Issue Number 419            October 21, 2003


  1. Action needed within a week: Contact your senators about signing the current immunization appropriations letter


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October 21, 2003

You can make a difference in ensuring the U.S. immunization system is adequately funded next year. Fax or phone your U.S. senators before the end of October and ask them to join their Senate colleagues in signing the letter below, which is addressed to the leaders of the Senate's Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-Education) Appropriations Subcommittee. Also, be sure to forward this issue of "IAC EXPRESS" to your friends and colleagues and urge them to contact their senators as well.

The letter is bipartisan; it was written by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), James Jeffords (I-VT), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), and Gordon Smith (R-OR). If supported by other senators, this effort by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents can help ensure the continued success of nationwide immunization activities in fighting vaccine-preventable diseases.

The senators mentioned above are currently in the process of gathering signatures from additional senators who support this important funding initiative, which seeks to increase immunization funding for fiscal year 2004 over last year's funding. Your state's senators may be more likely to sign the letter if they know that you, their health care constituents, care deeply about ensuring that our nation's vulnerable populations are adequately immunized.

In your letter or phone call, ask your senators to sign, urging support for increased funding for immunization delivery. To sign onto the letter, senators should contact Lisa German of Senator Reed's staff at (202) 224-4642.

Following is the full text of the letter, addressed to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Tom Harkin (D-IA), ranking member:


Dear Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Harkin:

We write to respectfully request that during the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Conference Committee, you do whatever you can to raise the level of funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Program.

This program provides state health agencies with essential funding to carry out a variety of important immunization activities including, 1) identifying underimmunized children and adults; 2) immunizing children; 3) responding to outbreaks; 4) educating parents about the need for immunizations; 5) educating health professionals about proper and timely vaccination practices; 6) developing immunization registries; and 7) educating adults about the importance of adult immunizations.

More than 900,000 US children still are not adequately immunized and more than 11,000 children are born each day, all of whom require the full battery of vaccinations. Over the past five years, the public sector cost of the full complement of recommended childhood vaccinations has grown from roughly $200 to almost $450 per child, more than doubling the cost of vaccinating a child. Despite increases in recent years, CDC funding has not kept pace with escalating vaccine purchase costs.

Similarly, current funding does not allow states to adequately address adult immunization needs. The CDC estimates there are, on average, 36,000 influenza-related deaths a year in the United States. Another 114,000 Americans are hospitalized, and tens of millions miss work and school. Not even half of the individuals at highest risk received flu shots last year. As CDC Director Julie Gerberding recently stated, "It is simply unacceptable that such a large number of people continue to die and suffer as a result of influenza."

The National Immunization Program is central to preserving and protecting the general population from naturally occurring diseases as well as preparing our response to an intentional disease outbreak. As the burden of increased vaccine purchase costs grows, programs across the country are struggling to maintain basic childhood immunization coverage levels. In addition, states are being forced to grapple with the new challenges posed by the ever-present threat of bioterrorism and the need for adequate public health preparedness and response capacity.

We are grateful to the Committee for its longstanding support of CDC's National Immunization Program and urge you to do all you can to increase funding for this program in the final conference report. We look forward to working with you to provide the necessary resources to preserve the tremendous progress we have made in protecting our children and adults from vaccine preventable diseases.


[Name of Senator]



Using the Capitol Operator: 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. The operator does not have senators' fax numbers; you can get the fax number from the person who answers your senator's phone.

Using the Web: Alternatively, you can get the office phone or fax number of any senator from the U.S. Senate web page by going to

If you know a senator's name, click on the "Choose a Senator" button, and scroll down to the name. If you don't know a senator's name, click on the "Choose a State" button, scroll down to your state, and click on it. Either way, you will be sent to the contact information for one or both of your senators' offices in Washington, DC (address, phone number, and link to the senator's email or web form). If you need a fax number, click on a senator's name. You will be sent to the senator's home page; search the page for the fax number or click on a button labeled "contact me," "office information," or something similar. 

About IZ Express

IZ Express is supported in part by Grant No. 1NH23IP922654 from CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Its contents are solely the responsibility of and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

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