Klobuchar Seeks More Research, Resources to Better Combat Flu

February 12, 2018 10:17 AM

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has asked the Food and Drug Administration to look at ways it could alleviate a nationwide shortage of IV bags and saline solution as the country remains in the grips of one of the worst flu seasons in years.

Further, the senator on Sunday stood at Fairview Southdale Hospital with affected families, public health officials and medical professionals in announcing a plan to introduce legislation next week that will encourage research to develop a more effective, "universal" vaccine. 


RELATED: Flu Season Still Getting Worse; Now as Bad as 2009 Swine Flu

Klobuchar said several Puerto Rican facilities that produce saline solution for U.S. hospitals were affected by Hurricane Maria just as medical centers across the country were stocking up for this year's flu season. 

"We've seen an increase in flu cases and an inability to help some of the people that get the flu like we have not seen in recent years," Klobuchar said from Fairview Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota's senior senator noted there have been more than 3,800 flu-related hospitalizations in the state, and that the season is just half over. Last year, she said, there were 3,700 flu-related hospitalizations over the entire season.

RELATED: Flu Prevention Tips

"These numbers mean that we need to step up our efforts to make sure that our hospitals and our caregivers have the supplies they need to treat the higher number of patients from this year's flu season," Klobuchar said.

The country has faced a saline shortage since 2014, Klobuchar said. Hospitals use IV saline solution to help hydrate flu patients. 

"I've also urged the FDA to identify any changes that the agency believes Congress should make to help them address drug shortages more effectively," Klobuchar said. That would include, Klobuchar said, an easier path to get saline from other countries during such shortages.

RELATED: Groundhog Day Report: Flu's Worsening Shadow Blanketing US

Meanwhile, the Flu Vaccine Act Klobuchar and other lawmakers plan to introduce next week will focus on increasing funding for research at the National Institutes of Health in an effort to develop a more effective flu vaccine. 

That's because, Klobuchar said, traditional vaccines target just three to four strains of the flu, and are effective between 10 and 60 percent of the time. She hopes the new research would lead to a universal vaccine that could "help protect people from all variations of the flu."


Michael Oakes

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