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THE COMPREHENSIVE CHILD IMMUNIZATION ACT OF 1993: WHERE WILL TAXPAYERS' MONEY GO?

 SWIFTWATER, Pa., April 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Yesterday the Clinton Administration announced a new bill, the Comprehensive Childhood Immunization Act of 1993, which would provide government-purchased vaccines free to all children, regardless of family income, beginning in fiscal 1995. The bill would also launch a state-based national immunization tracking program.
 Connaught Laboratories, Inc., a U.S.-based manufacturer and developer of vaccines with the world's largest private sector vaccine research spending, strongly supports the administration's objective of improving childhood immunization levels across the country. Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective disease prevention tools available today; they are also extremely cost-effective. A national tracking system and registry is one important step in providing better health care for our children. However, spending upwards of $1 billion per year to make the government the sole purchaser and distributor of childhood vaccines, to rich and poor alike, will not appreciably raise immunization levels.
 Furthermore, this system will significantly reduce manufacturers' revenues, decrease incentives for research and development, and increase the amount of vaccines that is wasted.
 The bill does not give adequate attention to the real barriers that keep vaccines from getting to children, and children from getting to vaccines, and raises a number of important questions, including:
 1. Will universal purchase lead to a predictable increase in immunization levels?
 Evidence from the 11 states with universal purchase programs -- most of which have been in place for 25 years -- shows that the impact on immunization levels is disappointing. In fact, in the state of Washington -- the government's own pilot program -- universal purchase has been in place for several years and only 51 percent of children under age two are fully immunized.
 2. Since the government and private sector combined already buy 110 percent of the vaccines necessary to fully immunize every child, why are immunization levels still low?
 The National Vaccine Plan and numerous studies suggest that the true barriers to immunization are problems with the health service delivery system -- for example, transportation, inconvenient hours, requirement for appointments, and insufficient education for parents and health providers. Despite the widespread availability of free and low-cost immunizations, many of the vaccines that the government buys are unused because of complex barriers that are not being adequately addressed by the administration's proposal. Since the U.S. immunization rate for children under two averages 56 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supply data suggest that close to 50 percent of current vaccines may be wasted.
 3. What is the real cost of immunizations?
 The cost to fully immunize a child today has risen primarily because of two new vaccines added to the immunization schedule (Hib and Hepatitis b) and a federal excise tax added to the price of vaccines to fund the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Physician administration fees must also be taken into account.
 4. How reliable is the government as a vaccine supplier for the entire country?
 The government might be an unreliable partner as a vaccine supplier. The unpredictable federal budgets in some years could seriously jeopardize vaccine supply and distribution across the country. The vulnerability of federal vaccine programs became apparent with the recent lapse in coverage of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in October 1992, which leaves children who are injured in the unlikely event of an adverse vaccine reaction unprotected.
 5. How could universal purchase affect vaccine research and development?
 A sizable portion of vaccine profits are reinvested in research and development. The unpredictable nature of government funding, coupled with lower profits, may drive developers out of the market. Unfortunately, if developers abandon or lower research and development spending, it is the children who will suffer as the pace of new vaccine development slows.
 After a thorough analysis of the Comprehensive Child Immunization Act of 1993, Connaught has not seen any evidence that spending billions of dollars of taxpayers' money as proposed by the administration will have any appreciable impact on childhood immunization rates. In addition to tracking systems, Connaught supports reforms that would significantly increase childhood immunization levels, including: education, outreach, infrastructure improvements, streamlining Medicaid, and expanding reimbursement for immunizations through Medicaid and private insurance.
 -0- 4/2/93
 /CONTACT: Linda Mayer of Connaught, 717-839-4446/


CO: Connaught Laboratories, Inc. ST: Pennsylvania IN: MTC SU: LEG

GK-OS -- NY017 -- 2468 04/02/93 11:19 EST
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Date:Apr 2, 1993
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