Clavelle, Douglas debate importation of flu vaccine from Canada

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(Host) The shortage of flu vaccine in Vermont is emerging as an issue in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. Democratic candidate Peter Clavelle says Republican governor Jim Douglas should import vaccine from Canada. Douglas says he’s trying, but needs permission from the Bush administration.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In an effort to deal with the nationwide shortage of flu vaccine, the governor is trying to negotiate an agreement with a pharmaceutical company in Quebec to ship just over a million doses of the vaccine to the United States. If this happens, Douglas wants to earmark at least 150,000 doses to the state of Vermont.

But in order for this transaction to take place, it must be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, an agency that has opposed efforts to import drugs into this country.

Clavelle says if he were governor, he would disregard the opinions of the FDA and work to bring the flu vaccine into Vermont as quickly as possible:

(Clavelle) “President Bush and Jim Douglas have both touted the free market as the solution to our health care crisis. The pharmaceutical industry, the insurance companies are going to solve the crisis. They can’t even provide us with flu vaccine. Now it’s very interesting to note that our governor has said we ought to go to Canada to buy flu vaccine. I’ve been suggesting for quite some time we ought to go to Canada for safe affordable prescription drugs and we ought to do both.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he won’t break the law in order to import drugs from Canada, including the flu vaccine.

(Douglas) “Public officials can’t decide which laws to respect and what laws not to and it’s easy to say things in the heat of a political campaign but it’s important to think about the long term prospects for our country. This company does not want to run afoul of the FDA. They’d like to develop a long term relationship with the United States and the large markets south of the international border. So they want to do it right and I want to do it right.”

(Kinzel) Douglas is urging Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to rule on this issue in the next 48 hours. Both Douglas and Clavelle say they usually get a flu shot, but because of the shortage, neither has gotten one this year.

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

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