There has clearly been a political awakening in this country and people are once again motivated to make their voices heard in regard to political policies. When it comes to protecting our nation’s health and maintaining our personal freedoms, there are plenty of differences in opinion.
In a recent VaxTalk podcast hosted by Voices for Vaccines, Every Child By Two Board Member Sarah Depres and Immunize Texas member Jinny Su, discuss the potential impact proposed federal and state policies could have on the health of our nation and our local communities. More importantly, they explain how everyday citizens are being encouraged to actively engage with their legislators on these issues.
Federal Policies and Their Impact on the Prevention of Disease
To start, Ms. Depres explains how the American Healthcare Act and the President’s proposed budget may impact the availability, accessibility and affordability of immunization services across the country. While these policies are still evolving, she comments that the proposed plans suggest significant budget cuts will be made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These two federal agencies are currently responsible for the majority of federal immunization programs and vaccine oversight. A reduction in their operating budgets will likely have a significant and fairly immediate impact on things such as vaccine safety and oversight, disease surveillance, outbreak response, scientific evaluation of effective immunization practices and research that helps us to understand what interventions work to improve vaccination rates across the U.S..
While some may argue that we can save money by streamlining budgets and consolidating programs, there is a larger concern that must be addressed and it has to do with state level immunization programs. The fact is that the collective work of these agencies has a direct impact on individual state efforts to provide good immunization services to the public. Not only do states benefit from the large-scale research and oversight that the federal government conducts on vaccines, but a large portion of these federal funds trickle down to assist states in their specific efforts to prevent outbreaks that can easily cross state lines. As Ms. Depres explains, infectious diseases have no borders and it is therefore unrealistic and, quite frankly, unacceptable, to put the bulk of responsibility on the states when they are not in the same position that the federal government is to fund large scale programs that we know benefit the country and its citizens as a whole.
Take the state of Nevada as an example. Nevada continues to rank at the bottom of the list for public health spending with just $4.10 per capita and they also happen to be a state with some of the lowest immunization rates in the U.S. In comparison, Idaho, their neighbor to the northeast, spends as much as $94.70 per capita. When The Affordable Care Act was established, it included the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to sustain and expand preventive health measures and save the country money typically spend on illness and disease. Fortunately, this fund has supplemented Nevada’s budget with more than $31 million since the fund’s inception, and has had a direct impact on the programs being developed to ensure vaccine access across the state. Unfortunately, with the repeal of the ACA, the PPHF funds are at risk of being eliminated, and Nevada will likely suffer major public health setbacks as a result.