Congress passes 4-strain flu vaccine bill

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 1, 2013

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Legislation to add seasonal influenza vaccines with four viral strains to a no-fault insurance program has been enacted into law.

The bill updates federal law by covering four-strain flu shots under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which pays patients for injuries or death caused by vaccines. Previous law protected only vaccines with three viral strains.

“This legislation can help make the upcoming flu season less miserable for millions of Americans and avoid expensive hospital stays for those most susceptible to the flu,” said Rep. Jim Gerlach (R, Pa.), the bill’s sponsor. “Most health care professionals will tell you that getting a flu shot improves public health and lowers the risk of racking up expensive hospital bills, especially for children and seniors most vulnerable to suffering serious complications from the flu.”

For every American receiving the vaccine and other vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 75-cent fee goes into the no-fault program, mostly paid by insurance companies. An estimated 135 million patients were vaccinated during the past flu season. The fund is intended to offer liability protections to manufacturers and health professionals, and ensure adequate vaccine supply and price stability.

The legislation cleared the House on June 18 and Senate on June 19 by voice votes. President Obama signed the bill into law June 25.

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