Health commissioner optimistic about Canadian flu vaccine

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(Host) Health Commissioner Doctor Paul Jarris says he’s optimistic that the federal government will allow the state of Vermont to import flu vaccine from Canada. If Vermont’s application is rejected, Jarris says the state may try to organize bus trips to Canada for individuals who want to get a flu shot.

(Kinzel) The Douglas administration has located 1.2 million doses of flu vaccine at a pharmaceutical company in Quebec. The problem is getting this vaccine into the country.

The governor is asking the federal Food and Drug Administration for permission to import the vaccine through the Centers for Disease Control. If the FDA rejects this approach, the Douglas administration is hoping that the FDA will allow the state of Vermont to take bring the vaccine directly into the country.

Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris says the FDA is still carefully reviewing the state’s proposal:

(Jarris) “We know in order to get it into this country we have to have DFA approval. The FDA’s indicated that they would consider bringing it in as what they call an IND, or investigational new drug. And we’ve been in touch with Fletcher Allen and then Fletcher Allen in turn with the FDA to say they would be willing to partner with us to bring the vaccine into Vermont.”

(Kinzel) How the FDA deals with this request could make a big difference in how much vaccine will be sent to Vermont. If the FDA allows the vaccine to be distributed by the CDC, Jarris says Vermont would probably receive between 5,000 and 10,000 flu shots. If the FDA allows the state of Vermont to import the vaccine directly, Jarris says the state could receive as many as 160,000 shots.

In the event that the FDA rejects both of Vermont’s plans, Jarris says the state will try to organize bus trips to Canada for those Vermonters who want to get a flu shot:

(Jarris) “It’s a contingency plan. The issue there of course is that Canadians’ first responsibility is to their own people and so before we could do that we would have to identify a sufficient source of vaccine in Canada. If we can do that we will do it and we’re trying to get everything ready so if we find that vaccine in Canada we can get Vermonters to the vaccine. If the federal government does not allow the importation of the ID Biomedical vaccine then we have had conversations with the company about Vermont obtaining that vaccine and providing it to a Canadian clinic.”

(Kinzel) Jarris says he hopes the FDA will issue a preliminary decision in this case in the very near future.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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