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Florida firms take heat for botched vaccination deal

Georgia's health director accuses a Texas vendor, who in turn blames suppliers for not delivering the flu shots.

By Associated Press
Published December 28, 2003

Georgia's public health director remains convinced the state was deceived in a $1.65-million deal for flu shots it never received, despite claims from a Texas vendor that two Florida companies are to blame.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, director of the Georgia Division of Public Health, said Saturday that the state expected to receive the vaccine directly from Houston-based Adaptable Medical Services' Florida warehouses, not from separate Florida suppliers.

"It was our expectation that Adaptable had the vaccine and they were going to ship it," Toomey said. "It was part of a deception. We thought we were dealing with credible persons."

But Roger Elliott, owner of Adaptable, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a report published Saturday that he sent Georgia's money to Priority Scripts in Miami, which purchased the vaccine from Tricom Pharmaceutical in Jensen Beach.

Elliott said Saturday that his Houston company doesn't store vaccine so it had to come from another company.

"I'm not the bad guy in this whole deal," Elliott said. "I don't know if there was ever vaccine or if they (the Florida companies) had vaccine and they sold it."

But Georgia officials did not know the two Florida suppliers were involved when the deal was reached, Toomey said.

"That was all hidden, and we had no way of knowing it," Toomey said.

Last week, Georgia worked with broker Carters Trading Co. of Springdale, Ark., to create the flu shot deal with Adaptable.

The state requested 100,000 doses of flu shots, which are in scarce supply because of a nationwide flu vaccine shortage.

Georgia health officials said they proceeded with the deal after a verification process, which included receiving the vaccine lot numbers by fax and confirming Adaptable's pharmacy distributor's license.

When the flu shots didn't appear, Toomey used her Georgia homeland security contacts to get speedy help from the FBI.

The FBI told her that fraud was committed in the deal if a seller said "they had vaccine and they did not," Toomey said.

The FBI has declined to talk about the case, saying it is an open investigation. No arrests have been made.

Georgia had all but $70,000 of the money returned. But action from the FBI, not the state's pleadings with the company for a refund or for the vaccine, led to the reimbursement. State officials hope the remainder of the money will be returned in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Elliott said he is trying to find Georgia more vaccine.

"I'm looking for it right now," he said. "If I find it, what are they going to do, tell me, no, they don't want it? I have a list of 30 states that would buy it in a heartbeat."

[Last modified December 28, 2003, 01:01:07]

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