Vaccine funding must continue — the health of American children is at stake

Carolyn Kaster/AP

When it comes to saving lives and minimizing health care costs, vaccinating children against infectious diseases is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions. In the United States alone, over the last 20 years childhood immunizations have prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, 732,000 deaths, and saved nearly $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.

Unfortunately, childhood vaccination programs are on the chopping block in the current administration’s 2018 budget proposal and various proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act. These vaccine programs directly affect the lives of children from every community in this nation.

Immunizing children prevents the spread of infectious disease across communities and across the nation. Even more important, it helps prevent the devastating and costly disabilities that can be caused by vaccine-preventable infections such as hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, measles, and meningitis. These include developmental delays, blindness, deafness, paralysis, amputations, and even cancer, all of which I have seen firsthand during my career as a pediatric infectious disease physician.

A core principle of the ACA is to ensure that people have access to vital preventive care services, including all recommended vaccines. To help promote that goal, the ACA called for the creation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund in 2010 to supplement core public health programs. As the largest fund for disease prevention in the federal budget, this fund provides almost $1 billion annually to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accounting for about 12 percent of the CDC’s total budget.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund also provides about 45 percent of the total funding for the Section 317 federal vaccine program, which is used to buy vaccines and fund immunization programs in all 50 states. These funds also…