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VA Jeopardizes Veteran’s Health by not Allocating enough Flu Vaccine for 2006


By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend

November 3, 2006

90 year old Korean combat veteran, Jay Otto recently visited the VA clinic in Ashtabula Ohio for his yearly flu vaccine. According to the sign on the door of the clinic, the VA has no vaccines at this time.  

Mr. Otto suffers from many aliments and depends on a pacemaker to regulate his heart rate. At 90 years old, he is considered a high-risk for influenza. Like many elderly veterans across the country, Mr. Otto counts on this vaccine to help him ward off the deadly effects of influenza and pneumonia.

Veteran’s rights advocate, Gene Simes of Rochester New York has spent the past week attempting to find out why the VA doesn't have flu vaccines available. Simes has contacted the Department of Veterans Affair, Center for Disease Control (CDC), several VA hospitals across the country, and Glaxo Smith-Kline (one of the VA vaccine suppliers) in an effort to find out why the VA has no vaccines this early in the 2006 flu season. In an FBN interview Simes stated he was unable to find anyone with a legitimate excuse for this shortage. “According to the CDC in Atlanta Georgia, there is no shortage of the vaccine for 2006-2007. In fact, 115 million doses have been manufactured for this flu season thus far. That is more than has ever been made available before,” Simes said.

Last year, there was a severe shortage of the flu vaccine due to a world wide recall by manufacture’s because of a bad batch of the vaccine.

The CDC predicts 36,000 deaths during the 2006-2007 influenza season. Another 200,000 will be hospitalized.

Gene Simes said he is very concerned by the VA’s inability to acquire the necessary vaccines. “The VA’s failure to provide this immunization could very well be responsible for deaths and hospitalization for many of our veterans this year,” Simes stated.  

Long time veteran’s rights advocate [Name Omitted] of Jefferson Ohio has been assisting Simes with his investigation. “The real problem here appears to be the lack of funding. The VA gets it’s vaccines from manufacture’s at an extremely reduced cost. The makers of this vaccine appear to be honoring orders from the highest bidders before supplying the VA,” [Name Omitted] said. “One supplier we contacted stated they could provide the VA with the vaccines they need within 48 hours, but doubted the VA would pay the retail cost for the vaccines and shipping,” [Name Omitted] added.

Gene Simes said this is a good argument for mandatory funding of the VA health care system. “The reason our veterans are doing without is because the VA doesn't have the funds to compete with the private sector health care system,” Simes said. “It is very disturbing to think veterans will become ill and even die because the VA can't afford the much needed medicines our veterans need to stay healthy,” Simes added.

Mr. [Name Omitted] said they have contacted several VA hospitals nationwide, and all of them are out of the life saving vaccine. “If we cannot afford to care for our veterans, we cannot afford to deploy our troops in the first place,” [Name Omitted] suggested.

Simes and [Name Omitted] both said they have contacted several news media outlets in hopes of drawing attention to this potential deadly situation. “We have calls into NBC channel 10 in Rochester New York in hopes they will pick up the story, [Name Omitted] said. “However, we have yet to hear from anyone concerning this deplorable situation,” he added.

According to representatives within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA may have flu vaccines by the end of November or mid-December, or half way through the current flu season. 

The Firebase Network would like to hear from you concerning this story. Send your comments to;


Or contact Gene Simes; 315 986 7322

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