A robust immunization infrastructure is needed for vaccines to reach their full potential of saving lives and preventing illness, and the AAFP recently signed on to a letter reminding lawmakers that this requires adequate funding in 2018.
A bill in the Senate would allocate $607 million for immunization programs authorized under Section 317 of the Public Service Health Act. The funding would provide vaccines for children and low-income adults, as well as support public education programs that emphasize the role of vaccines in disease prevention.
The Nov. 9 letter to leaders of the House and Senate subcommittees that are working on the 2018 appropriations for labor, HHS and education supports the Senate funding proposal. It was signed by the AAFP and 54 other organizations. The House and Senate still need to reach agreement on spending.
"Vaccines are one of the greatest success stories in public health and are among the most cost-effective ways to prevent disease," the letter stated. "However, purchasing vaccines is not enough to protect a population."
The organizations call for support for the Vaccines for Children program through the Public Health Service Act, as well as for science to inform immunization policy, vaccine safety monitoring, epidemiology to respond to disease outbreaks and other important work. The letter notes that Vaccines for Children under Section 317 provides vaccination at no cost for 54 percent of all children in the United States, and points out that each dollar invested in childhood immunization saves society more than $10. Further, childhood immunizations have prevented 855,000 early deaths in the past 23 years.
The letter reminded legislators that vaccine-preventable health threats continue to persist, citing a measles outbreak in Minnesota this year that affected 79 people -- 73 of them children. In 2014, the CDC reported 644 cases of measles, the highest figure reported since measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. It can cost more than $140,000 to contain one case of measles, the letter said.
The organizations called on legislators to allocate the health resources necessary to protect the nation.
They noted that a 2016 report to Congress from the CDC "shows that the Section 317 program is not adequately funded to carry out its essential public health mission of protecting Americans from preventable diseases. Providing additional funding for the Section 317 program in fiscal year 2018 would ensure access to cost-effective prevention measures to help keep Americans healthy."
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