In early October 2004, the nation lost about half its expected influenza vaccine supply when one of two major manufacturers announced it would not release any vaccine for the 2004-05 season because of potential contamination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had earlier recommended vaccination for 188 million individuals, including those at high risk of severe complications from influenza (such as seniors and those with chronic conditions), and other groups (such as their close contacts). Although health officials took actions to distribute the limited supply of influenza vaccine, reports persisted of high-risk individuals and others in priority groups who could not find a vaccination, including those who were turned away and never returned when supplies became available. Such reports raised questions about the adequacy of U.S. preparedness to respond to significant vaccine shortages. GAO was asked to examine actions taken at federal, state, and local levels to ensure that high-risk individuals had access to influenza vaccine during the shortage, including any lessons learned.
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