The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing today on the Lower Health Care Costs Act provides a valuable opportunity for lawmakers to address challenges compromising access to and uptake of vaccines that are among our most important public health tools.

With provisions that would include the launch of a public awareness campaign on the importance of medical immunizations, and that would authorize innovative and evidence-based approaches to boost vaccination rates in targeted communities, the legislation considered today has the potential to reduce barriers to vaccination, counter vaccine hesitancy or resistance to vaccinations with evidence, and support the dissemination of critical public health information.

These steps, as well as research that can inform strategies to better educate families on the value of vaccines, are urgently needed at a time when misinformation surrounding vaccines, as well as global increases in rates of vaccine-preventable illnesses, threaten decades of progress against serious and even deadly public health threats. These include measles, a virus that was declared eliminated in the United States at the beginning of this century, but that has now rebounded in outbreaks across the nation to case numbers not seen in nearly three decades. Other vaccine-preventable diseases, including pertussis (also known as whooping cough), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, mumps, and seasonal influenza remain serious public health threats, while influenza vaccination rates remain far below targets for both adults and children.

Provisions to improve vaccine uptake and access are pivotal not only to saving lives but to reducing health care costs and maximizing the impact of public health dollars. Among the most cost-effective investments in the world, medical immunizations have been credited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with saving nearly $406 billion in direct costs and $1.88 trillion in total society costs since 1994. Every dollar spent on childhood vaccines is estimated to save more than $10 in health care expenses.

The Lower Health Care Costs Act also includes an important provision aimed at modernizing our public health data infrastructure to enable more rapid and effective outbreak detection and response.  This initiative could be further strengthened with a specific authorization funding level and targeted effort to support the expert workforce needed to implement key activities in states and communities.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, its HIV Medicine Association look forward to today’s hearing, to the passage and implementation of the Lower Health Care Costs Act and to the strengthened responses to a growing public health crisis that the legislation will bring. As infectious diseases and HIV physicians, care providers, researchers and public health professionals, we stand ready to provide support and guidance that will strengthen messages to the public and patients about vaccination and to improve immunization coverage and our public health infrastructure.