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From the May ACP Observer, copyright 2003 by the American College of Physicians.

College supports Senate bill to give immunizations a boost

ACP is supporting a Senate bill that would increase immunization rates of teens and adults against diseases like influenza.

The Improved Vaccine Affordability and Availability Act (S. 754), introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), would improve the nation's supply of vaccines, the distribution process and local infrastructures for delivering vaccines.

"Removing financial barriers that currently limit the number of vaccines given in this country is an important step for our nation's health and security," College President Munsey S. Wheby, FACP, said in an April 8 press release.

Given the historically disproportionate levels of funding for adolescent and adult immunization programs, the letter said, the College strongly supports the bill's call for additional funding in these areas. The bill clearly states that these programs should not be funded at the expense of successful childhood immunization programs.

The bill would also improve and clarify the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which compensates individuals who have been injured as a result of receiving a vaccine.

The College's press release is online.

In related news, the College voiced support for a Senate bill designed to protect patients from bioterrorism, in part because it would aid physicians' efforts to administer the flu vaccine.

The Biodefense Improvement and Treatment for America Act (S. 15) would strengthen state and local infrastructures used to distribute vaccines. The bill would also clarify liability issues for patients who suffer injuries from smallpox vaccinations.

In a March 18 letter to Sen. Frist, ACP pointed out that while several issues hamper physicians' ability to deliver flu vaccines, improving the country's public health infrastructure would greatly improve immunization rates.

The College also supported legislators' decision to cover smallpox vaccinations in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The letter said the decision could ultimately encourage more health care professionals to both become vaccinated and serve as first-line defenders in the event of an outbreak.

College protests plans to nearly double costs of DEA registration

ACP is protesting plans to raise physicians' cost of registering with the DEA from $70 to $131.

In a March 24 letter to John B. Brown III, acting administrator of the DEA, the College characterized the new fees as an "inappropriate provider tax." The agency proposed raising its registration fees in the Feb. 18 Federal Register.

While ACP supports the DEA registration program, it urged the agency to find another way to fund it. It suggested funding the program by fining individuals who illegally obtain and prescribe controlled substances.

The College's letter also pointed out that insurers and other health care organizations inappropriately use DEA numbers as physician identification numbers. ACP suggested that the DEA fine these organizations and use those monies to help fund its registration program. It pointed out that misusing DEA numbers increases the risk of prescription fraud.

The College's letter is online.

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