Federal, state, and private-sector investments in vaccine purchases and immunization programs are lagging behind emerging opportunities to reduce the risks of vaccine-preventable disease. Although federal assistance to the states for immunization programs and data collection efforts rapidly expanded in the early part of the 1990s, significant cutbacks have occurred in the last 5 years that have reduced the size of state grant awards by more than 50% from their highest point. During this same period, the vaccine delivery system for children and adults has become more complex and fragmented.This combination of new challenges and reduced resources has led to instability in the public health infrastructure that supports the U.S. immunization system. Many states have reduced the scale of their immunization programs and currently lack adequate strength in areas such as data collection among at-risk populations, strategic planning, program coordination, and assessment of immunization status in communities that are served by multiple health care providers. If unmet immunization needs are not identified and addressed, states will have difficulty in achieving the national goal of 90% coverage by the year 2010 for completion of the childhood immunization series for young children. Furthermore, state and national coverage rates, which reached record levels for vaccines in widespread use (79%, 1998), can be expected to decline and preventable disease outbreaks may occur as a result, particularly among persons who are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable disease because of their underimmunization status.The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Immunization Finance Policies and Practices has therefore concluded that a renewal and strengthening of the federal and state immunization partnership is necessary. The goal of this renewed partnership is to prevent infectious disease; to monitor, sustain, and improve vaccine coverage rates for child and adult populations within more numerous and increasingly diversified health care settings; and to respond to vaccine-safety concerns. To achieve this renewal, states require a consistent strategy, additional funds, and a multiyear finance plan that can help expedite the delivery of new vaccines; strengthen the immunization assessment, assurance, and policy development functions in each state; and adapt childhood immunization programs to serve the needs of new age groups (especially adults with chronic diseases) in different health care environments.The IOM committee recommends that federal and state governments adopt a national finance strategy that would allocate $1.5 billion in federal and state resources over the first 5 years to strengthen the infrastructure for child and adult immunization-an annual increase of $175 million over current spending levels. These resources would consist of $200 million per year in state infrastructure grants awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the Section 317 program) and an additional $100 million per year in increased state contributions. The committee also recommends that the Congress replace the current discretionary Section 317 grants with a formula approach for state immunization grant awards to improve the targeting and stability of federal immunization grants. The formula should provide a base level of support to all states, as well as additional amounts related to each state's need, capacity, and performance. The committee further recommends that Congress introduce a state match requirement for the receipt of increased federal funds to help strengthen and stabilize the infrastructure that supports long-term public health assessment, assurance, and policy development efforts.Along with the development of a strategic investment plan to support immunization infrastructure, the committee recommends that the federal government provide $50 million in additional funds to help states purchase pneumococcal and influenza vaccines for adults aged <65 who are not eligible for other forms of public health insurance and who have chronic illnesses such as heart and lung disease or diabetes. The committee further recommends that states increase their own vaccine purchases by $11 million annually for adults who cannot afford vaccines but who are not eligible for federal assistance (i.e., the 'underinsured'). Finally, the committee recommends that federal and state agencies develop a set of consistent and comparable measures to monitor the status of children and adults enrolled in public and private health plans. (C) 2000 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health