Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Investigates Flu Vaccine Distribution Practices

September 30, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating why Visiting Nurse Associations in Connecticut may receive a disproportionately lower supply of seasonal flu vaccine than others who contracted with a major vaccine supplier.

In a letter to Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, Inc., Blumenthal said he understands that Novartis and other flu vaccine suppliers are experiencing serious production strains, and that some deliveries may be delayed.

Blumenthal said the Visiting Nurse Associations of America (VNAA) has apparently been notified that its supply will be about 75 percent lower than promised under its contract, even though Novartis has claimed production is down only 10 percent.

Blumenthal said, "The delivery disparity raises the specter of discriminatory distribution -- serious questions about whether Novartis may be purposefully filling other flu vaccine contracts at higher levels. My office has requested key details about Novartis distribution practices.

"This dangerous disparity threatens to deprive thousands of Connecticut citizens of fair flu vaccine protection -- including senior citizens who are most vulnerable to fatal complications. My office has launched a prompt investigation as we enter a potentially dangerous flu season.

"We must proactively protect against any unfair and unsafe flu vaccine distribution practices. Facing vaccine production difficulties, we must ensure that our most vulnerable citizens -- senior citizens and young children -- have fair access to vaccines.

"VNAs now forced to cancel flu shot clinics may lack even enough vaccine for their own health care workers. In Connecticut, as elsewhere, VNAs are the primary provider of vaccines to the elderly homebound population, among the most vulnerable to severe illness and morbidity from the flu. VNAs are also a main provider of flu vaccines to emergency medical responders and health care workers in the state."

The VNAA contracted with Novartis on behalf of VNAs in Connecticut and 20 other states for seasonal flu vaccines that the local VNAs provide to the public. The contract required the provision of 350,000 doses of the vaccine, to be delivered to each of the VNAs by Sept. 30.

According to information provided by the Connecticut VNAs, Novartis recently notified VNAA that it will deliver only 100,000 vaccines - only 28 percent of the contracted doses.

Connecticut's VNAs now expect to receive some 41,000 fewer vaccine doses than anticipated, forcing them to cancel flu shot clinics and jeopardizing their ability to vaccinate their own health care workers.

Blumenthal has requested the following information from Novartis:

  • How is the available production of seasonal flu vaccine being distributed among purchasers by Novartis and what is the rationale for the distribution decisions?

  • What are the reasons that the supply of vaccine to the VNAA is being reduced by 72 percent when Novartis' production is only 10 percent below the amount needed to meet all supply contracts?

  • Has the VNAA's supply of vaccine been reduced by a greater percentage than other Novartis customers and, if so, why?

  • What steps is Novartis taking to promptly restore in a timely fashion the missing supply of vaccine to the VNAA?