News Briefs

Revised recommendations for flu prevention issued

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has released its revised recommendations for the prevention and control of influenza (flu). The new recommendations update 2003 ACIP recommendations for the use of the influenza vaccine, including dosage and administration instructions, potential adverse reactions, and populations who should not be vaccinated, as well as the use of antiviral medications.

Among its recommendations, ACIP says health care facilities should offer free, on-site influenza vaccinations to all employees, including night and weekend staff, beginning in October of each year, with special priority given to workers who care for at-risk patients. ACIP also recommends that acute care hospitals strongly encourage patients who are age 50 or older or have high-risk conditions to receive a flu vaccine before they are discharged.

The complete revised ACIP recommendations for the prevention and control of influenza are available at the CDC web site: Go to the "News & Highlights" box and select "MMWR: Prevention and Control of Influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)."

Influenza vaccine supply increases for 2004-2005

The supply of influenza vaccine will be increased this year in an effort to prevent the shortages that occurred during the past flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced. Manufacturers will make 90 million to 100 million doses for the 2004-2005 season, compared with 87 million doses available last year, the agency said. Media attention about influenza led to an unprecedented demand, according to the CDC. If vaccine shortages occur, the CDC said it may stagger the availability, giving priority to high-risk groups, such as health care workers and people at risk for complications from the flu.

The CDC had these recommendations:

  • Vaccination campaigns should begin in mid-October because supply cannot be ensured for early fall.
  • The new vaccine will contain three strains, including A/Fujian/411/2002 (H3N2)-like, A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1)-like, and B/Shanghai/361/2002-like antigens.
  • "If a health care worker receives live attenuated influenza vaccine, the health care worker should refrain from contact with severely immunosuppressed patients for seven days after vaccine receipt. No preference exists for inactivated vaccine use by health care workers or other people who have close contact with persons with lesser degrees of immunosuppression."

CMS slower to pay noncompliant claims

On July 6, 2004, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began to treat electronic claims that were not in compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards as paper claims. "The great majority of electronic claims we are receiving meet the required HIPAA standards but, for those still not in compliance, there is going to be a delay in getting their money," says Mark B. McClellan, MD, PhD, CMS administrator. "We are hoping this will motivate more filers to get into compliance soon," he adds.

Under a modification to its HIPAA contingency plan announced in February, noncompliant electronic claims still will be accepted by CMS, but their payment will take 13 additional days which is the same payment time frame for paper claims. Currently, 90% of all electronic claims comply with HIPAA standards, says McClellan. "Now, a two-week delay is an important further incentive to get to 100%," he adds.