Immunization Action Coalition and the Hepatitis B Coalition

IAC EXPRESS

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Issue Number 323            July 9, 2002

CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE

  1. Action needed within a week: Call your Senators for signature on immunization appropriations letter

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July 9, 2002
ACTION NEEDED WITHIN A WEEK: CALL YOUR SENATORS FOR SIGNATURE ON IMMUNIZATION APPROPRIATIONS LETTER

If the above IAC DOUBLE EXPRESS headline looks familiar, perhaps you recall our push in April to persuade Congress members to sign a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor,  Health and Human Services, and Education requesting a $65 million immunization funding increase for the fiscal year 2003 (see IAC EXPRESS #308 at http://www.immunize.org/genr.d/issue308.htm). All of your efforts made a difference, resulting in many more signature commitments than had existed on the  day before you received the IAC DOUBLE EXPRESS action plea.

Now it's time to contact our Senators. We need to convince our Senators to sign a similar letter of support to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and  Education for a total of $65 million in increased funding: $20 million for immunization infrastructure building and $45 million for vaccine purchase. Signatures on the letter are due by Wednesday, July 17.

After witnessing critical vaccine shortages and watching some vaccine prices rise dramatically, we all know that more and more children in this country will be undervaccinated unless more dollars are  allocated for state vaccine purchase grants and other components of our national immunization program.

A phone call or email message to your Senators at this time could add more signatures to the appropriations increase letter, which could tip the balance of Subcommittee votes so that this issue  reaches the full Senate Appropriations Committee and becomes written into a bill in the fall.

Senators Jack Reed (RI), James Jeffords (VT), Richard J. Durbin (IL), and Gordon Smith (OR) wrote  the following letter to Senator Tom Harkin (IA), Chair, and Senator Arlen Specter (PA), Ranking  Member, of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. It is this letter that all Senators are invited to sign by Wednesday, July 17. Your state's Senators may be more likely to sign the letter if they know that you, their health care constituents, care deeply about immunizing our nation's children.

As of this writing, only six other Senators have signed this letter: Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), Senator Blanche Lincoln (AR), Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD), Senator Patti Murray (WA), Senator Jean Carnahan (MO), and Senator Paul Wellstone (MN). If one or both of your Senators are not among those signers, your phone call or email message could convince him or her to "get on board."

All you need to do is simply ask your Senators to join their colleagues on the signature list by July 17. (The actual signing occurs at a later date.) Inform them that to join the list, they can contact Lisa  German Foster in Sen. Reed's office at (202) 224-4642. Of course, if you have time to provide more information about why this increase is important to you, or to discuss stories from your practice involving immunization access, that would further strengthen the case.

The letter to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Specter, which your Senators may sign at your urging, reads as follows:

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July 17, 2002

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Specter:

We greatly appreciate your continued leadership and support for the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention's (CDC) national immunization program. The campaign to ensure that every child receives the full compliment of recommended immunizations is a critical part of our continued efforts to protect public health. As you know, the President's fiscal year 2003 budget request proposes level funding for  immunization activities. If we are to maintain record high immunization coverage levels in light of recent nationwide shortages of critical vaccines and the added expense of new vaccines, additional funding for  FY03 is essential. Specifically, we would request an increase of $20 million for immunization delivery (operations/infrastructure) and $45 million for state vaccine purchase grants over last year.

Congress has made great strides in addressing the instability in the Section 317 immunization program by providing substantial funding increases for state infrastructure grants. As you are well aware, states  use these funds to conduct outreach and education of parents and providers about new vaccines, develop and implement state-based immunization registries to reach children in medically underserved  areas. An increase of $20 million for these activities would be consistent with the recommendations in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, "Calling the Shots".

CDC vaccine purchase grants enable states to buy vaccines for disadvantaged children in a timely manner and to avoid missed opportunities when no other coverage is available to support immunization  services. However, states are grappling with prolonged shortages of several critical childhood vaccines. In addition, new vaccines and new combination vaccines continue to drive up the overall cost of immunizing a child. Today, the cost to fully immunize a child, at federally-negotiated discount prices, is $400.82, with almost half of that cost resulting from the newly recommended pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).

To ensure that states have adequate vaccine supplies when shortages abate and to help states keep up with escalating vaccine purchase costs, we would urge you to include an increase of $45 million over last year for vaccine purchase.

We hope we can count on your continued support for the ongoing campaign to advance the health of our nation by protecting the 11,000 babies who are born each day in this country from the ravages of vaccine-preventable disease.

[Signatures]

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Following are two ways you can find and contact your Senators. Bear in mind that phone calls are more immediate than emails and may be preferable when time is of the essence; emails can get delayed on a  server for hours and/or remain in a recipient's inbox for days.

  1. Call the United States Capitol Operator (available 24 hours) at (202) 224-3121. The operator will  connect you with your Senator's Washington office. If you don't know your Senator's name, just tell the operator what state you live in, and he or she will tell you the Senator's name and proceed to connect you.
      
  2. Go to: http://www.senate.gov/senators/senator_by_state.cfm and click on the Senator's name(s) to go directly to their websites, which usually contain contact information. 
 

Immunization Action Coalition1573 Selby AvenueSt. Paul MN 55104
E-mail: admin@immunize.org Web: http://www.immunize.org/
Tel: (651) 647-9009Fax: (651) 647-9131

This page was updated on July 10, 2002