WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, spoke at an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled “Flu Season: U.S. Public Health Preparedness and Response,” according to a press release.
Walden started the hearing off by emphasizing the importance of the flu vaccine.
“Every year, millions of Americans put themselves at an increased risk of getting the flu because they do not get the flu vaccine. They also are increasing the risk that individuals who cannot be vaccinated, including young children who are not old enough to get the flu vaccine, will get the flu. If you have not gotten the flu vaccine yet this year, please go get it today,” Walden said.
He then noted that the population most at risk for flu-related complications are senior citizens.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people 65 years and older account for about 70 to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths in recent years and between 50 to 70% of seasonal-flu related hospitalizations,” said Walden.
Currently, seniors are able to get either the regular flu shot or one of the two flu shots made especially for those 65 years and older. In February, Walden, along with fellow Republican committee members, sent a letter to the director of the CDC about improving flu coverage for seniors. They asked the CDC if a preferential recommendation from CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for vaccinating adults age 65 and older with one of the specialized flu shots for seniors would reduce deaths and hospitalizations or improve vaccination coverage. In response, the CDC said they did not believe there was adequate information to rise to the level of ACIP to make this recommendation.
“Given what appears to be substantial evidence substantiating superior effectiveness for seniors with each of these alternatives compared to the standard-dose flu vaccine and the preferential recommendations from other respected foreign health authorities for one of these alternatives, I want to explore the reasons for CDC’s hesitancy about supporting a preferential recommendation when it appears there is reason to believe it could help save lives,” said Walden.
He concluded by sharing his support for President Donald Trump’s recent executive order that promotes the development of better flu vaccinations and emphasized his readiness to discuss the role of antiviral drugs to mitigate the severity of the flu and concerns over possible drug-resistant flu strains.
In addition to working to improve and modernize the flu vaccine, Walden has made many additional efforts to keep communities in Oregon safe and healthy. In August, Walden helped secure over $800,000 in federal funding to improve the quality and efficiency of Community Health Centers (CHCs) across the 2nd District. In the district, CHCs play a critical role in keeping rural communities safe and healthy, serving more than 240,000 Oregonians.