On Tuesday, June 15, The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health—chaired by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)—held a hearing entitled, “Booster Shot: Enhancing Public Health Through Vaccine Legislation.”
The hearing invited health care experts to provide insight on impending pieces of vaccine legislation currently under review by the committee. In their opening remarks, Chair Eshoo (D-CA) and Ranking Member Rep. Guthrie (R-KY) noted some concerns over routine vaccinations—especially those that combat measles and whooping cough—that have fallen in the past year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Some notable bills brought up during the hearing were the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act (H.R. 550), the Maternal Vaccinations Act (H.R. 951), the Vaccine Fairness Act (H.R. 979, and the Strengthening the Vaccines for Children Program Act of 2021 (H.R. 2347) . You can read more about all the bills here.
Witnesses testifying before the subcommittee included:
- Phyllis Arthur, Vice President, Infectious Diseases and Diagnostic Policy Biotechnology Innovation Organization
- Rebecca Coyle, Executive Director of the American Immunization Registry Association
- Yvonne Maldonado, M.D., Chair of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, American Academy of Pediatrics
- Lijen Tan, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer of the Immunization Action Coalition
The health officials testifying before the subcommittee were united around the importance of ensuring vaccines—of all kinds—are easily accessible to all persons, regardless of geographic or economic constraints. They emphasized that annual immunization and readiness translate into pandemic preparedness.
In her testimony, Dr. Moldonado raised concerns over recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on routine childhood vaccinations, showing that over the previous 15 months, vaccinations are down 11.5 million doses—leaving children and families vulnerable to viral infections and diseases. Dr. Moldonado also called for a bolstering of immunization data systems.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Arthur praised the impending pieces of legislation, and noted that “public health infrastructure is vital in peacetime and during a pandemic.” NACCHO has been a consistent advocate for a stronger and more robust public health infrastructure. NACCHO also released a report during the pandemic that showed COVID-19 pandemic had a deep impact of immunization programs and rates at local health departments.
Ms. Arthur also endorsed the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act (H.R. 550), outlining that it would help prepare against future health threats by assisting states’ data management on routine vaccine administration and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics. In closing, Ms. Arthur noted the importance of utilizing trusted messengers when conducting outreach to increase vaccination rates.
Later in the hearing, Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) applauded the “COVID Vaccine Transportation Act,” (H.R. 3013) a bill that would remove transportation barriers for low-income individuals seeking a vaccine. Dr. Ruiz crucially noted that oftentimes in minority communities—such as migrant farm working communities—the issue is not hesitancy, rather it is accessibility. Dr. Ruiz noted that this bill—as well as the others under consideration—would reduce health disparities and make a “lasting difference once and for all.”