu vaccinations sent to Capitol Hill would be donated to the District of Columbia Department of Health.
About 2,500 people received flu vaccinations through Congress so far this year, compared to 9,000 last year.