A study published this month by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most children who died from the flu were not vaccinated and that 65 percent of these deaths could have been prevented if all children received the recommended influenza vaccination. This study adds to the substantial literature base confirming that vaccines save lives.
President Donald Trump is correct in wanting to ensure that vaccines, arguably public health’s greatest tool to prevent disease, are also safe for Americans. Unfortunately, his befriending of vaccine skeptics and his consideration of a new vaccine safety commission, which would duplicate existing governmental structures, are not effective approaches. Alternatively, Congress and the administration could take three steps to support vaccine safety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most children who died from the flu were not vaccinated.
Congress should support increased budgets at the National Institutes of Health and CDC for vaccine safety research. The vaccine safety budget at the CDC is an estimated $20 million compared with its vaccine procurement and program budget, which is approximately $4 billion.
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee, an independent federal advisory committee, has previously provided recommendations for a vaccine safety research agenda. Where there may be gaps in our knowledge base with regards to the immunization schedule, vaccine components and vaccine-related adverse events, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials should determine the best way to support federal agencies in conducting this research.
One novel financing mechanism could involve drawing down on the interest accrued from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund. The fund was created to compensate vaccine-related injury or death petitions for covered vaccines and is financed through an excise tax on vaccines recommended by the CDC for routine administration to children. While paying awards, the fund also earns annual interest, and one could make a legitimate case that a share of the annual interest go specifically to supporting vaccine safety research.