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Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Company hired to handle flu vaccine supply

Mercer County Health Department

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - The local health department is contracting with an outside company to supply seasonal flu vaccine, monitor supplies, collect fees and handle other paperwork for one year.
The deal is expected to save the agency significant time and money while maintaining the current vaccine cost - $20 per dose - for area residents. The local agency will still administer the shots at the health department and other off-site clinic locations such as the popular drive-thru clinic at the county fairgrounds.
The Mercer County-Celina City Health board met Wednesday and agreed to contract with VaxCare of Orlando, Fla., on an experimental basis. The contract costs the health department nothing; the company profits by billing Medicaid and Medicare - a task currently performed by the health department staff - and pocketing cash payments collected locally.
Private insurance reimbursements will still be collected by the health department at least this year, officials said.
Director of Nursing Joyce Jansen is happy to hand over the responsibility of ordering sufficient vaccine.
"Each year we're uncertain how much vaccine we're going to need. (Currently) we have to pay upfront and if we don't use it, we eat the cost," she said.
Unused vaccine must be thrown away when it expires. VaxCare's "FluStation" program promises to take back excess vaccine at no charge, according to the contract.
Although the local department seldom has large amounts of leftover flu vaccine, ordering the right amount "is a game," Jansen said. The health department has a tight budget and can't afford a financial loss, she added.
The company also agrees to monitor vaccine supplies weekly and provide equipment such as syringes. VaxCare also will track vaccine distribution and compile the data for the local department's use - all at no charge.
VaxCare buys its vaccine in bulk from Sanofi-Aventis - the same drug company the local health department has purchased from for years, Jansen said, adding that's another reason she's comfortable with the contract.
VaxCare also will pay the health department $6.50 for each vaccine dose distributed. The amount is for the agency's administrative costs and calculated on past numbers of clients and types of payment, Jansen said.
Greg Burden, the company's director of sales and marketing, told The Daily Standard that VaxCare has three other Ohio health departments under contract and about a dozen in the "contract phase." VaxCare currently serves several health departments in Kentucky and Florida.
"Our goal was to get about a dozen under contract (in Ohio) this year," he said.
The company also is expanding into 15 other states this year, Burden added.
Jansen said she investigated the company's operations and received satisfactory answers to her questions.
"I was skeptical at first ... but I looked closely at the contract and I think it's worth a try for one year," she said.
The health department will continue to receive some flu vaccine from the Ohio Department of Health, which can only be used for children and people with special needs, Jansen said. She also noted that next year's one-dose seasonal flu vaccine will include prevention against the H1N1 flu virus.
Additional online story on this date
Darke County hog farmer Jeff Wuebker has been appointed by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to serve on the 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Administrator Nikki Hawk reported the news to board members during their meeting Wednesday. [More]
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