updated 10/25/2004 2:02:11 PM ET 2004-10-25T18:02:11

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says his administration has negotiated a tentative agreement to purchase at least 30,000 flu vaccinations from British wholesalers, but federal regulators must still approve the deal.

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Blagojevich’s office said a letter would be sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday requesting its approval of the deal, which would allow the state to provide flu shots to Illinoisans at risk of serious complications from the flu.

The Illinois Department of Public Health would distribute the vaccinations to nursing home residents across the state, Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said.

Ottenhoff did not know how many of the state’s roughly 100,000 nursing home residents may have already received a flu shot. She said the new vaccinations would supplement the 35,000 doses the state is receiving from federal authorities for Medicaid patients.

“I am calling on the FDA to work with us immediately to allow us to purchase the flu shots we need,” Blagojevich said in a statement. “The sooner they give their approval, the sooner we can get flu vaccines to the senior citizens who need them the most.”

A phone message left with the FDA on Sunday night was not immediately returned. The state Department of Public Health could not be reached for comment.

The vaccine wholesalers have already established a relationship with the state through its I-SaveRx program, which offers Illinois residents access to affordable prescription drugs from pharmacies in Britain and Canada, Ottenhoff said.

State officials negotiated a vaccine purchase price of $7 a dose, about 30 percent less than what is currently charged in the United States, according to the governor’s office.

The nation’s supply of the vaccine became scarce after British manufacturer Chiron Corp. was barred from shipping any of its doses because of contamination. Chiron accounts for about half the U.S. vaccine supply.

Each year, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the virus and 36,000 die.

Blagojevich has been a leading figure in the push to buy prescription drugs from Canada. Illinois last year requested federal approval to set up a pilot program for the state to import drugs from Canada for state employees and retirees, but the request was rejected.

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