"I believe in free enterprise," said Benjamin. "But in a time of national crisis, we shouldn't have price gouging for a vaccine we really need."
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said members of the House and Senate have demanded a General Accounting Office study of the flu vaccine supply.
"It is clear that we need to hold hearings on this issue and find a way to address the continuing problems in vaccine development and storage," Hoyer said.
Dr. Roderick Bahner, assistant chief of the emergency department at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, predicted an unusually bad flu season because the delays in vaccine distribution meant that fewer elderly people got the shots in October and November.
Emergency rooms are likely to be flooded with people worried that they might have anthrax, Bahner said. At least 100 people this fall have walked into Union Memorial fearing that they had the disease.
Although the tests for anthrax have all come back negative, the numbers of anxious people will surely rise as more people become ill with the flu, Bahner said.
"It might end up being a difficult year," said Bahner. "With the anthrax scare, a lot of people may be coming in frightened. Sometimes all they need is reassurance from a doctor."
Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.