Immunization Action Coalition and the Hepatitis B Coalition

IAC EXPRESS

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Issue Number 393            June 23, 2003

CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE

  1. Use your clout, "IAC EXPRESS" readers! Convince your U.S. senators to sign the 2004 immunization appropriation letter--TODAY

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June 23, 2003
USE YOUR CLOUT,"IAC EXPRESS" READERS! CONVINCE YOUR U.S. SENATORS TO SIGN THE 2004 IMMUNIZATION APPROPRIATION LETTER--TODAY

Last year, the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) published a DOUBLE EXPRESS urging readers to contact their U.S. representatives about signing the 2003 immunization appropriation letter. Your response turned the tide! The immunization community flooded Congress with persuasive messages, propelling significant numbers of representatives to sign onto the 2003 letter.

We need you to work your magic again--this time ASAP! At the request of Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), one of the authors of the 2004 immunization appropriation letter, we are asking you to take action before the end of today, Monday, June 23. Only 12 senators have signed the letter so far. We need you to urge your senators to sign onto the current immunization appropriation letter, reprinted toward the end of this article.

Bipartisan support is important. Whether your senators are Republican, Independent, or Democrat, we need you to contact them today (Monday) urging that they commit to sign the letter. Senators will need to contact Senator Reed's office (details below) by 10 am EDT Tuesday, June 24, at the latest.

Part of IAC's mission as a Coalition is to help make immunization advocacy easier for the many members of the immunization community who want to make a difference. To that end, we will use the rest of this article to explain why your senators need to hear from you, what they need to hear, the text of the 2004 immunization appropriation letter, and how to quickly locate your senators' phone numbers.

WHY YOUR SENATORS NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU
In May, Senators Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), James Jeffords (I-VT), and Gordon Smith (R-OR) joined Senator Reed in asking their colleagues to sign the 2004 immunization appropriation letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The following three paragraphs, excerpted from the letter, explain what the need is for Fiscal Year 2004:

"The campaign to ensure that every child receives the full complement of recommended immunizations is a critical part of our public health effort. Outstanding progress has been made in immunization rates for children ages two and under. National immunization levels are high or near record highs for most vaccines. For example, rates for measles, Hib, and three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) are greater than 90 percent. However, more than 900,000 US children still are not adequately immunized and more than 11,000 children are born each day who must be immunized.

"The Administration's FY04 budget proposal would shift $100 million from the CDC Section 317 vaccine purchase fund to the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program as well as reduce overall immunization program funding by $28 million. The Section 317 vaccine purchase funding provides grants to states to purchase vaccines for children and adults in public health clinics, which vaccinate approximately one-fifth of U.S. preschool children. Despite a proposed expansion of the VFC program, many underserved children and at-risk adolescents and adults will continue to rely on vaccine programs provided through Section 317.

"Moreover, the Administration's reductions come at a time when additional funds are needed to purchase the expensive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), to procure the new combination DTaP-Hepatitis B-polio vaccine, and to pay for the estimated FY03 vaccine funding shortfall of $38 million."

Every year, the Appropriations Committee writes and passes legislation that determines how much funding our government will spend on various programs. The Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will draft a bill in the coming months that will determine the amount of funding the National Immunization Program receives. Members of Congress routinely write letters to the Appropriations Subcommittees urging them to fund certain priority programs at higher levels. After Subcommittee and Full Committee approval, the bill will be voted upon by all members of Congress. Appropriations bills need to pass every year by October 1st, the start of the new fiscal year.

WHAT YOUR SENATORS NEED TO HEAR
Apparently, not all of our senators are aware of the great need (and great support) for improved immunization programs in this nation. Following is a list of the 12 senators who have signed the 2004 immunization appropriation letter. If one or both your senators are NOT on the list, your phone call TODAY could convince them to make a commitment to sign.

You can simply ask your senators to join their colleagues on the signature list. To join the list, senators can contact Lisa German Foster in Senator Reed's office at (202) 224-4642. (If you have more time, you can explain to your senators more specifically why you believe funding for immunization is so important.)

List of signers so far:
Arkansas
- Lincoln, Blanche (D)

Connecticut
- Lieberman, Joseph (D)

Illinois
- Durbin, Richard J. (D)

Louisiana
- Landrieu, Mary (D)

New York
- Clinton, Hillary (D)

Oregon
- Smith, Gordon (R)
- Wyden, Ron (D)

Rhode Island
- Chafee, Lincoln (R)
- Reed, Jack (D)

Vermont
- Jeffords, James (I)

Washington
- Cantwell, Maria (D)
- Murray, Patty (D)


TEXT OF THE 2004 IMMUNIZATION APPROPRIATION LETTER
The letter to Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Harkin that your senators can sign at your urging reads as follows:

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Dear Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Harkin:

We write to thank you for your leadership and support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) national immunization program and to urge your continued support for this program. The campaign to ensure that every child receives the full complement of recommended immunizations is a critical part of our public health effort. Outstanding progress has been made in immunization rates for children ages two and under. National immunization levels are high or near record highs for most vaccines. For example, rates for measles, Hib, and three doses of diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) are greater than 90 percent. However, more than 900,000 US children still are not adequately immunized and more than 11,000 children are born each day who must be immunized.

The Administration's FY04 budget proposal would shift $100 million from the CDC Section 317 vaccine purchase fund to the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program as well as reduce overall immunization program funding by $28 million. The Section 317 vaccine purchase funding provides grants to states to purchase vaccines for children and adults in public health clinics, which vaccinate approximately one-fifth of U.S. preschool children. Despite a proposed expansion of the VFC program, many underserved children and at-risk adolescents and adults will continue to rely on vaccine programs provided through Section 317.

Moreover, the Administration's reductions come at a time when additional funds are needed to purchase the expensive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), to procure the new combination DTaP-Hepatitis B-polio vaccine, and to pay for the estimated FY03 vaccine funding shortfall of $38 million. Should the President's proposal be adopted, we urge you to maintain the current funding level for the 317 program. In the absence of such a change, we would ask you to support a robust increase in funding so this critical public health program can keep up with growing cost pressures and other demands on the program.

Vaccines are a worthwhile investment. The individual and community protection provided by vaccines help make immunization one of our most cost-effective public health strategies. Our country, for example, saves $14.50 in direct and indirect costs for every dollar invested in giving the hepatitis B vaccine to infants at birth to two months of age. Every dollar our nation spends on measles-mumps-rubella vaccine generates about $23 in total savings, approximately $9 billion each year.

Finally, it is important to recognize that children are not the only beneficiaries of CDC's immunization program. Vaccinations are critical throughout our lifespan, not solely during childhood. In fact, the greatest vaccine-preventable disease burden for the U.S. population today is among adults. The CDC estimates that approximately 36,000 people die annually due to influenza and its complications--most are people 65 years of age and over. Over 6,000 to 7,000 people die from pneumococcal infections annually. Hepatitis B causes another 4,000 to 5,000 adult deaths each year. We have safe, effective, but highly under-utilized vaccines that can help us reduce the $10 billion a year in societal costs brought about by vaccine-preventable diseases in adults.

To ensure that states have adequate vaccine supplies and can keep up with escalating purchase costs, we hope we can count on your continued support for Section 317 program activities.

Sincerely,

[Name of your senator]

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HOW TO QUICKLY LOCATE YOUR SENATORS' TELEPHONE NUMBERS

You can call the United States Capitol Operator (available 24 hours) at (202) 225-3121. The operator will connect you with a senator's Washington office. If you don't know your senators' names, just tell the operator your state, and he or she will tell you who your senators are and connect you with one of them.

Alternatively, you can get the office phone number of any senator from the U.S. Senate web page by going to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

If you know a senator's name, click on the "Choose a Senator" box, and scroll down to the name. You will be sent to the contact information for the senator's office in Washington, DC (address, phone number, and link to the senator's email or web form).

If you don't know a senator's name, click the "Choose a State" box, and scroll down to your state. You will be sent to the contact information for both your senators' offices in Washington, DC (addresses, phone numbers, and links to the senators' email or web forms).

 

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 June 23, 2003