The Biden administration said Wednesday it’s tapping into a national stockpile of Tamiflu to increase the supply of the antiviral in response to soaring demand tied to the devastating flu season.
Pharmacists have reported a shortage of oseltamivir, which is sold under the brand name Tamiflu to treat influenza A and B in people at higher risk of complications from the illness.
The shortage coincides with a flu season that hit early and hard this year. It may be peaking in parts of the U.S., but hospitals are admitting over 20,000 patients per week.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the decision is an extension of his Dec. 2 offer to help states battling with a confluence of flu, COVID-19 and a virus known as RSV. HHS had told states they can tap into stockpiles of Tamiflu that were supposed to be reserved for a “pandemic flu.”
“Today we are taking action so that every jurisdiction can meet the increased demand for Tamiflu this flu season,” Mr. Becerra said. “State stockpiles can be utilized, and if jurisdictions need access to the Strategic National Stockpile, they now have it to respond to the current seasonal flu outbreak.”
His agency did not cite a specific amount of Tamiflu that will be released from the stockpile. Rather, HHS said regional teams will evaluate requests from states, territories and tribes to provide supply that meets their needs without jeopardizing preparedness for future emergencies.
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The White House has been urging Americans to get a flu shot and updated booster shot for COVID-19 as the viruses circulate this winter.
Scientists believe the flu and RSV — two common illnesses — pack a bigger punch this year because many Americans did not get exposed to the pathogens in the past two cycles while hunkering down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, some jurisdictions hope a return to mask-wearing will blunt transmission. Governments and school districts in California and Philadelphia have announced mask mandates in recent days.