Funding for immunizations could be significantly reduced under proposed health-care plans making their way through Congress.
For example, last Thursday the Senate released a new version of the health-care bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) in 2019, according to a summary from Trust for America's Health. This could have a significant impact on funding for immunizations since the PPHF provided 45% of the immunization infrastructure and program funding under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).
"Neither the House or the Senate bill has any mention whatsoever about keeping the Prevention and Public Health Fund or somehow otherwise funding all these programs, so that's a very big concern for us," Amy Pisani, MS, executive director of Every Child By Two, an nonprofit organization that strives to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases, told Drug Topics.
The House version of the health care bill also called for repeal of the PPHF.
Pisani said she was also concerned that first dollar coverage of vaccines could be at risk for some populations.
In addition to the proposed health care bills, funding for immunizations would be impacted even further in President Trump's budget plan, which would reduce the amount of money the CDC spends to support immunization efforts from about $606 million in 2017 to about $521 million in 2018, according to information provided by Every Child By Two.
"I just find really shocking that the President's budget is proposing a huge cut in funding, $85 million in funding, and then we have this cut in health-care. It's all in the midst of these outbreaks that are happening right now in America," Pisani said. "We're having measles outbreaks, mumps outbreaks, children are still dying of whooping cough. We lost 101 children to influenza last year."
Pisani said that providing immunizations has actually been found to significantly reduce the overall costs of health-care. For instance, it's estimated that the United States spends about $27 billion annually treating influenza, pertussis, pneumococcal disease, and shingles in adults over age 50. All four of these diseases could be prevented with vaccinations.
While discussions about the future of healthcare continue in Congress, Pisani said she hopes whatever version is ultimately adopted will preserve as much funding for immunizations as possible.
In the meantime, Pisani said pharmacy associations can help try to preserve funding for immunizations by crafting letters and advocating for the preservation of the PPHF. Individual pharmacists can also reach out to their congress members to voice their concerns.
She believes advocating for adequate funding for immunizations not only leads to a healthier population, but also is one of the greatest cost saving measures in public health.
"I think we have to do a better job at speaking up," she said.