LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO INCREASE ADULT ACCESS TO LIFE-SAVING VACCINES
WASHINGTON, DC—Today Rep. Waxman, Sen. Kennedy, and Rep Roybal-Allard
introduced a package of bills that will help to ensure that adults have access to life-saving
vaccines. These vaccines include the new vaccine against the virus that causes cervical
cancer as well as vaccines against seasonal influenza, certain pneumonias, Hepatitis B,
and shingles, among others.
These bills will increase access to vaccines by creating a Vaccines for Uninsured Adults
program, modeled on the very successful Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The
Vaccines for Uninsured Adults program will provide vaccines free of charge to uninsured
and underinsured adults. The bills would fund programs to educate the public about the
importance of adult immunization and would provide for grants to states to strengthen
state adult immunization efforts as well.
The legislation would further facilitate immunization of older Americans by moving
vaccines from Medicare Part D to Medicare Part B, which would allow for doctors to be
paid to administer the vaccines. In addition, the legislation would require the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services to study ways they can encourage both adult and health
care worker immunization.
“This package of legislation represents a major policy initiative to improve adult
immunization rates,” said Rep. Waxman. “We know that immunizations save lives.
Unfortunately, not enough adults are getting their recommended vaccines. What we are
proposing today is a comprehensive approach to boost immunization rates and to improve
the Nation’s health.”
“Vaccination is obviously indispensable in the battle against many diseases,” said Sen.
Kennedy. “It protects children and adults alike, yet it’s not reaching all those who need
it. The CDC estimates that more than 42,000 adults die every year from vaccinepreventable
diseases. Fewer than 30% of adults at high-risk for influenza actually receive
the vaccine. As new vaccines become available against more diseases, we need to do
more to see that uninsured and under-insured adults and children will benefit from these
medical advances. Under the bills we are introducing today, many more adults and
children in communities across America will have access to these life-saving discoveries,
and the nation as a whole will be better prepared to avoid or reduce the threat of a
“It has been my pleasure to work with Congressman Waxman and Senator Kennedy, who
have devoted their years in public service to ensuring that all Americans have access to
quality health care,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “This group of immunization bills is a key
component of that effort. We are fortunate to have highly effective vaccines that will
prevent death and disability and save billions of dollars in health costs annually, but they
can't work unless we take decisive steps to ensure their universal availability and
The bills would also help the nation with a vaccine shortage by requiring vaccine
companies to give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) one year’s
notice, when feasible, of their plans to stop manufacturing a particular vaccine. In
addition, the measures would give HHS the authority to keep track of doses of vaccines
in times of shortage. Shortages can occur for many reasons and are often unpredictable,
such as the manufacturing problem reported this week by Merck & Company that will
likely result in a shortage of pediatric meningitis and pneumonia vaccines.
Finally, the bills would improve the VFC by allowing underinsured children who qualify
for VFC to get immunized at any public health clinic.
A text of the bills and summaries are available at www.oversight.house.gov.